The violinist who stepped up to save Nutcracker

The violinist who stepped up to save Nutcracker


norman lebrecht

January 04, 2023

Laurie Niles has a hair-raising tale from Los Angeles Ballet:

On December 21, the night before five sold-out performances of the Nutcracker Ballet were to begin, the Los Angeles Ballet had a pretty serious problem: the orchestra had no conductor.

The orchestra – made up of veteran musicians who had played the ballet for many years – had just two rehearsals prior to the performances. This year, however, they did not have their regular conductor, and things weren’t coming together with the sub. Mid-way through the dress rehearsal, organizers decided that a radical change was necessary on the podium.

That’s when they asked concertmaster Bruce Dukov if he could step in and conduct the ballet. He immediately rejected the idea.

“I did take conducting at Juilliard, but my conducting is certainly not on the level to do a ballet,” Dukov told me. So Bruce turned around to the violinist sitting third chair: Armen Anassian….

Read on here.


  • Jobim75 says:

    Sounds like a Christmas tale, good story.

  • Herr Doktor says:

    I often wonder how many talented conductors exist who have never really had the chance to become one.

    Go, Armen, GO!!!

    (and congratulations!)

    • MacroV says:

      I’ve often wondered that. I had a college wind ensemble conductor who I thought was fantastic and could have been a world-class orchestral conductor. To this day I don’t know if he was an overlooked genius or if I just didn’t know major-league pitching.

  • Larry W says:

    Bruce Dukov is one of the greatest violinists on the planet. Even so, he knew he should pass the baton to Armen Anassian, who saved the day! Such a wonderful story. Here’s Bruce in a duo with himself playing his own arrangement of Happy Birthday:

  • Bahm says:

    Better said…. The violinist Who stepped down….

  • MacroV says:

    That’s a great story. But only five performances in LA? In Seattle they do about 30.

  • drummerman says:

    Bravo to Mr. Anassian.

    I know that Maestro Leonard Slatkin reads these posts. This incident reminded me of an anecdote I read, which was attributed to him. Perhaps he can corroborate (or refute) the story?

    The story goes that one of Maestro Slatkin’s early teachers once said to him: “When you’re on that podium, always remember one thing: 80% of those musicians think they can conduct better than you. The other 20% probably can.”

  • BeeGee says:

    Don’t care if it’s only January, that’s my story of the year!

  • Terry B says:

    Traditionally, I thought the role of Concert Master was having the ability to conduct. This derives from the time before conductors started to appear on the scene.

  • fierywoman says:

    That Mr Anassian is a brilliant conductor doesn’t surprise me in the least (although it delights me that this has been discovered about him) because he is a superlative violinist, but above all, he is a Mensch. Go, Armen !!!

  • Wannaplayguitar says:

    Somewhere in that last bit of Act 1 can be absolute rhythmic hell (if the brass decide to go their own way)(as is so often the case) Y’all know which bit I mean…..sorry can’t give the exact bar numbers