by Julie Gregorian
Our recent performance of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto brought back memories of my scariest moment in the BSO. At my first performance of this piece (circa 1974) as principal bassoon, the conductor was the peppery Arthur Fiedler of Boston Pops fame.
Near the middle of the first movement, the violin soloist plays a bravura cadenza which is not notated in the orchestra players’ parts. Sibelius has given the bassoon a solo entrance just before the end of the lengthy cadenza. The bassoonist must wait for a cue, the rest of the orchestra waits for the bassoon to play. As the end of the cadenza approached I earnestly looked for some eye contact or encouragement from Mr. Fiedler. Instead, his head was bowed, arms crossed, and eyes closed. He looked like the music had lulled him to sleep! Panicked, I made the decision to play when I thought the time was right, and my sound startled him into conducting again. Whenever we play this piece, I think of music that is so soothing and beautiful that it puts the conductor to sleep!