Another week, more fun – Bob Lauver

I’m trying to find a font color that matches
Chen Riess’s dress…….not quite there yet.  Her pitch and purity of
sound were really phenomenal. All the soloists for the Orff were
fantastic, lots of comments on Nmon’s terrific presence (our carpool
was augmented with an audience member who sat in the third row).
Nicely roasted goose, Scott.  Well done, but not dried out.  I’ve had
the experience of recording the Orff with the St. Louis Symphony
Orchestra and these soloists have got it goin’ on!   I look forward to
the next time that we see them here in Pittsburgh, but the main subject
of this little post is one of our very own soloists…

A little inside information on the week
from the horn section.  The first half of the program this week
featured the Incidental Music from Mendelssohn’s "A Midsummer’s Night
Dream".  Very beautiful and also very taxing music to play. Immediately
I can think of excerpts from the work for violin, flute, and horn that
turn up on every audition.  The horn excerpt is the Nocturne which is
difficult primarily from an endurance perspective.  A gorgeous lyrical
tune that hangs in the horn’s medium high register with very little
rest.  We are grateful in our horn section to have Bill Caballero who
is one of the best players there is, bar none.  By the end of last
week, Bill was experiencing some acute pain in his lip from an annoying
canker sore that had developed right under the inside of his upper lip
beneath the area where the mouthpiece is placed when he plays…….not
a good thing.  By Tuesday morning, his lip was stiff and painful and he
left word with the Co-Principal hornist, Martin Smith, that it was
possible that he wouldn’t be able to play the Mendessohn (actually one
of the exact reasons that we have a 6-horn section here……the show
goes on even if one of us is hurt).  Bill worked away in his basement
practice room assessing the damage and seeing if there was any possible
way that he could get into Heinz Hall on Wednesday and make things
work.  The thought of performing the Nocturne without some serious
preparation time would give any horn player cause for pause……Martin
was readying himself for a huge mountain to climb (both halves of a big
concert) if Bill couldn’t work with his ailment…….no
ropes……taking the next hand or foot hold as it came. 

Let me shed some perspective on "make
things work".  A normal horn player would feel great about getting
through just the solo parts of the Nocturne movement without crashing
and burning……a great hornist might expect to play it cleanly and
with some inspired musical thinking…..then there’s Bill.  He’s the
guy that plays stuff in a way you hadn’t imagined possible before you
heard him do it……again and again.  So, here he is on Wednesday with
a visibly swollen lip in the hot seat with the Nocturne staring him in
the face.  In the rehearsal we start the movement and Zach and I can
hear "human Bill"…..the player that’s getting it all and playing very
musically.  Fruhbeck de Burgos is obviously impressed and very happy
with what he’s hearing (he probably hasn’t heard it any better).  We
shuffle our feet on the floor and congratulate Bill on a job well done
and go our merry ways home until the Mendelssohn is rehearsed again on
Thursday morning.  This time we hear Bill (still with the
canker-swollen lip) do his magic and have his way with the Nocturne
movement in that manner that makes you just sit back and think, "well I
can’t do THAT".  After this time through Zach leans in and says, "It’s
nice to hear you back on that little island of yours!".
So…..sometimes the show goes on even when we’re playing hurt.  I
think that this story probably happens in some other form more
frequently in the string sections.  They have more notes to play in one
night than I play in a season.  Hats off to all of ’em, I say…..

Hope everybody who heard the concert
enjoyed it, and those who didn’t have the feeling that they missed
something great.  To those in the latter category, there are still some
seats available on Saturday and Sunday (but they’re going fast!).

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