Ruckus Over Rachmaninov

A couple of weeks ago, I played on the PEI Symphony’s first concert of the season. On the program were Glinka’s Russlan and Ludmilla Overture, Kalinnikov’s 2nd Symphony (which I’d never played before), and Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, featuring the wonderful Peter Allen on piano. Playing the Rachmaninov, I was reminded of the last time I had played that piece, in the fall of 1999 with the Hamilton Philharmonic. The dress rehearsal for that concert is forever etched in my memory: The conductor kept rehearsing the ending of the piece over and over and over, saying nothing more than “again, same place”. (It’s amazing how often conductors do that!). Finally, the 1st trombonist, Marc Donatelle, having reached frustration saturation, stood up and yelled at the conductor, “WHAT DO YOU WANT? We keep doing the same thing over and over – are we doing something wrong? – What do you want us to do?” Marc never worried too much about expressing what was on his mind, but this time I thought for sure he was going to get himself fired. Sitting next to him, I proceeded to shrink behind my stand to shield myself from the shrapnel. But – nothing! Somehow, the conductor and the solo pianist ended up getting in an argument, and Marc nonchalantly sat down, the attention having been diverted away from him. Man, I had to laugh. Only Marc could get away with something like that!

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