When your slip starts showing in the Mendelssohn concerto

When your slip starts showing in the Mendelssohn concerto


norman lebrecht

February 11, 2018

Our string quartet diarist Anthea Kreston is having sartorial issues:

In Lisbon last week before our concert, I was doing clean-up work on the calendar – making sure I have all of the flights/trains saved in chronological order, all confirmation codes, hotels and repertoire – when I realized that our family had vacation at the same time the following week. The girls were on holiday, my last concert was Wednesday, and my final University student concert was Friday. So off we went on Saturday, on a direct flight to Marseilles.

We had a lovely week in Provence. Basing ourselves in a charming 400 year old converted external kitchen/stable within the old town walls of St. Rémy, we have eaten splendidly, slept in, gone to markets, climbed Roman ruins, gone to museums, danced on the bridge in Avignon. Sure, it is off season – it was rather on the cold, wet, rainy side, but as long as we brought two extra pair of socks and leggings every day, we managed well.

My main goal this vacation was to drink wine every day (I normally don’t drink at all because I have to practice late or wake up early), and to order a different dessert every time I went into a bakery. No more avoiding the crazy-looking things in the window. I didn’t want to bring my violin on vacation, but Jason made me, saying I had to just practice 20 minutes every day. He has always been my biggest supporter, and also the most realistic person when it comes to how much I should be practicing (something that I can easily reason myself out of).

So there I was, every night, quite tipsily practicing – and I didn’t even bring any music. What I pulled up on IMSLP was Wolhfahrt Op. 45, which took me about 20 minutes if I played just the second book. Then, just for fun, I downloaded the Norwegian and Russian concertos by Lalo which someone told me about last week. These are a hoot – why do we all just play his Symphonie Espagnole – we should be doing these too!

Last week at my concert, I dug up an old skirt – a multi-layered chiffon leopard print floor-length number. But when I got on stage for the rehearsal, I realized I must have lost weight – the skirt was slipping down precariously. A couple of Bobby pins and hair clips kept it steady, but I was reminded of my mother-in-law.

She was playing the Mendelssohn violin concerto, last movement, as a senior in high-school, with her school orchestra in a Western suburb of Chicago. She recently had purchased her first pair of high-heels, intended for the prom the following week, and decided to “try them out” for the performance. She was playing on a violin which was loaned to her by her violin teacher, who was the conductor of the school orchestra. She noticed before the concert that her slip was hanging down below her skirt, so she decided to just roll it up a bunch so it wouldn’t show.

As the orchestra came in “baaa, baaa, bada bump”, and she took her first up-bow “Doodle-Doodle-woo”, her bow hooked under the strings, her violin careened into the air in a spiral, and a deathly silence filled the hall where normally an optimistic run of 5 16th notes occurs. She and her teacher/conductor locked eyes in a moment of sheer terror, as he placed the next down-beat – the orchestra continued “baaa, baaa, bada bump”, she caught the violin, a little unstable on her brand-new heels, and managed to get the next “Doodle-Doodle-woo”, and off they were. Crisis averted. Or should I say, crisis number one averted.

As she continued, she felt the tell-tale “bump” of her slip, on one side, unrolling itself. Soon after, another “bump”. Thinking quickly, she decided to widen her stance, try to keep the slip up by bracing it with her knees. “Bump, Bump”, wider stance still – tough on these heels!

And so it went – by the end of the movement, her legs as far apart as she could possibly balance, she played her triumphant last note. She didn’t even fall over. If you can’t call that’s successful performance, I just don’t know what is.

On Monday we play our Berlin Philharmonie concert, and you can bet your bottom dollar I won’t be wearing a skirt.




  • SVM says:

    This pair of tales demonstrates clearly why it is a good idea to make a habit of playing the dress rehearsal in concert dress (the clue is in the name!), so that the performer can get accustomed to performing in his/her chosen costume in the specific venue, and rectify any sartorial issues before the concert itself (such a habit is also advantageous if the venue were to have little/nothing in the way of changing facilities).

    On another note, speaking as a man, I think it utter madness to wear high heels, an opinion that appears to be supported by the following report:


  • Bruce says:

    I always thought of those 5 16th notes in the 3rd movement as “chicken noodle soup.”

    Men get these wardrobe malfunctions every once in awhile too. I haven’t had any (yet), unless you count reaching up to adjust my collar onstage and realizing I forgot to put on my bow tie… but we have occasionally been provided with information about a conductor’s chosen underwear when his suspenders gave way on one side. (It was only the waistband plus a couple inches, and the pattern was… whales. Whales? Yes.)

  • kuoirad says:

    Thank you for that descriptive take on the opening of the third movement. I don’t think I’ll ever think of it any other way now. *snrk*

  • Marg says:

    The flying violin must have been a terrifying moment. Like Kuoirad above I wont hear those few notes quite the same way again! Oh – and a fun family time … enjoyed reading about that!

  • Sharon says:

    Fortunately the audience in the dark cannot discern a wardrobe malfunction!