Right off the bat I should make clear this story does not refer to the orchestra I now play for. This is about the first time I had the opportunity to play the Tchaikovsky 4th professionally, with what could reasonably be described as a ‘major’ orchestra. Strangely, I’m sure that other organization would normally have no problem with my using their name, but as you will see, prudence dictates otherwise.
At the first rehearsal I found myself seated beside a hoary bassist, the grizzled veteran of many an orchestral campaign. For the non-musician, I should say that the Tchaikovsky 4th bass part is a bit tricky. Far from impossible, but you need to be awake to play it. Soon after we began the first read through it became apparent my stand partner was completely at a loss. Either he had never learned the piece or else forgotten it so long ago as to make the printed music now as alien to him as the hieroglyphics of a lost civilization. If his bow moved at all, it went in the wrong direction. If he made an audible entrance, it was at the wrong moment. He kept it up throughout the first movement.
Obviously noticing my sidelong glances during the run through, he turned to me when we stopped playing.
“I’m not used to these bowings,” he said.
I nodded, noting to myself that the bowings were the standard ones I’d seen everywhere.
“I don’t like this style of bowing.” He went on, aiming a dismissive nod at the principal.
“I like New York style bowings,” he concluded.
Every time I’ve played the Tchaikovsky 4th since then I’ve wondered about those New York style bowings.