Your daily factoid

We have another guest conductor this week; this one a very young and extremely talented Russian by the name of Vasily Petrenko. It’s actually his second round with us; I believe we were his American debut in the fall of 2006 (the performance we did of the Grieg Peer Gynt became our first download for sale with a conductor other than our music director, and our second binaural recording.)

This time, the big piece was supposed to be the Tchaikowsky Manfred, but apparently management got a little nervous about ticket sales and changed it to Scheherazade. As someone who’s salary comes in part from ticket sales, I’m not going to claim it was a bad call, although it would have been fun to do the Manfred.

But I learned something this morning as a result of the program change. We were working on the second movement and Petrenko was coaching the second trombone on how he wanted the big solo to go, when he stopped and told us why Rimsky-Korsakov wrote all those big soli for 2nd trombone. (This is apparently a legendary, but true, story in the musical community of St. Petersburg, where Petrenko did most of his schooling.)

The 2nd trombone of Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestra in St. Petersburg was a member of the Romanov family, although distant enough to avoid meeting the same unfortunate fate as befell the Tsar and his immediate family. This meant that, whenever the 2nd trombone had a solo, and got a solo bow from the conductor at the end of the piece – the entire audience had to stand up as well.

I guess that beats playing Stars and Stripes at the end of every concert (especially for a Russian orchestra, of course). But I hope it’s not an indication that, at our upcoming audition for assistant principal viola, I’m going to have to do some quick online genealogical research on the finalists. I’ll bet that 1st trombonist spent most of his career in a complete snit.

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