From the Orchestra Library


Posted in Preparing Parts,The Music by kschnack on January 13, 2010

Sincere apologies to Czech musicians and citizens, and Mr. Smetana of course, for defacing the lovely name of the 4th movement of Má vlast, but we are just ready to be so DONE with this project.  Really, I am looking forward to hearing the orchestra play this work, and when we finally get finished with the preparation on the parts, I do intend to actually study a bit more about it.  But, one does begin to wonder if the day will ever arrive.

We are very near….we can see that light in the distance, we are almost chanting “move towards the light” at this point as we gut it out to the end.  A few more bowings, a few more corrections, another insert or two, and we’d be finished but we still have to make two movements of the 2nd violin parts legible and rip out the wire binding that is half out anyway (making it impossible to handle without getting impaled on the sharp ends) and re-bind the parts and fill in staff lines and note heads that don’t exist.

I have an idea.

Maybe the PUBLISHER should do that.  After all, we are paying good money for rental fees, and those fees are for the rental of the actual PAPER parts (not to be confused with a performance rights fee which is a different license).  So, if we are going to PAY this much money for the PRIVILEGE of using these PARTS I think they should actually be LEGIBLE and not LIFE THREATENING.

Okay, sorry to subject you to the rant but I have come to the end of my patience with this.  Some of the rental parts are made from bad copies with sloppy bowings, fingerings, slash marks and scribbles copied right into the copies (and no clean parts in the set to work from so we’ve had to completely clean them ourselves), missing slurs and notes poorly filled in with blue ball point pen, terrible page turns, and bowings put in one on top of the other without what was underneath actually having been erased first.

Normally I would have gone back to the agent for the materials and demanded a better set but this is all they could get to us in time and even these were late because of the overseas import from the publisher after an orchestra didn’t return the set on time after its performances.

We’re doing everything we can to make this less painful for the players, but this is one of those situations when we finally have to draw a line, call it done, and put the parts out.  Most of them already are, and we pride ourselves in this library on getting a good percentage of the classical works out a month in advance — well-prepared and corrected — but the last bits on this aren’t going to be up to our normal standard.  There is only so much time we can spend on any one work, for one program out of hundreds, with a guest conductor, and other repertoire of equal importance in the pipeline.

Time to let it go and move on. With a Moldau Mojito of course.


6 Responses to 'Z!#&českých*%#luhů?@a^($hájů!!'

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  1. Sarah said,

    Years ago I had the opportunity to show a composer exactly what his rental agent was sending out. So satisfying! He was absolutely livid.

    Doesn’t work so well with the dead guys, though.

  2. jess c! said,

    Infuriating, isn’t it? Sarah’s tactic is wonderful. We recently got parts for the opera we just produced; the original string set was old and needed new comb binding (which I replaced) but was perfectly legible. When I requested parts for the rest of the string section, what the publisher sent were badly produced photocopies. Hard to keep open (they were stapled, not bound!); notes blurred so badly that no amount of tinkering on my part would make them readable. In the end I broke copyright (it was a fairly new work) and offered to make large, readable, bound copies of the string master for any player who wanted one, under the condition that they retain their original part with them in the pit for the duration of the run, and return the copies afterwards to be destroyed. I hated to do it but was left with no other option; as in your case, the original parts I received had also been delayed, and there was no additional time. ARGH! And of course we were paying huge royalty & rental fees for the work. Best of luck finishing up! We all sympathize!

  3. Laura said,

    “and rip out the wire binding that is half out anyway (making it impossible to handle without getting impaled on the sharp ends)”

    I’m drawing a blank on what opera it was a few years back (I think I blocked it out of my mind for good), but I remember those wire bindings were a nightmare. They were bent, ripping the music, cutting my fingers, catching on each other and other things like my clothes. I did my best to make the ends less lethal, but I was only mildly successful.

    This past summer we got a “new” set of parts from a rental publisher that, although it didn’t have any markings in it, the copy job and binding was so poor (who thinks that staples are really going to hold that many pages together?) that I wondered what we were paying a rental fee for. To add to that, at some point a few months prior and unbeknownst to me, Kalmus started making a reprint of this piece. Exact same except with a clean copy job. Many of the page turns still required some woodwind players to grow third arms, but that is beside the point. Had I known that Kalmus had come available I would have pushed to purchase the set. I could almost forgive the player who painted their part in WhiteOut to try and make it clearer for them to read. The part went back pretty much unusable as unfortunately they covered up too many of the printed markings and replaced them with the conductor’s wishes but to the publisher’s credit they did not charge me- maybe they took the hint.

  4. Michael said,

    Mmmmm…Moldau Mojito….

  5. Pat said,

    Stumbled across your blog. Had to post this in agreement. As the trombone player in the Lincoln Civic Orchestra (Nebraska Wesleyan) I had the opportunity to use the rented part for Ravel’s piano concerto. Not only was it ragged (French size never fits in the folder) the previous player had not removed markings. Nor had the supplier. The player apparently never completed his tenor clef studies as the note name was written in over every note. Including the syncopated C# to D sixteenth figure, where the player wrote the note name over every note (C# D, C# D, C# D, etc). More amusing than annoying, but it shouldn’t have been there in the forst place.

  6. kschnack said,

    Thanks for sending in all the great stories — sometimes it seems there is an endless supply (and I can’t think about it too long or I’ll get very discouraged!). I think the players don’t always realize the lengths we librarians go to TRY and make the parts legible when they arrive with so many problems. We just had a concert last weekend for which we had bought a new printing of a standard piece, only to discover the notes and staff lines were so reduced the set was useless — we would have had to make all new parts. So, we ended up using our old, cruddy, smelly set and will continue to until such time as we can create the new one. Good grief — what a waste of money!

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