What does an orch play when soloist cancels at last minute?

What does an orch play when soloist cancels at last minute?


norman lebrecht

December 06, 2015

It has been a hair-raising weekend at the Seattle Symph.

Soprano Jane Archibald fell sick and there was no-one within reach to take over Messiaen’s Poème pour Mi, which had to be scrapped.

A chorus member volunteered to step up for the other part of the program, which was Fauré’s Requiem.

But what to do about the Messiaen-shaped hole?

Conductor Ludovic Morlot called for Ravel La Valse.

Without rehearsal.

Or a permanent concertmaster.

The apprehension in the orch was, we hear, ‘pretty intense’.

But Emma McGrath in the #1 seat took the change in her stride and the substitute work proved highly effective.



Do not try this at home.


  • Harold Lewis says:

    Some oddities about timing of the ‘Messiaen-shaped hole’. I suspect we may not be getting the full story here. You write ‘Poème’ (singular), but the whole ‘Poèmes pour Mi’ contain 9 songs: the ‘First Book’ has 4 songs and the Second 5. Moreover, it lasts about 30 minutes whereas its apparent replacement at this concert (La Valse) is about half that duration.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Actually, I try that often at home, changing a first choice of CD at the last minute and play something else. No problem.

  • Anonymous says:

    Also amazing, Principal Harpist, Valerie Muzzolini Gordon, ended up performing her solo at the beginning of the program, played La Valse, AND played the Faure Requiem on the second half….huge kudos to her for going above and beyond!

  • OhReally..... says:

    So the name dropping amounts to a Participation Trophy for the concertmaster, who simply did her job “in her stride?” As did the rest of the orchestra?!

  • John says:

    Were there big concertmaster solos in La Valse? Non whatsoever.
    Why not name every musician that participated in that concert since all of them took the change in stride and played the piece?

  • Charles G. Clark-Maxwell says:

    ==Poème pour Mi

    Poèmes pour Mi (Plural)

  • William Safford says:

    I had a new experience this past weekend.

    I played in a pickup orchestra for a local chorus. Program included Faure Requiem.

    The baritone soloist canceled on short notice (health, I assume).

    The solo was sung by — the conductor! He sang ably.

  • Robert Roy says:

    It’s not that big a deal, especially in the UK where orchestras play very difficult music on little rehearsal. Many years ago, I heard the SNO’s then leader, the great Edwin Paling, stand up and play the Mendelssohn concerto to replace an indisposed soloist with no rehearsal. It was a very good performance.

  • Galen Johnson says:

    Coloratura Cyndia Sieden was in town for rehearsals to sing Sibelius’s Luonnotar, Op. 70, this weekend, so she replaced Jane Archibald in the Fauré.