As mentioned, Heldenleben contains more double bass audition passages per page than almost any other piece in the literature. The passage at (rehearsal) number nine has probably ruined more dreams of an orchestral career than any other.
Sometimes you might see a few gummy old bass players, veterans of auditions long past huddled toward the back of the bar. Over a stale pint or two they recount in hushed reverent tones disastrous failures, successes won at terrible cost. Their Ypres, Verdun, The Marne, unknown beyond their circle, sound strange in our ears; Number 9, the Battle Scene, 49, 77. “Nine measures after number 15, there I stood, alone, without a mute…”
So friends, next time you go to a performance of Ein Heldenleben, cast a sympathetic eye towards the bass section. Number 9 comes up only a few minutes into the piece – top of the second page. Then you will see the page turned, a deep breath taken, perhaps an eye rolled heavenward in memory of a colleague who didn’t make it. And as they begin to play, without doubt, you think to yourself – what a delightful passage for the horn.