A recent change of plans at the LA Phil leads us to reminisce on other times we’ve had conductors cancel. What happens when the audience is waiting and the show must go on?
Nathan Cole: Hello, and welcome back to Stand Partners for Life with “The show must go on.” That’s the name of this episode, not just saying that about our show… But thanks, as always, for being here with me for, I think this will be, a great episode. It’s about, well, the show must go on. We were kind of thinking that this past week. We played the entire Romeo and Juliet ballet with dancers, and video, and everything, and the concert stretched to three hours. Right before some of those performances, I was almost wondering, “Must I go on?” I love the music, and I know you do too. That’s one of your favorite pieces.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah.
Nathan Cole: It’s a big-
Akiko Tarumoto: The music is so good that I’ve almost already forgotten how long it felt. It’s like childbirth.
Nathan Cole: Obviously, I wouldn’t know, but I’ve heard. Yeah, today, this being the first day that we didn’t play the Prokofiev. I’ve just had all the tunes running through my head all day, so I guess that’s proof of how great the music is, although I do … I mean, I guess I get bad music stuck in my head, too, but this is undoubtedly great.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah. Well, right now, I have Wheels on the Bus stuck in my head, so not a good person to ask.
Nathan Cole: Okay. Well, I mean, that’s an effective tune, also. Looking at this week coming up, we’ve got a bit of a conundrum. I mean, not that we have to solve it, but-
Akiko Tarumoto: Oh, it’s been-
Nathan Cole: … our-
Akiko Tarumoto: … solved.
Nathan Cole: That’s right. It just was solved today, but rehearsals start the day after tomorrow, and up until today, we had no conductor and no real program for the coming week. That’s because the conductor canceled. Daniel Harding, who we’ve spoken about on this podcast before, actually, I hope you’re doing well. I heard there was some sickness or … Sickness or injury?
Akiko Tarumoto: Injury.
Nathan Cole: Okay. Well, we definitely wish him the best, but yeah, it was a pretty short-notice change of plans for the orchestra. Usually, these things get solved instantaneously. It’s like as soon as someone canceled, they’ve got 20 people lined up who can just drop everything and come, for an orchestra like LA anyway, but in this case, it took some doing. It seemed like everybody was engaged. I guess it’s not like it’s the summer, where plans are loosey-goosey. I think all the conductors had stuff going on in October, so …
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah. In fact, I think a few times, it’s worked out great. I can’t remember who it was who canceled, but Jaap van Zweden was able to come in … Was that in Chicago?
Nathan Cole: That was in Chicago. He interrupted his honeymoon, as I recall. He came back from Hawaii early, and he was all bronzed and-
Akiko Tarumoto: Right, and that was the first time we’d seen him, and we thought he was great. It was, it was really fun having him conduct.
Nathan Cole: Yeah. You never know what you’re going to get, and just for the curious, for this coming week, it’s turned out that one of the so-called Dudamel Fellows, we have several that rotate throughout the season, Paolo …
Akiko Tarumoto: I can’t say it…
Nathan Cole: I’m laughing at myself stumbling over his name, because when I ask him to say his own name, he says it so fast that I can’t make enough sense of it, so I’ll have to get him to record it, but it’s spelled Bortolameolli, but it does not sound like five syllables when I hear him pronounce his own name-
Akiko Tarumoto: Right.
Nathan Cole: … so-
Akiko Tarumoto: Got to practice.
Nathan Cole: I know. I need some practice, but Paolo is going to take over next week, so we’re grateful for that. The program has changed. It was going to be Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony, now Beethoven’s Fifth. Then we’ve added a soloist. Jean-Yves Thibaudet has a home here in the LA area.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah. It’s kind of amazing he was available.
Nathan Cole: Yeah. Well, I think it’s because he does live here part-time, and he’s a player. He’s always got something up his sleeve, so we’re doing a Saint-Saëns.
Akiko Tarumoto: Have you ever heard this piece?
Nathan Cole: No. This particular Saint-Saëns concerto, never, as far as I know-
Akiko Tarumoto: It’s-
Nathan Cole: We’ll see.
Akiko Tarumoto: I didn’t know he wrote five of them, or maybe he wrote like 10, but-
Nathan Cole: Well, I mean, we’re surprised he wrote three violin concertos, because everybody plays number three, and we’re always like, “What do the first two sound like?”
Akiko Tarumoto: Well, I mean, some people know what the first one sounds like.
Nathan Cole: That’s right, because it was performed this summer at the Hollywood Bowl.
Akiko Tarumoto: By your stand partner.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, my stand partner, my actual stand partner for-
Akiko Tarumoto: Most of your life.
Nathan Cole: We’re keeping a newish piece that’s a vehicle for our principal flute. He’s the soloist for the Knussen.
Akiko Tarumoto: Oh, yeah, and there’s also a soprano.
Nathan Cole: Okay. We’ll talk about why programs change, why certain things stay the same, and we’re also going to tell one of the best examples of this kind of thing from our experience when a music director cancels, and very unexpectedly. That’s from our time in Chicago. Let’s start that story, because I was actually not around for all of this. This happened in late 2010 in Chicago, right, or early two-
Akiko Tarumoto: It happened in-
Nathan Cole: … thousand eleven?
Akiko Tarumoto: … early 2011 when you were on tour with the LA Phil.
Nathan Cole: Right, so I had just won the job in LA, and in order to sort of jumpstart the process, I joined the LA Phil for a tour before I officially started, so I came out to LA, I think, for two weeks’ preparation, or one week preparation, and then did a European tour. While I was on that tour, I remember I called you from Budapest. It was late at night in Budapest, but I knew it wouldn’t be past your bedtime in Chicago, and I was just telling you how things were going, and you said, “Wow. You will never believe what just-“
Akiko Tarumoto: Well, no.
Nathan Cole: ” … happened here.”
Akiko Tarumoto: I think what happened was, I called you, knowing you probably weren’t going to pick up the phone, and I left you a hysterical message.
Nathan Cole: Oh, is that it?
Akiko Tarumoto: Right after it happened, because I was like, I had, but I was in a real tizzy about it, and-
Nathan Cole: All right.
Akiko Tarumoto: … so what had just happened was, we had been rehearsing Shostakovich Fifth Symphony, and it was the end of the slow movement.
Nathan Cole: Who was conducting?
Akiko Tarumoto: It was, Riccardo Muti was conducting, and I still remember, I think it was rehearsal number 95 in that movement, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget what it was like to look at the music and then look up and see that he just looked really strange, and his arms were sort of half up, but he wasn’t really moving anymore. Then, yeah, he just pitched forward on, off the … Well, off the podium, I guess, and face-forward into the floor. Then people started screaming, and some people were shouting about calling 911, and other people shouting about keeping calm, and it was sort of …
Nathan Cole: That’s always good, shouting about keeping calm.
Akiko Tarumoto: It was … I’ve, fortunately, have not been in a lot of semi-crisis situations in my life, but it was interesting to see how everyone reacted in this particular scenario. There was that feeling that he may have just died. I mean … I think maybe, I think we figured out pretty quickly he was still breathing, so that was good, but there were a few moments of doubt, obviously. It was scary, and we … My instinct was to just … I knew we just had to get off the stage, because there would be plenty of emergency people, medical people there, and there was, I being neither of those, and I was just going to be in the way, so that’s when I ran off-stage and I was just kind of like, “What do I do? I don’t really have anything to do with this, but I still feel really, really upset about it, kind of,” and so I-
Nathan Cole: Right, and then you were–
Akiko Tarumoto: I called you and I left you that message where I was like, “Riccardo Muti just faceplanted on the stage, and we don’t know if he’s alive or not, and … “
Nathan Cole: Yeah, and it really takes you out of your place, because we go to work, and we’re thinking about the music. We’re thinking about our colleagues. We’re thinking about day-to-day stuff or whatever, but we’re pretty much programmed, if we go in for a 10:00, we’re done at 12:30 or whatever it is. It’s not like we ever just sometimes leave at 11:00 or sometimes leave at 11:30 or something like that. We’re there, and that’s part of the day, and then something like that happens that’s real, that’s real life, and that’s what takes up all your mental energy.
Nathan Cole: Then at a certain point, you just, like you said, you’re like, “Well, what’s my purpose here? What am I really doing? Nobody’s making music. Should we just … Do we pack up and go home?” Then you start thinking, “Well, are we going to play this program? What’s going to happen?” Because that was actually a big week, wasn’t it? Was it the …
Akiko Tarumoto: It was the gala week, so yeah.
Nathan Cole: Then what was the rest of the program?
Akiko Tarumoto: Beethoven Violin Concerto, and I forget-
Nathan Cole: It was with-
Akiko Tarumoto: … what the overture was.
Nathan Cole: … Anne-Sophie Mutter?
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, and that was great, because it was the first time I had ever seen her in person.
Nathan Cole: You hadn’t rehearsed with her yet.
Akiko Tarumoto: I forget. I forget, but she was great. She is great, and yeah, it was a real treat to hear her play in person. She’s such a legend, and it’s weird to think it took all that time for me to actually hear her live.
Nathan Cole: At this point, when was the concert, and how many days did you have?
Akiko Tarumoto: I think it was that night.
Nathan Cole: The concert was going to be that night.
Akiko Tarumoto: The concert was that night. It was that night.
Nathan Cole: Neither of us was part of the administration there or anything, so we weren’t privy to all the discussions, but we’re talking about how they need to … If they’re going to find another conductor, and if the show is going to go on, it’s got to be in about six hours’ time, or realistically, they’ve got to find someone in the next hour or two, and they’ve got to be local. They can’t fly anyone in.
Akiko Tarumoto: In the end, what ended up happening was, we-
Nathan Cole: We’re going to-
Akiko Tarumoto: … went-
Nathan Cole: … break up this story a little bit, aren’t we, to entice people to listen to this entire episode. Right? You’re not going to spill all the beans, right?
Akiko Tarumoto: We’re going to make you wait to hear what the solution was, because you’re undoubtedly just sitting on the edge of your seat, just, “Tell me what happened.”
Nathan Cole: I just want to remind you how we’re going to dole this out.
Akiko Tarumoto: All right.
Nathan Cole: But, basically, that’s the situation our orchestra has found itself in this week, and we’ve gone ahead and told you what the solution was there, but … Because I remember when that happened, a lot of people, their first reaction was, “Well, okay, so what? I mean, this is the Chicago Symphony. You don’t even need a conductor. Right?” I just read a book. In fact, it was largely on violin playing, but one of the things that the author said was, “If everybody had a sound musical mind, then orchestras would never need conductors, and we could just go about our business-“
Akiko Tarumoto: You just answered your own question there. I’m always in awe of chamber orchestras. I really am, and you played in one for a while. I mean, I don’t even … it must be so much more work, but in the end, it must, the product must be that much more solid and satisfying to produce.
Nathan Cole: Well, and you’re talking about the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, which was my first job for two seasons, and back then, because I joined in 2000 and played there for two years, back then, we only did a couple weeks a year that were really without conductor. Those were really tough weeks. Yeah, it’s definitely rewarding, but it’s hard work, and it’s still not a true democracy.
Akiko Tarumoto: Well, it couldn’t really be, but everyone is supposed to sort of contribute, even … Like not just playing-wise, but even in rehearsals, people pipe up, right, and they have ideas or …
Nathan Cole: Yeah, but then it goes into the realm of … See, then, one of the nice things, right, about having a dictator conductor up there is that nobody feels like they’re … Everybody feels like their opinion is equally valid, which is to say totally meaningless. When you open it up and say, “Oh, well, everybody’s free to give their input, but we’ve got 90 minutes’ worth of music to put together in four rehearsals, so keep it short and snappy, and don’t speak up unless you’ve got something important to say,” then what basically ends up happening is that the important people, or at least the people who think they’re important, end up running the show.
Nathan Cole: And that can leave a lot of members of the orchestra feeling more disaffected than they would just under a conductor, because then it’s like, “Oh, well, last week we had a conductor, and at least I knew where I stood, and we were all working collectively to-“
Akiko Tarumoto: “We were all scum.”
Nathan Cole: ” … try and do it how the conductor wanted, and we had one purpose, but this past week, I felt like I was supposed to have my chance to contribute, but nobody was interested in what I had to say, and so I felt-
Akiko Tarumoto: Interesting.
Nathan Cole: … even worse than usual.”
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah.
Nathan Cole: I remember that.
Akiko Tarumoto: Oh, terrible.
Nathan Cole: That sentiment, hearing that, from some people. I was a principal player, principal second, so while I had some important things to contribute, I still didn’t feel like I was totally free to just play the way I wanted, so it was-
Akiko Tarumoto: I see.
Nathan Cole: It was a really interesting process, and as you said, when things worked well, I felt a greater sense of pride like, “I made this happen.”
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah. I can see that. We certainly have close friends who, Ken Olsen, who plays in ECCO-
Nathan Cole: Right… East Coast Chamber Orchestra.
Akiko Tarumoto: And he plays in the Chicago Symphony, and he really, really looks forward to those weeks when he gets to be in chamber orchestra, not in a symphony orchestra, so-
Nathan Cole: Yeah, and that particular group, that’s a group of friends that are of similar age, and you know that’s a little bit different from a group that’s been put together-
Akiko Tarumoto: Bit by bit.
Nathan Cole: … over decades, and-
Akiko Tarumoto: Sure.
Nathan Cole: I’m sure there were some folks who are closer to my age now, in their 40s or 50s or 60s who, back then in Saint Paul, didn’t love a 20-something telling them how a phrase should be shaped, so-
Akiko Tarumoto: Now, you’re that person. You’re that-
Nathan Cole: Now, I can … Yeah, where-
Akiko Tarumoto: You’re the crusty old guy.
Nathan Cole: Where’s my 20-something person to beat up on?
Akiko Tarumoto: No names.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, I mean, that would, at that point, going back to the Chicago story, with only a few short hours until the concert, that that was one-
Akiko Tarumoto: Am I allowed-
Nathan Cole: … appealing option.
Akiko Tarumoto: … to start revealing more of the outcome here, or-
Nathan Cole: Well, not yet, because-
Akiko Tarumoto: Not yet. All right.
Nathan Cole: … let’s go, let’s flash forward now to the present day in LA, because here, they had a little more time to work with. I think they got the cancellation with several days to work with. That just multiplies your options exponentially, because you can start calling people who aren’t local. If the repertoire is standard enough, they can consider keeping the program intact, so you could call somebody in New York and say, “All right. We need you here in three days. Could you be ready with this program?” It becomes a game of who you’re talking about. What becomes more important, the program or the conductor? At that point, the tickets are basically sold or not, so it’s not like you … You don’t have to have a huge name, but you need someone, obviously, who can step right in and get the job done. In that sense, it’s great that Paolo can come in, because he’s … I mean, he’s spent so much time with this orchestra, not always on the podium, although some on the podium for various new music and children’s programs, but he’s going to-
Akiko Tarumoto: By that, you mean he’s been the cover conductor for lots and lots of weeks.
Nathan Cole: Oh, yeah. I mean, all told, he’s been in the hall for probably 50 rehearsals and nearly as many performances. I just worked with him in a sectional for the Colburn Conservatory, where he was conducting all the strings, and I was playing in the section.
Akiko Tarumoto: Oh, you were. You just worked with him for the Green Umbrella concert too.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, I just was a soloist for a new music piece with lots of twists and turns, and click tracks, and laughing, and head motions.
Akiko Tarumoto: Literal twists and turns.
Nathan Cole: Yeah.
Akiko Tarumoto: Your head.
Nathan Cole: He’s going to be great, and I believe that he had to get out of a prior engagement in order to cover this next week, but nevertheless, we did change the program. That must have been because Bruckner Fourth Symphony was not right at the ends of his fingertips, and if that was the case, then he was smart, and the orchestra was smart, not to insist on it, because it’s a big deal to lead an orchestra. You’ve got to do it in repertoire that you know is going to bring everyone together.
Akiko Tarumoto: I mean, there are also … I think the fact that the Oliver Knussen piece is undoubtedly unfamiliar, so given that, I think that they wanted to make the rest of the programs I don’t know … Of course, I don’t know if the Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto is something he knows, but definitely the Knussen would be something-
Nathan Cole: Right, and we had to keep that.
Akiko Tarumoto: We had to keep it, because we’d already hired soloists.
Nathan Cole: Yeah.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, so given that, they’ve gone with Beethoven Five instead of the Bruckner, which apparently, according to a screenshot sent to us by our good friend and colleague in the orchestra, it seems as if social media is reflecting not altogether happy responses to the swap in programming.
Nathan Cole: Well, there will always be audience members who want to make their feelings known about switches. Well, you remember once in Chicago–
Akiko Tarumoto: Well, I wasn’t there for this, but yeah.
Nathan Cole: Oh, you already know what I’m going to say then, the day that Reagan died?
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah.
Nathan Cole: I still can’t believe this. Our president came out and, before the concert (and I think this repertoire had been switched months before or something) but what was it, originally? It was supposed to have been Mahler, Tenth Symphony, I think, the reconstruction of Mahler Tenth Symphony, but months before it had been switched to something else. And so before the concert started, our president at the time came out and said, “In remembrance of former president Reagan, we’d like to have a minute of silence before this concert.” As she was standing there, and all of us on stage were closing our eyes or doing whatever it is we do during a moment of silence, some angry voice rings out from the hall, “You should be playing Mahler Tenth Symphony as you promised!” Then there was some, “Boo! Ssh!” Obviously ruined the moment, but-
Akiko Tarumoto: Wait, so what did you play instead of Mahler 10?
Nathan Cole: Oh, I can’t remember what it was. It could have been Beethoven Five or anything. I mean-
Akiko Tarumoto: Huh.
Nathan Cole: Some folks aren’t happy, they really wanted to hear Bruckner Four, and then I love-
Akiko Tarumoto: I understand-
Nathan Cole: … Bruckner Four, and-
Akiko Tarumoto: … that. I don’t know what the appropriate response is to … I mean, I think I can certainly understand disappointment.
Nathan Cole: Well, we’ve thought about that when we go to the theater, for example. We buy a ticket months in advance, because, yeah, Jeremy Irons is going to be playing the role of whoever. Sure, if we had gotten there, and they said, “Oh, he’s not feeling well. It’s going to be some guy you’ve never heard of,” I mean, even if that guy was great, we’d be really disappointed, and-
Akiko Tarumoto: Right, but what if like … Yeah, I mean, it’s more like it was going to be A Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Instead, you end up seeing, I don’t know, I’m not well-acquainted enough with like the theatrical canon. What’s a more straight ahead show?
Nathan Cole: In other words, you’re saying they keep the stars, but they just change the play.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah.
Nathan Cole: Right. I guess it-
Akiko Tarumoto: Well, I guess-
Nathan Cole: … depends, then, on-
Akiko Tarumoto: … in this case, technically, they swapped out. I mean, this-
Nathan Cole: This person wasn’t angry that they weren’t seeing Daniel Harding.
Akiko Tarumoto: There’s probably people who are sad they’re not seeing Daniel Harding.
Nathan Cole: I’m sad we’re not seeing him.
Akiko Tarumoto: I think he is someone people look forward to seeing at work, for sure. Yeah, it’s really unfortunate he’s not coming, so I don’t know. It’s possible people had their hearts set on him.
Nathan Cole: As far as the concerto and adding Jean-Yves, I imagine they came to Jean-Yves wondering, first of all, “Are you in town? Are you available?” Because he’s someone that we’ve worked with so often, and so successfully, and at that point, he likely would have said, “Here are the things that I’m playing right now,” or maybe, “If you want me for next week, it has to be this piece, because I’m playing it somewhere else next week,” or, “I just finished playing it, and this is what I have ready.” May not have been much negotiation with that. They may have just known, “If we have a chance to get Jean-Yves, we’re going to play whatever he’s playing.”
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah. I’m sure that they were beyond relieved that he was available, and I think partially because Paolo is not yet someone that is widely recognized by the concertgoers, so I think that if they had an unknown soloist also, I think that would have been more a risk than the administration wanted to take, so-
Nathan Cole: Yeah. I mean, this way, they get to keep the solo piece for our principal flutist. They get a “name” soloist, and they get a piece that nobody can argue with, Beethoven’s Fifth-
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah. Some people are arguing with it, but yeah.
Nathan Cole: Well, as … I remember being a teenager and meeting some members of the Cleveland Orchestra, and one of the oldest who had gone through the concentration camps and had every right to be bitter said, “The day that you don’t want to play Beethoven’s Fifth anymore, that’s when you put down the violin and go somewhere to die quietly.”
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah. It’s true. It’s true. We haven’t played it. We have not played it in a long time.
Nathan Cole: I think the last time may have been with Jaap van Zweden, actually.
Akiko Tarumoto: Really?
Nathan Cole: Well, because he did the program of Beethoven Five and Shostakovich Five, two pieces that we’ve already talked about in this podcast!
Akiko Tarumoto: Okay, interesting.
Nathan Cole: That was the week that he was announced in New York, actually.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah, and the way he did it, it really made it seem really revitalized.
Nathan Cole: Well, and the orchestra needs that. Now, when we play it, we can look back on that. We can say, “That week with Beethoven Five really brought us together,” and we’re going to want to play our best for Paolo. I know that’s going to bring us together. It should be an interesting week, and maybe now you should tell a little bit more about what happened next in Chicago.
Akiko Tarumoto: Well, so you may have guessed, but the ultimate solution was that we did it without a conductor-
Nathan Cole: Now did you get to rehearse this?
Akiko Tarumoto: That …
Nathan Cole: You can’t remember?
Akiko Tarumoto: I think we … No, I don’t remember. I don’t remember. I just remember that at the concert …
Nathan Cole: Yeah, I think you may not have gotten to rehearse it.
Akiko Tarumoto: No, I don’t think we did, because I remember that the concertmaster was called in to talk to her so that they could figure out a game plan for-
Nathan Cole: This is Mutter?
Akiko Tarumoto: Yes, so they could get, talk about how they were going to come together to get the orchestra through the concerto without a conductor.
Nathan Cole: That’s funny, because, I mean, the Beethoven Violin Concerto is something that everybody would have played 100 times.
Akiko Tarumoto: Well, first of all … I don’t think so. Honestly, it’s not done that often. I mean, it’s not at all unfamiliar, but you’d be surprised. You think that especially as a violinist — I was surprised that I was so unfamiliar with some of the crucial moments at which the orchestra sort of changed chords, or …
Nathan Cole: Oh, I mean, I totally believe that. My point was kind of even for a piece that you know, it’s like you know it, you can sing it, you can play it, but when it comes to actually entering after a solo line, you’re entering exactly in the right place, the right bar, with no conductor.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah.
Nathan Cole: That’s totally unfamiliar territory.
Akiko Tarumoto: Even a little hesitation on anybody’s part makes everybody start to sort of doubt themselves. I’d say the winds and brass even more. They know it. They’ve heard it, of course. They’ve played it, but when it comes to having to sort of get through it without the conductor, for the first time, it was kind of funny, because the second movement, in particular, the whole thing was a little bit tough. It was tough to keep the tempo going. I remember that was the hardest thing. We kept wanting to slow down, and she kept trying to get us to play faster, but it’s a lot of people on stage, in the end, and sad to say, we’re not always used to responding when we don’t see someone standing up there on the podium.
Nathan Cole: Never.
Akiko Tarumoto: We’re definitely not used to it, and I daresay we weren’t great at it, but yeah, the second movement was the biggest challenge. I would not have told you that I thought the slow movement of the concerto — but in the end, it’s a lot of chord changes that happen as a group behind the soloist. She’s busy doing her thing. She can’t be concerned with whether or not we’re changing on the right beat, and somehow we had tremendous trouble finding each other and changing altogether, and there was a lot of waiting around for someone else to change first, and then changing.
Nathan Cole: I forget with her, she may not be someone who has done a ton of playing and leading-
Akiko Tarumoto: Really? I thought she had. Thinking about it, I thought she had led chamber orchestras quite a bit. Didn’t she … Well, and I guess when she toured with Curtis, that was with Previn conducting.
Nathan Cole: That was with Previn before they were married.
Akiko Tarumoto: I mean, I would be surprised. I mean, I feel like almost every European soloist has at least some experience leading chamber orchestras playing, but then it’s probably usually like Vivaldi, or like Mozart, even better, I … Probably hardly ever something bigger, but maybe I’m wrong, but Beethoven was on the larger side, I think, to handle all those people and play … I mean, especially with no rehearsal, obviously. The big problem was that we had no advance notice for this, so yeah, we muddled along. The thing is like-
Nathan Cole: It must have been so exciting, though.
Akiko Tarumoto: No. I mean, no, we were still kind of unsettled by the whole thing, and then on top of it, it just started to feel like we were putting out something that was less than optimal. And for the gala concert that wasn’t the best feeling, either.
Nathan Cole: This was the gala audience, though, too. They were half in the bag.
Akiko Tarumoto: Hopefully. Maybe they handed out like extra shots of bourbon before the concert.
Nathan Cole: Do they drink-
Akiko Tarumoto: You’re going to need those.
Nathan Cole: … bourbon in Chicago? They probably drink bourbon everywhere now, but …
Akiko Tarumoto: Bottles of lager. Yeah, we got through it, but it was … Then, and I don’t remember what happened for the symphony. There’s no way that we … Maybe we had-
Nathan Cole: Well, there had been, apparently the week before, you had played a Mozart symphony, an earlier Mozart symphony with conductor-
Akiko Tarumoto: Maybe that’s-
Nathan Cole: Maybe with Muti, even.
Akiko Tarumoto: Maybe we replaced the Shostakovich.
Nathan Cole: They just brought that one back to do-
Akiko Tarumoto: That sounds right. Okay, but the worst thing was the second movement of the Beethoven concerto.
Nathan Cole: Yes.
Akiko Tarumoto: Everything else was sort of like, whatever.
Nathan Cole: It’s strange, with a full symphony, you would think, “Wow, surely you’d need a conductor for that,” whereas the concerto, there’s clearly a leader up there. I know this to be true, because I’ve been in that situation, but yeah, that concerto would be super tough.
Akiko Tarumoto: Whenever we play it now, I still laugh, thinking it’s such a different experience with someone waving their arms around in case, lest you think they don’t do anything… Wrong!
Nathan Cole: Yeah. Yeah. Those conductors do come in handy once in a while. Well, I remember a new music program that we were rehearsing here in LA once, and it was quite a complex piece. I think therefore, we had a decent amount of time devoted to it, maybe three rehearsals or something like that, and so we started the first rehearsal. This was a Dutch piece and a Dutch conductor, and from … I wasn’t quite picking up on what he was saying at first, but after about half an hour’s worth of rehearsal, I realized that he had been making all these comments along the lines of, “Well, you’ll need to know this later when I’m not here.” It became clear, finally, that he didn’t intend to conduct this in the performance! He felt that he was there to lead the rehearsals, but that we’d play it without a conductor, because he’d seen it done somewhere, but with much, much more rehearsal.
Nathan Cole: I was nominated to be the one to say, “Look, we can’t … This is not like shades of gray here. I mean, if we’re going to do this in these three rehearsals, you must conduct it, and we have to plan all our work around that fact.” He begrudgingly accepted, and it was great. I mean, I don’t know what that piece would have gained not having him there. Obviously, over the long term, an orchestra like Orpheus, or St. Luke’s, or whatever it might be, that plays without a conductor regularly, or Saint Paul now, there’s so much to be gained there if you have the time to work those things out, but that won’t be the case for us this week. What do you expect with a conductor that we’ve never played with before playing a piece like Beethoven Five?
Akiko Tarumoto: But we have played with him.
Nathan Cole: Well, but not for sort of a subscription, the meat and potatoes.
Akiko Tarumoto: No, but we played kids concerts. I mean, it’s not like we never saw him before. I think it’ll be-
Nathan Cole: No, but this will be for repertoire that, talking about Beethoven anyway, that people have played a million times.
Akiko Tarumoto: Oh, you mean like are we going to try to just bulldoze him through it?
Nathan Cole: Yeah. I mean, what’s-
Akiko Tarumoto: Probably.
Nathan Cole: … your thought …
Akiko Tarumoto: That’s my thought. I hate to say it, but our instinct is going to be to play it the way we play it.
Nathan Cole: This is a big chance for him, too, to really do things the way he likes as well. I mean, if you were him, how would you play it? Would you put your own stamp on things, but-
Akiko Tarumoto: How do I think he’s going to play it, or how do I think he-
Nathan Cole: No, no, no. I mean-
Akiko Tarumoto: … should play it?
Nathan Cole: … how would you? Like how, let’s say you’re called in last minute, and specifically for a piece like Beethoven Five, where … Let’s assume that, which I think he does, I think he has the orchestra behind him, because they know he’s coming in last minute.
Akiko Tarumoto: If I were him, and I hope this doesn’t come across as cynical orchestra hack talk, although it probably is, but yeah, I mean, I think the smartest thing would be to have suggestions, but if he tries to do some kind of like sweeping overhaul or some kind of new and innovative approach to Beethoven Five, my instinct is that that will not go well from an orchestra-conductor relation standpoint.
Nathan Cole: Yeah. It’ll be interesting to see … I mean, I think anyone in his position has to pick their battles, I guess, choose the things they’re going to-
Akiko Tarumoto: Maybe that’s kind of glib. I mean, if he were to be like Jaap van Zweden when he came in and filled in for whoever that was in Chicago, I don’t remember who it was, because he was so great. Yeah, if that’s the case, it’s not as if I’m always thinking, “Who’s this clown, and let’s try to just lead him around by the nose, and then best-case scenario, we get out early.” Let’s be honest.
Nathan Cole: That would be the cynical orchestra hack.
Akiko Tarumoto: That’s in the back of everybody’s minds, but there are people who transcend that, for sure. It’s not to say that it couldn’t happen. It could happen. I think it could be … If he’s the kind of personality that’s just like that charismatic and that powerful, that effective, then yeah, I mean, I think amazing things can happen in a week where it was supposed to be something completely different, so-
Nathan Cole: Well, I think he’ll have a little extra window of time, let’s say. I mean, isn’t it often the case that when someone new comes in, and it’s a regular week, they’ve got just a few minutes before the orchestra sort of decides, “All right, we’re not getting anything”? Maybe he’ll have some more cushion there, because we’re all in in this together, basically, new program, unexpected changes. I think it’ll be interesting to see how the first rehearsal goes.
Akiko Tarumoto: I feel like the next podcast, we should discuss how it went.
Nathan Cole: Yeah.
Akiko Tarumoto: What direction it took. I think it’ll be one of those two. It’ll be either like surprising and magical, or it’ll be kind of thing where the substitute teacher came in, and we beat up on them.
Nathan Cole: Oh, we wouldn’t do that. Well, we will know in just a couple days’ time how this is going to shake out. What happened in Chicago once that concert was done? I mean, do you remember going out afterwards? Did you go to The Gage or…
Akiko Tarumoto: I don’t remember anything about it. I remember relief, and that was about it.
Nathan Cole: Had you heard at that point that Muti was-
Akiko Tarumoto: We heard he was going to be … I think as soon as he got to the hospital, they ascertained that he hadn’t had anything really bad happen. It wasn’t a stroke or anything. It was easily remedied, a heart condition or something. He was going to be totally fine, and they were sure to tell us that his face was going to be-
Nathan Cole: Better than ever.
Akiko Tarumoto: … restored to its original glory, so … He did cancel another time. That wasn’t the only Muti cancellation we had.
Nathan Cole: Oh, is that right?
Akiko Tarumoto: It was when we were supposed to play on TV. Right?
Nathan Cole: Oh, that’s right, and so that’s when Boulez-
Akiko Tarumoto: Boulez came, yeah, and he, and we did Mahler Seven. That was great.
Nathan Cole: Right, and that was a fortunate case, too, where, I mean, Boulez is someone that was practically the orchestra’s … I mean, he may have even been principal guest at that point, but not only had he conducted that piece a billion times, but he’d spent decades with that orchestra, too, so that was kind of a no-brainer. They’re very different TV personalities, we should be clear on that, but that really worked out.
Akiko Tarumoto: It did, yeah. For some reason, I remember the broadcast. Didn’t somebody tell you that you looked uninvolved or something?
Nathan Cole: Well, yeah, they did. I did look terrible, and I declared, after seeing myself-
Akiko Tarumoto: Oh-
Nathan Cole: … on TV-
Akiko Tarumoto: … it was that broadcast.
Nathan Cole: … at that concert.
Akiko Tarumoto: You saw yourself, and …
Nathan Cole: Yeah. I looked terrible. I was slouching, and I just thought, “This is ridiculous. I’m going to-“
Akiko Tarumoto: Oh, really?
Nathan Cole: “My back is not going to touch my chair again.”
Akiko Tarumoto: I don’t remember that. It was like a turning point for you. Okay.
Nathan Cole: Yeah. We were all sitting at Ken’s and watching that, and more than one person made some comment about how I looked like I’d rather be anywhere else. I remember thinking, “Actually, I love this piece,” and I thought I was having a good time there, but I agree. I looked terrible, so …
Akiko Tarumoto: Huh. It sounds like there was a moral component to it, but …
Nathan Cole: Well, I mean, it’s the kind of thing that we have gotten a lot more aware of, I think, being out in LA, to being on camera and on screen a lot more.
Akiko Tarumoto: Sure. Well, they’ve always told us at the Bowl, since they installed the Jumbotron screens that … Well, Ken, Ken Olsen, since we’ve been talking about him, told me that I should consider dyeing my hair again, and we should all wear more makeup.
Nathan Cole: Not me.
Akiko Tarumoto: Well, even you. Maybe you can …
Nathan Cole: Well, but I think not just from a guilty perspective, but I think we acknowledge now, maybe more than we did in Chicago, how important the visual, the performance aspect is to the whole experience.
Akiko Tarumoto: Well, at Disney…I used to joke about this, but Disney Hall, it’s built so that even the furthest away seats are really not that far. The closest seats are quite close, so there are some of … There’s no boxes, so it’s not like people are kind of, everyone’s close together and in this shared experience, and so I think you just feel exposed, sometimes, playing-wise, and appearance-wise, so …
Nathan Cole: Well, and speaking of the audience, are they going to be pulling for us extra hard, knowing that we’ve made this switch?
Akiko Tarumoto: Nah.
Nathan Cole: No? Well, I mean, take the theater example…
Akiko Tarumoto: I mean, they know that we know Beethoven Five. It’s not like …
Nathan Cole: I know, but people, we know that people wonder about the impact that the conductor makes on the performance. Won’t they be wondering, “How is this Beethoven Five going to be different from,” sounds like the Seder questions!
Akiko Tarumoto: I don’t know. I don’t know that the average … Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t feel that the average audience member is super attuned to how we play like a really well-worn classic like that. Slightly different, but I’m probably wrong about that. I’m always hearing opinions on how conductors influenced us or didn’t. I’m sure they’ll be curious to see what his connection with this is in a concert, and very curious what we think of him. Probably people want to ask us.
Nathan Cole: Well, maybe we can get him to talk about it.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah. I mean, it’s always fun to get the conductor’s perspective. Right? Because obviously, it’s different, it’s really different. They’ve got a tough job there, especially on a couple days’ notice.
Nathan Cole: Yeah. Well, I’ll be looking forward to this week. I also look forward to one more day off. We didn’t play today, and we don’t play tomorrow, although you and I have to put together a duo program for Saturday.
Akiko Tarumoto: That’s right, so let’s start.
Nathan Cole: Chop chop.
Akiko Tarumoto: We’ll be stand partners on Saturday.
Nathan Cole: Yeah.
Akiko Tarumoto: Actually, no, we’ll use different stands.
Nathan Cole: Yeah, I think that Wieniawski has like eight pages per piece.
Akiko Tarumoto: Okay. Well, you better give it to me then, I don’t have it!
Nathan Cole: Well, speaking of putting things together on short notice.
Akiko Tarumoto: Yeah. Well …
Nathan Cole: Well, thanks for being with us for this episode. The show will go on. The show must go on, and so we’ll see you for the next episode of Stand Partners for Life.