This orch can play the Tchaik concerto like a soloist

This orch can play the Tchaik concerto like a soloist


norman lebrecht

September 30, 2018

The Memphis Symphony pulled one on Tai Murray, who took it well.

Tai’s response: ‘When the shock is eclipsed by the awwwwwww…’


  • Robert Holmén says:

    I can’t imagine what the point of this trick was. It’s a thoughtless gesture.

    She “took it well”… good for her… but they do this one-uppance to all the guests?

  • anon says:

    I really hope this doesn’t become a trend (it started with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Capuçon), it’s getting stale.

    What next? The soloist playing all the orchestral solos along with the principals? haw haw haw

  • Enquiring mind wants to know says:

    She’s thinking: “As long as the check clears, go ahead and play along”.

  • Quodlibet says:

    “She took it well” would mean “she tolerated it”

    Seems to me as though everyone there really enjoyed it – I heard a lot of friendly laughter. I laughed when I watched it, too. Fun! Why not?

    Ensemble musicians often share some light moments during rehearsals; it helps form the bonds that make real music-making possible. I can think of a half-dozen similar incidents from my own decades-long career as a professional chorister.

    I manage marketing for classical music organizations (and have had success doing so) and if this were one of my client ensembles, I’d consider including a video clip like this in a subscriber email or on our social media to show what a fun group the ensemble is and to say “come hear our fabulous violins who can do this as a section!” It’s exactly the sort of barrier-breaking thing that makes classical music more approachable. It doesn’t compromise the performance; it doesn’t disrespect the music or the soloist or the audience or the tradition; it’s just a few minutes of fun during a rehearsal.

    Formality and tradition and all those things we value? Well, it doesn’t have to be GRIM, does it? Music is for pleasure, and if having a few minutes of fun during a rehearsal adds to the pleasure – then why ever not?

    • anon says:

      “I can think of a half-dozen similar incidents from my own decades-long career as a professional chorister.”


      Can you imagine the chorus joining in Anna Netrebko in Aida as she sings one of her arias? She would personally stick them all with her Novichok pen.

      • AMetFan says:

        You don’t know Anna. She would take it in good-natured stride. She’s quite serious in her art, but she’s not above good collegial fun. She’s normal…or as normal as the world’s most in-demand opera singer can be.

      • Robert Groen says:

        Oh, for heaven’s sake, give this anti-Russian ‘humour’ a rest!

    • Enquiring mind wants to know says:

      good point

  • william osborne says:

    At any rate, when the whole section joins in, it’s a commentary on the early reputation of the work as unplayable. Great to see the orchestra having fun.

    • NYMike says:

      Enjoyed it and happy to hear it with the Leopold Auer cut, so standard in performance until the Tchaikovsky Competition after WW II demanded the original including the redundancies.

    • anon says:

      Well, they joined in the part that was playable. It’s like Liberace “playing” the Tchaik piano concerto. How many amateurs have learned the first few bars of their favorite concerto? The deeper you get into a concerto, the less number of people is able to play it.

      • Robert Roy says:

        Actually, Liberace was a very fine pianist who, had he not gone down his chosen path, could well have had a career as a classical pianist.

        • AstoriaCub says:

          Liberace was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a ‘fine pianist’. He was a second rate entertainer who was infamous for tacky shtick.

        • Sharon says:

          I once read a biography of Liberace. He tried to be a classical music soloist and although he had o.k. reviews he thought that he did not have what it took (maybe the creative genius) to make it big in classical music. It was still during the depression and he was already playing at functions and dive bars to support his family so he just continued doing so.

          With the help of the fact that a lot of other musicians were not available during WWII because they were in the army he was able to move to New York City, get a lot of gigs, develop his act, learning what sold and what would appeal to the audience (or as Astoriacub might say, developing a shtick) and within ten years or so built up a pretty solid reputation as a very good and crowd attracting popular club and cabaret performer. He even had a small fan club. He eventually was discovered by a TV producer when he was playing in a hotel in the nineteen fifties who put him on television and that’s how he obtained a national and eventually world wide reputation.

          • David K. Nelson says:

            Liberace was talented but I suspect had a good grasp of his own abilities and limitations. He was able enough to play the Liszt Concerto #2 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as a young man which should say something about his potential had he chosen a different path (or if his family had had the means to send him to greater teachers). There is a YouTube video of him playing a very truncated and altered version of the concerto and there are impressive moments. How he could play anything wearing all those rings is beyond me.


            More interestingly, there is also a YouTube video of him playing most of the second movement of the Liszt with the one-time principal cello of the Chicago Symphony, Ennio Bolignini, and doing a rather nicely sensitive job with it This video gets more than the usual attention from serious musicians because it is supposedly the only video that exists of Bolignini playing, and in his time he was a famous virtuoso. He wrote some knuckle busting short pieces for cello. Speaking of knuckle busting, he had also been a boxer at one point!


            Decades ago I played in a community orchestra supported by the local Catholic Church diocese. Most member and the conductor were quite elderly. My stand partner talked about local orchestras she had played in, and mentioned Liberace but she was not referring to the pianist, but his french horn playing father, Sam Liberace, who evidently was accomplished. She also knew George, who sometimes played violin on Liberace’s old TV show.

      • Bruce says:

        With all due respect, these Memphis Symphony members are not amateur violinists. (I know you didn’t say they were; I’m just sayin.)

  • Patrick says:

    What a stuffy bunch we have here. All Brits, perhaps?

  • Robert Roy says:

    There’s a story about the LSO first violins playing the opening of the Mendelssohn violin concerto instead of the programmed Tchaikovsky Concerto which caused Kyung-Wha-Chung to rush to get her fiddle under her chin!

    • Robert Groen says:

      Chung is a great violinist, but even she couldn’t have got that fiddle under her chin in time to join the orchestra. The physical part of it might just work (although I doubt it) But the brain needs a few seconds to adjust (to the unexpected work, the different key),and by then she would have missed her cue. Good story, though.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      There is a similar story about Zino Francescatti and the Philadelphia Orchestra. He nodded to Ormandy to start what he believed was going to be the Brahms Concerto so kept his Strad at his side expecting that good long tutti. Ormandy looked at him and delayed and delayed and finally shrugged and started – the Mendelssohn. Francescatti quickly caught on and came in correctly, which is amazing if true. He said he assumed Ormandy was joking. As I read the story it involved a concert not a rehearsal. I suppose it is believable that old pros like Francescatti and Ormandy would program a standard concerto without a specific rehearsal.
      At least, that’s the story, which I gather was one of Francescatti’s favorites. There are evidently various versions of the story and they all involve the Mendelssohn Concerto. Never the Berg for some reason!

  • Jonathan Dunsby says:

    There’s the story of Rattle and the Rite of Spring where the orch in rehearsal added one extra beat to that 11 beat measure and (almost) threw him