Bass Blog

Michael Hovnanian formerly played bass with an orchestra located in a large midwestern city.

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Monday, May 21, 2007


I don’t know if other orchestras do this, but in certain weeks we play the program from the previous week on Tuesday evening. The official term for these is ‘holdover’, but ‘hangover’ is probably more apt. Sometimes the Tuesday performances are quite good, often they are not. The orchestra has had Sunday and Monday off, then spent Tuesday morning rehearsing the coming week’s program. Sometimes I find myself opening the folder on Tuesday night and wondering - how does this go again?

Someone in CSO management candidly admitted the reason we repeat certain concerts on Tuesday evenings is solely because the maestro is willing to stay in town an extra 3 days after the Saturday show. We were lucky to have Haitink stay around for the extra Bruckner concert. Even if it was not up to the level of the other performances it was a pleasure playing under him, even on a Tuesday. This week is another matter altogether. So far the three concerts have been about half full each, in spite of some truly inspired percussion playing. If my math is correct, we should have played 2 shows for full houses, or at most, three for two thirds full.

Right after replying to Matt Heller that we rarely sight-read I had to sight-read something. Misreading the rotation sheet, I thought I was off the Adams Century Rolls piece. In fact I had been smiling as my colleagues were working out the clumsy passages, thanking my lucky stars I would not be joining them. Well, talk about instant Karma. I had to play the piece after all.

The Adams bass part is mostly counting and plunking away at isolated notes – blips, bleeps, and as we played it, bloops. Our section has a glaring handicap when it comes to things like that, but we soldiered on as best we could.

Here are two interesting passages, about the only times we got to play anything that wasn’t random notes on random beats.

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