When a soloist pulls apart from the orchestra -- or the orchestra pulls apart from the soloist -- whose responsibility is it to fix it? And what's the realistic way to fix it?
So as a bit of background to the question: As part of my performance prep, I'm watching a lot of YouTube videos of Lark Ascending performances. Last night, I decided to specifically search out community-orchestra performances, because I was interested in understanding what is likely to go off the rails in a performance, and what the soloist did to recover.
I have yet to watch a performance in which the orchestra was ever entirely together, or where I did not hear at least one solo wind make an incorrect entrance. (I spent the better part of one video pitying the principal flute, who got lost early on, and at each incorrect entrance, was getting an insistent head-shake from the soloist and increasingly violent gestures from the conductor, as if his baton were a wand that could be used to invoke avada kedavra.) But coherence issues in which neither the whole orchestra nor the soloist is off are basically just par for the course -- everyone who knows where they are goes on and ignores the outliers.
But I watched one performance (soloist is a college prof who appears to have a modestly successful solo career, but was really not having a good night, and so I will not link the video) where the soloist underheld a note by precisely one bar, relatively early in the piece. The soloist then soldiered on as if that had not been the case. That left the orchestra a full bar behind. They then proceeded to play almost half of the work completely unyieldingly (the soloist seemed to assume "if I play louder, they will rejoin me", and the conductor "if I beat time pointedly enough, everyone will follow me"), to the point that the conductor was very pointedly cueing the orchestra to come in de-synced from the soloist, despite the clear hesitance of the orchestra, who could undoubtedly hear that the orchestra had collectively separated from the soloist.
The situation could have been easily fixed by the soloist either waiting an extra bar to come in after the orchestral tuttis (or over-holding one of the long notes where there's interplay with wind soloists), or by the conductor giving a cue to come in earlier. They didn't come back together until the longest orchestral tutti (where the orchestra starts the bar after the soloist ends, leaving the conductor beating a measure of silence before the orchestra came back in), and the soloist finally seeming to decide that rather than strictly counting they should listen and come in appropriately at the end of the tutti.
I remember as a teenager in youth symphony, we played the Poulenc Organ Concerto with a soloist who had a terrible memory lapse in performance, and ended up basically randomly jumping around the work in patchwork-quilt fashion. I remember the orchestra frantically flipping through its parts -- and the conductor flipping through his score trying to figure out where we were (with no idea where we'd go next!). And yet we actually managed to pull off a pretty coherent performance, with the orchestra supplying the generic accompaniment more or less from memory of those sections (thank heavens for repetition). I have no idea what would have happened if we'd collectively decided on the linear route of soldiering on and hoping that the organ would rejoin us from his planetary adventures.
So. Thoughts, or funny stories of performance disasters?
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