How many times a world renowned violinist has upset you?

Edited: June 17, 2019, 3:34 PM · Hello, specially for you, orchestra players that sometimes play with first class soloists, is it common to be upset after the performance of a first class violinist?

Like you've heard many good things about them, but when you actually play with them you notice their technique is not mind blowing, or the sound is not that great, or the interpretation differs a lot from your understanding of the piece.

Or may be, since I've never been in an orchestra, you don't really pay attention to the soloist because you're focused on your score and parts?

I believe nowadays with YouTube and all it is less of a surprise when a soloist comes to play with your orchestra because you can watch YouTube videos to check him/her out, but anyways, listening to it live is a whole different thing, besides you hear the real thing and not something recorded.

Replies (9)

June 17, 2019, 5:09 PM · In orchestras, we accompanied many soloists.
We were busy fitting, balancing etc.
And most of them were lovely people as well.
Wish I could say that about conductors.
But then, as so often happens, the people right at the top tend to be the nicest. They don't have anything to prove.
If somebody wastes time telling you how wonderful he is - he's not!
June 17, 2019, 5:39 PM · Malcolm, for future answers as well, the quality of your music, your ability to perform and understand a piece, has nothing to do with your kindness; sounds a little obvious but you seem to mix both in one.

You can be the nicest soloist to the orchestra, the most friendly of them all, but once the piece starts, only music talks. I know it's hard and not very comfortable to think that a soloist that is so kind and nice, plays not that good, or at least not anywhere near the level critics say.

I have just realized that may be most of you don't want to give away names, complex situation here. I'm not asking for names, actually, but if you talk about your experience, there's a name behind. May be you could comment on this but without saying names.

I'm really talking about this situation: OMG, Perlman is going to play with us, he's gonna play Bruch and Sarasate, fantastic!
And then, when he comes to a rehearsal, you notice he's not that good, you notice his performance is sloppy and not at all what you expected from him, that you've heard so many critics acclaim his high technique. This was just an example, but you know what I mean. I've heard many times soloist won't even come to rehearse, they will just play the concert day, so the surprise is even greater for you. Basically what I'm asking is if this has happened to you, and what can you comment about it.

June 17, 2019, 5:45 PM · Professional orchestra players love to complain. Probably the closest I heard to exactly what you suggest was the Boston Symphony and Salvatore Accardo. A long time ago, about when he was getting his name around through his Paganini recordings. One of the string section said some time after a concert that he and his colleagues were not that impressed by his technique. On the other hand, they thought he was nicest man, and they didn't mind working with him for that reason.
June 17, 2019, 9:57 PM · Some of them upset me every time I listen to their recordings and realize how good they are.
Edited: June 17, 2019, 10:29 PM · I've played with two soloists who could be considered first class (one pianist, one violist, not the biggest names but prominent enough to perform with major orchestras fairly regularly) and their performances lived up to their reputations even when playing with a semi-pro orchestra in a smaller city. They were consummate professionals and didn't consider the orchestra or the venue to be beneath them.

On the other hand, I get upset almost every time I play with a soloist younger than 16 or 17. Sometimes I think they wouldn't be up there if not for their age (because they're not that good). And sometimes they come across as taking the opportunities they've had for granted; though they've clearly worked hard, they're often not entirely aware of how much support they've gotten and how much of a privilege it is to be able to study at that level.

June 18, 2019, 1:15 AM · I suppose this is a bit OT but Andrew, I really hear you about the younger musicians. My daughter is 8 and she acts so entitled when it comes to music lessons and performance opportunities. I get that she doesn't know any other way of life since she started so young but it still bothers me a lot.
June 18, 2019, 2:12 AM · Everyone is entitled to the occasional off day. Yehudi Menuhin had plenty, so one went to his concerts hoping for the best but prepared for less. In about 1976 I heard him play the Beethoven concerto beautifully, only to mess up in one of the Romances.
June 18, 2019, 8:27 AM · I think we should strike the occasional memory lapse (usually minor) off the list because it is an unpredictable human thing and happens to everyone at some time or other. It is worth noting that most memory lapses slip past 99% of the audience unnoticed; those of the audience who do notice will likely have been there themselves and will understand.

I witnessed a good example some years ago when I was an orchestral cellist. A professional soloist (I don't recall the name) was performing the Elgar cello concerto with us. She must have performed it dozens of times in her career, but on this occasion had an unaccountable memory lapse in the middle of the last movement. Our conductor was instantly on the ball and held out his score with his left hand in front of her for a few seconds while he continued conducting with the right. Those few seconds were enough for the soloist to recover her place and the concerto proceeded to its conclusion without further incident.

The interesting thing was that the only members of the orchestra who noticed what had happened were the first desk of the cellos (where I was) and the first desk of the first violins. During the interval following the concerto I spoke to a couple of friends in the front row of the stalls seated right in front of the soloist; they too hadn't noticed the memory lapse or the conductor's solution.

June 18, 2019, 10:15 AM · Steve, one of the ones I played for was Yehudi Menuhin (as he then was).
It wasn't the most magical TECHNICAL performance, but musically - WOW!
One of the jobs in a previous orchestra was playing for a violin competition final. Technically perfect, but so what!
I wouldn't have wanted to listen to any of them again.

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