An Exhortation to Orchestral Players

It’s time orchestral players shed their inferiority complex. Not only does orchestral playing determine the general level of a country’s musical culture, it also demands more of the musician. Soloists often lack control at extremes of dynamic: witness how many of our pianist colleagues refuse to heed Hofmann’s advice and fail to make themselves heard in a tutti. And soloists tend to spend so little time on their tone that Kleiber had a hard time finding one who didn’t sound ‘lousy’.

Remember, the masters of your instrument were ensemble players. Ysaÿe and César Thomson sat in Bilse’s orchestra (the prehistory of Berliner); Primrose played for NBC and had his own quartet; Piatigorsky was first desk at Berliner and Starker the same at the Met and then Chicago (his tone was never of a soloist type); Koussevitzky put his expertise on the double bass in the service of his orchestra; Kincaid (when heard from afar) and Tabuteau shaped the old Philadelphian sound and phrasing; Lifschey and Marcellus toiled under Szell; Maurice Allard played in Opéra; Dennis Brain never gave up his Philharmonia job; Adolph Herseth stayed half a century in Chicago’s brass section, though he had the tone of a natural trumpet.

Now, the one biggest obstacle to an orchestral player’s individual artistic expression is this: all the concertos go to visiting soloists – and exorbitant fees are paid to the soloists, jet-setting conductors, and agents. Not so at TKB. Our aim is to give every member of the orchestra the opportunity to play the solo of a new concerto (with your own cadenzas, of course). ❦