New York Philharmonic retires 4 musicians

New York Philharmonic retires 4 musicians


norman lebrecht

August 13, 2020

The orchestra usually plays a concert for retiring members. Not this year.

The four departures are:

Contrabassoonist / bassoonist Arlen Fast;

Horn player Howard Wall;

Cellist Eric Bartlett;

Assistant Principal Librarian Sandra Pearson.

No auditions are scheduled any time soon.


  • Freddynyc says:

    Might as well – why suffer the indignities of having to perform with your colleagues on Zoom for the indefinite future…..

    • Old Man in the Midwest says:

      I agree. A good time to retire. Live off your pension and move out to the country where there is less chance of catching Covid.

    • Mars says:

      These guys are getting out just before the completely insane has fully taken over our orchestras. Good on them.

  • Elaine Calder says:

    Surely the headline should read “Four NY Philharmonic musicians retire”…..

  • JacksonW says:

    What an embarrassingly click-bait headline. The orchestra didn’t “Retire” these fine folks, they chose to retire of their own discretion. There is a difference, and NL knows it.

  • Grittenhouse says:

    I don’t think even one of them was with the orchestra when I used to attend concerts.

  • William Safford says:

    Technically speaking, the musicians retire of their own accord. They were not retired by the Philharmonic.

    I have known Arlen for many years. His redesign of the contrabassoon’s vent system has opened up new horizons of expressivity and musicality: musicians who play on Fast system contrabassoons can spend less time working on overcoming the limitations of standard contrabassoons, and can devote that time and effort to music making.

    He is not only a musician of the highest caliber, but is brilliant, focused, and amiable in an understated way.

    In 2007, I attended a performance of Arlen in recital on contrabassoon and his sister on piano, at the International Double Reed Society conference. At the end of it, the high school girl sitting next to me said to me: “I never knew that the contrabassoon could dance.”

    I am sure that he will have a rewarding and busy retirement.

    Here he is in a socially-distanced recording of the brass chorale from Mahler 2:

    • David says:

      William, thanks for that excellent link. I was happily amused that all the brass and percussion were playing from a living room or dedicated studio space, except for Mr. Fast, he was in his workshop, fitting.

      Also, what a treat to be able to examine these players up close, to see the tiny adjustments they make for that spectacular sound.

      It might be a pandemic that is eating my soul, but there are small significant comforts. Thanks NYP.

      • William Safford says:

        You’re welcome!

        I have visited that workshop/practice room a bunch of times. It is a fascinating place.

        Check out the comments in the YouTube video. Many brass players love his contribution to the chorale. 🙂

        • Alank says:

          Mr. Fast is typical of the Bassoon world. As an amateur who has had the fortune to study with some world class bassoonists, I can attest that I have rarely met any professional bassoonist who has not been incredibly generous with his or her time.

          • Bruce says:

            I have noticed that, in general, the lower the instrument, the nicer the person.

            Think of your stereotypical flute player vs. your stereotypical bassoonist.

            Or trumpet player vs. tuba player.

            Or violinist vs. bassist.

            ….In general. There must be a high-strung, neurotic bass player out there somewhere, if only to provide the exception that proves the rule.

  • Bruce says:

    Maybe it’s an alternative (or other-side-of-the-pond) way of saying it, like saying “graduated from university” vs “was graduated.”

    (I even see “graduated university” sometimes; could we say they “retired the Philharmonic”?)

  • I would be nice if the picture of the four of them didn’t just show two of them.

    Your web template doesn’t seem to accommodate other than square images.

  • Edgard Self says:

    Bruce,– A German conductor told me, his eyes glistening with malice, that Karl Muck said, “The higher the voice, the lower the intellect.” His wife was a cooratura, needless to say, and sat mute at the table with us.