Young maestro falls sick. Bass trombone steps up

Young maestro falls sick. Bass trombone steps up


norman lebrecht

February 17, 2016

From Bavarian Radio:

Regrettably, Robin Ticciati had to cancel his engagement with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks due to health reasons. We would like to thank Joseph Bastian for stepping in as the conductor of the three concerts next week (February 18, 19 and 20, Philharmonie im Gasteig, Munich).

Bastian is the orchestra’s bass trombone player. Toi-toi!

joseph bastian



  • Hanna Nahan says:

    Why do they keep doing this? So bored of hearing that the orchestra’s percussionist or lead viola or bass trombonist is stepping in. Are there really no actual conductors available?

    • pietro rizzo says:

      It’ll be a great concert! Then, in the following week, when Mr. Bastian will return to his seat, his trombone colleagues will ask him: “Hey, where were you last week?”

    • Shiela says:

      Dear Hannah,
      I’m very sorry you’re bored of hearing this. You are however forgetting who actually makes the music… THE MUSICIANS. As a professional brass player myself, I can say that most professional conductors are pretty hopeless, the orchestras are simply very good. Please don’t be so arrogant next time you comment, you are simply contributing to the culture that the celebrity conductor is God…

    • Batonflipper says:

      Many orchestras have players within them who conduct, some to a very high standard. Not only that, it often happens that a player within an orchestra has a conducting career running alongside his/her playing career and may well be hoping that conducting becomes their full-time job.
      In the UK alone, I can name three orchestral musicians who have done this – Michael Francis (LSO), Jaime Martin (LPO) and Steven Bell (BBCCO) alongside myself (ex CBSO violinist and now Associate Conductor).
      The reason for my comment is that the inference that “they should have got a real conductor”, got me riled! Why, if the orchestra trusts their colleague, should they not hire them to replace the original maestro? Surely, if they had played in the rehearsals, they are more equipped to conduct than a random “real conductor” who happened to be free that night??
      The fact that some orchestras are happy to trust one of their own, a player who knows how orchestra work from the inside, should be applauded, in my humble opinion…..

    • Halldor says:

      All of these people are “actual conductors” or they wouldn’t possibly be able to do what they do at short notice. Do you perhaps mean “celebrity conductors”? Slightly different thing.

      When a conductor cancels at short notice, an orchestra needs to find a replacement whose diary is clear, who is available for the whole rehearsal period as well as the concerts, who can make the necessary travel and accommodation arrangements (possibly including visas) at speed and on top of that, already knows the repertoire (I note this programme includes the Brahms A major Serenade & Berg Seven Early Songs, neither of which are standard repertoire, and Elgar’s Enigma Variations, which isn’t universally familiar in Germany). All these variables have to align – and this person has to be found within as little as 24 hours.

      It’s not like dialling up and ordering a pizza.

    • Eddie Mars says:

      So sorry to disappoint you, Hanna. A tiny number of conductors were born with their angelic wings already in place. A far larger number have earned their wings by serving in the ranks.

    • Max Grimm says:

      You might wish to read the resumés of said percussionists, lead violists and bass trombonists. You’d find that in +90% of cases, the respective orchestra member has actually studied conducting, served as assistant conductor to one of the “celebrity conductors” and/or serves as conductor for an ensemble outside of their orchestral responsibilities (granted, said ensembles aren’t the Berlin Phil or Concertgebouw Orchestra but that doesn’t detract from the fact that they serve them as “actual conductors” nonetheless).

    • Meal says:

      As guessed by some of the discussants earlier, Joseph Bastian _is_ a conductor, too. According to his homepage ( he leads the Symphony Orchestra of the University of Munich. This is not an high ranked orchester; however, this will have trained him a lot. Beyond this he did also took the batton for more important orchestras such as the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich or the Noord Nederlands Orkest. He took master courses with Bernard Haitink, David Zinman and Jorma Panula. He assisted Mariss Jansons and Daniel Harding with the Choir and Symphony Orchestra of the Bayerischer Rundfunk (BRSO). I don’t know him but it sounds like he deserves this chance.

      • Munich Music Lover says:

        You are absolutely right, he certainly does! I have played many concerts under his baton at the „Abaco“ University Orchestra. He is a superb musician, charismatic, clear stick, always well prepared. All the best, Joseph!

    • michael mulcahy says:

      Never underestimate a “mere” orchestral musician.
      Your assumption that Joseph Bastian is not an “actual” conductor is unfounded.
      I know him to be a superb musician. I even conduct myself, although I hold a position in an orchestra as a trombonist.

      I am used to regularly playing for fine conductors such as Muti, Haitink, Barenboim, Honeck etc, so I very well know quality when I see it.
      Some working conductors that you might assume are “actual” do not deserve that description based on the quality of their work.

      The content of their work earns or loses the respect of the musicians; not who pays their weekly cheque.

    • yoram says:

      most of the player are better musician then the conductors ….

    • Bruce says:

      I believe I have heard that many “real” conductors have schedules to which they are committed, sometimes years in advance, and are not always able to change them on a few days’ notice to accommodate another orchestra whose scheduled conductor is ill. But that’s just industry rumor; I’m sure they could have gotten anyone they wanted just by asking (and paying enough money).

      Hopefully Ludovic Morlot is real enough to make these concerts worthwhile:

      Meanwhile, here’s hoping that Mr. Ticciati recovers soon.

  • MacroV says:

    I assume he actually has experience as a conductor; the BRSO would presumably be able to get a noted substitute if they wanted. Maybe a big break for Herr Bastian, and hopefully orchestra and crowd will be rooting for him.

  • squarcialupi codex says:

    The concert was delayed, as the conductor stood on the podium waiting to give a beat. The concertmaster asked why it was taking him so long to give the downbeat. The conductor/bass trombonist looked at the score and replied, “I have 600 bars rest.”

  • Rosana says:

    Those who are against orchestra musicians stepping in to replace a conductor should remember that Toscanini made his début when he left the orchestra pit and his cello to conduct AIDA in Rio, in 1886.
    According to Wikipedia: “He joined the orchestra of an opera company, with which he toured South America in 1886. While presenting Aida in Rio de Janeiro on June 25, Leopoldo Miguez, the locally hired conductor, reached the summit of a two-month escalating conflict with the performers due to his rather poor command of the work, to the point that the singers went on strike and forced the company’s general manager to seek a substitute conductor. Carlo Superti and Aristide Venturi tried unsuccessfully to finish the work. In desperation, the singers suggested the name of their assistant Chorus Master, who knew the whole opera from memory. Although he had no conducting experience, Toscanini was eventually persuaded by the musicians to take up the baton at 9:15 pm, and led a performance of the two-and-a-half hour opera, completely from memory. The public was taken by surprise, at first by the youth and sheer aplomb of this unknown conductor, then by his solid mastery. The result was astounding acclaim. For the rest of that season Toscanini conducted eighteen operas, all with absolute success. Thus began his career as a conductor, at age 19.”

  • Eddie Mars says:

    Or to cite the old Russian joke:

    Kogan and Oistrakh are in the bar of the Moscow Conservatory – and they’ve already had few.

    “Come on, Leonya, tell the truth – could you play the Brahms Concerto after three double vodkas, eh?”

    Kogan shakes his head.”I’m not sure, David. But let’s drink to it, eh?”

    And so after another round, Oistrakh puts the same question. “After four, Leonid, old mate? Could you knock off the Brahms, after four doubles?”. And again, Kogan suggests that they have another round,

    “Alright then, Leonya! We’ve had five doubles each now! Tell me seriously – could you play the Brahms Concerto, after five double voddies, eh, mate?”

    Kogan stands up, resolutely. “David, old friend! I have to say, that after five vodkas, I doubt I could play the Brahms Concerto! But I could conduct it!”

    • Mick says:

      Henryk Szeryng was known to have been brought back from a pub right before a concert, so drunk he couldn’t stand on his feet. He’d inquire what he was supposed to play that night, they’d put him in a chair telling the audience the maestro was a bit “unwell” tonight, and Szering would proceed giving a perfect performance of the work in question. Or maybe it never happened, just like your “old Russian joke” that I never heard (of) before. If anything, it should be the reverse, since Oistrakh was of course something of a conductor while Kogan, a very modest and humble man, always stayed with his violin.

  • Larry says:

    It reminds me of the advice (perhaps apocryphal?) which Leonard Slatkin claims his teacher gave him many years ago: “When you’re standing on that podium, never forget one thing. Eighty per cent of those musicians think they can conduct better than you. The other twenty per cent probably can.”

  • James of Thames says:

    It is true that many orchestral musicians have studied conducting, but increasingly these days it is rare to encounter a conductor who has studied music.