The Osaka Conundrum

No, that’s not the title of a Robert Ludlum thriller. Rather, it was the BSO’s predicament for its concert in Osaka last night.

On the program was the colossal Shostakovich Symphony No. 11, “The Year 1905.” Here was the situation:

  1. The Symphony No. 11 is a very long and difficult composition, full of potential musical traps for everyone, and which doesn’t lie well on anyone’s instrument. It’s the kind of a piece that is typically referred to in the profession as “a bitch.”
  2. The orchestra hadn’t looked at it in well over a month, since the beginning of the concert season in Boston.
  3. Before September, most of the musicians in the orchestra had never played the Shostakovich at all. It’s one of his least performed symphonies—I admit to never even having heard it–so there was no muscle memory to pull out of the hat.
  4. The rehearsal for the piece that was supposed to have taken place the day before had been washed out when the truck carrying our music was delayed beyond our ability to reschedule. (See yesterday’s post: Intrigue in Nagoya.) All we had was a 15-minute acoustical rehearsal an hour before the concert at the Osaka Festival Hall to slay all those millions of phantoms.
Maestro at the train station

Strategizing at Nagoya Train Station

Well, wouldn’t you know? The performance went of without a hitch. What a credit to the BSO musicians and Maestro Nelsons! (Smart guy, he took ½ an edge off the perilously frenetic tempos he had us play in Boston. It made everyone onstage feel much more secure and confident, but the Osaka audience got just as big a thrill.) When it was all over the sense of accomplishment (and relief) was palpable. The post-concert reception had even more levity than usual.

Happy campers

Maestro & Musicians Celebrating


Being on tour does not preclude life at home interjecting itself from time to time. Just before the concert I received an email from a violist who was going to be one of the soloists in Bach’s Sixth Brandenburg Concerto that I’m conducting next month in Salt Lake City to tell me she won’t be able to do it. So I have to find another violist from afar and quickly.

To more than counterbalance that bit of unsettling news, however, was another email I received, this one from Alison Larkin, the producer of my new, critically acclaimed audiobook mystery, Danse Macabre, to tell me it is now finished (weeks ahead of schedule) and available for download purchase. (CD sets will be ready in the near future.) Check out the audio sample. I can’t think of a better, easier, or more “novel” way to get your holiday shopping out of the way. Can you?

Danse Macabre AUDIO COVER



1 thought on “The Osaka Conundrum

  1. ccyager

    That’s quite an accomplishment for a symphony like the Shostakovich 11. Kudos to you and the BSO! It reminded me of a particularly intense performance of the Beethoven 7 years ago with the MN Orchestra during their Sommerfest. At that time, they were performing concerts 4 out of 7 evenings each week, and different programs for each. They had no rehearsal for the Beethoven 7. While, as you said, muscle memory probably kicked in for some of it, the intensity of that performance was something I’ll not forget (I was in the audience). I found out afterward that they hadn’t had any rehearsal for it, which explained their intense attention on Leonard Slatkin who was conducting. 🙂



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s