From the Orchestra Library

Not in the Excerpt Books: Part II

Posted in Library Life,The Business,The Music by kschnack on June 9, 2010
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It cracks me up that I entered Lady Gaga as a Composer in OPAS yesterday.

I was working on an upcoming Idina Menzel concert, who I am embarrassed to say I didn’t know much about until she was booked with us. (Yes, I am seriously behind the times on popular artists.) And then I saw her on “Glee,” and subsequently heard her sing the song that we’ll be doing on our program, which was written by Lady Gaga and which is hugely famous of course. It further cracks me up that I came right home after this exercise and watched two more episodes of “Glee” including the season finale with more appearances by Ms. Menzel. I am now a fan. (I also learned yesterday that she is married to Taye Diggs, which is another excellent reason to be a fan, but forgive a girl for seriously digressing.)

For you orchestras that “Don’t Do Pops” sometimes you are actually missing out on the fun in life! I clearly have been. (Not to mention potentially killer questions for a library audition test. It’s a whole different animal people. The younger librarians have it on us older ones in this area by a long shot. They know the music, the shows, and the different artists’ versions — I was asking questions all day to Shannon about these songs. So study up on the repertoire and instrumentation and stage set and acquisition of materials and arrangers. Coming soon to a test near you.)

Also, coming soon to a city near you — Idina Menzel in her tour with orchestras. If my colleagues need answers to the above questions, we’ve got ’em.

The song in question? “Poker Face.”  “P-p-p-poker face, p-p-poker face…”

You don’t know it? Where have you been??!


I Don’t Think These are in the Excerpt Books

Posted in The Business,The Music,Uncategorized by kschnack on June 3, 2010
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I must have written this memo to the orchestra while I was lost in a flash sideways or something, because weren’t we just doing Mahler???

Dear Orchestra,

This is to let you know that the Video Games Live people no longer send the orchestra’s music in advance, but instead bring everything the first day of rehearsal.

Therefore, they have provided a link from which you can see and/or download practice copies of all of the parts. [Link, user name and password edited out for blog.]

Please note that the “O” in the password is a capital “O” – NOT A ZERO.

Attached is the concert set list for our performances. The numbers in parentheses relate to the numbered selections on the download file. So, if you want to practice “Diablo III-Wrathgate Zero” you go to #37 on the list of selections and click on “Diablo III.”

The instrumentation, in addition to strings, is also attached.

Let me know if you have any questions,


PS. Although I probably won’t know the answers to your questions, as I have no idea what those titles mean, except for Frogger and Mario.


Posted in Library Life,The Business by kschnack on May 29, 2010

Whew, made it. Finished my twentieth season at the DSO last weekend! (Well, that is, the classical season, which always feels like the “end” even though we have about seven more tough weeks to go.) I don’t know why we focus on these round numbers as important milestones, but this one feels like a real passage to me. I’m celebrating all the music and colleagues from the last two decades with an acute sense that things are really changing. And what a way to celebrate, with Mahler 2. It was a magnificent series of performances.

After twenty years in an organization, I think it’s natural to reflect upon the work one has done, how to do better, and what one hopes to continue to build and leave behind later on. Here at the DSO I was fortunate to have the opportunity to develop a library that had not previously been fully set up before I got the job. Everything from the design and layout of work counters, desks and shelving, traffic and work flow, all the way to organizational systems and processes was up to me at the start. Of course, we’ve evolved since then, and my work partners of nineteen years, Mark Wilson, and two years, Melissa Robason, have certainly put their marks on the library as well. But the basic plan is still in place.

Obviously, though, after this much time, the newness has long since worn away in terms of the physical attributes of the library. We fix or replace equipment as needed and as funds are budgeted. These past twenty years in particular have been technically transformational so we are constantly trying to upgrade our hardware, software, printers/copiers, and other tools.

But I am thinking more about the organizational systems, and the huge amount of detail that we process on a daily basis just to prepare music for one concert of one program, let alone 165 concerts of 65 programs. The über librarian part of me is always thinking about what should be kept for posterity, not only for our orchestra but for the field as a whole.

I find that record-keeping is one of the most challenging aspects of this work. And I’m an Organizer. (Remember, I didn’t say Neat. Nope. Not Neat. But a true blue organizer.) There are so many bits and pieces of information that could be useful in the future, and that should be entered into a repertoire database, annotated in a score, or saved in shared files for the next librarian(s). I do a great deal of that already, of course, as do my colleagues. But it’s easy (for me) to feel overwhelmed about this aspect of the work. It would be so reassuring to know that we’d gotten it all recorded, in the right place, easily accessible for future needs, a place for everything and everything in its place.

The roller coaster of our daily working lives doesn’t give us the luxury of chunks of time to meticulously catalogue every iota of data. There is always the next program to prepare. Not to mention that I am genetically incapable of putting everything away every day. So if I can spend a half hour on a day filing e-mail content, or making a note about the offstage setup before sending the parts back, or annotating doublings and divisis in the database, then I figure I’ve at least done something. Something that someday might help us, or others, find one obscure bit of information that will answer a question, save time or locate a work. We can’t come close to doing it all, but we can do Something. I’ve got to believe that such efforts over many years add up and make a difference in the end, and are worth doing.

Because before you know it, it’s twenty years. What a ride! I wonder what the next twenty will bring. I guess it’s time to find out.

Aisle of music between stationary and moveable shelves in DSO Library

If You See Your Librarian at the Grocery Store, and Other Gentle Reminders

Posted in Library Life by kschnack on May 14, 2010

Maybe it’s the time of year, but it seems to be “silly season” in our business.  So I offer these gentle reminders about ways you can help me help you, in the hope that we can all live happily ever after together.

If you see your librarian at the grocery store, maybe it would be a good idea to just talk about the weather or what’s for dinner tonight. Or, at least say “hello” before launching into asking for the music you need. ‘Cuz if you say “do you have the music for July?” I’m probably going to (passively-aggressively) look under the bread and lettuce in my grocery cart and then tell you that I don’t seem to have your music.

If you see your librarian in the parking garage at work or on the elevator, or coming down the hall towards the library but obviously just arriving (with purse, briefcase, jacket, keys, etc.), and it’s NOT AN EMERGENCY, it might be a good idea to consider saying “good evening” before asking for a part or tape or to use the copier or to open the music trunk or whatever else is on your mind. Better yet, go away and come back in a couple of minutes after I’ve had a chance to actually unlock the library, turn on the lights and copier, and drop off my personal belongings. Otherwise you just look like someone who has bad manners and I’ll become someone with bad manners.

If you see your librarian at the concert hall on a gig where s/he is playing and is not the librarian, and you’ve been on vacation all week, and the librarian hasn’t, and you haven’t called in advance to ask about getting a part, maybe you should think twice before asking if you can have the library or music trunk unlocked so you can pick up music that you just remembered you needed when you saw me. The best plan? Don’t ask. And don’t give me any ‘tude when I tell you I am off the clock.

If you see your librarian going into the bathroom at work, don’t stop her right then to ask for music. And if you are of the same gender, please don’t FOLLOW ME INTO THE BATHROOM to ask for something about the music. Really.

I’m serious. That’s just rude.

Oh, and if you are the opposite gender, that doesn’t mean you can follow me in there either.

The thing is, most of us (meaning orchestra librarians) are more than happy to help you out almost any time while we’re on the job if we can, even for non-orchestra favors, and especially if you are in some kind of bind. And if it’s a real emergency, we’re willing to help you at 3:00 in the morning if necessary. Truly, we are. But if you constantly require extra special attention at the last minute, or don’t ask with a “please” and “thank you,” or take advantage of seeing us outside of the job (I already practically live in that library as it is), our willingness to drop everything and help you is going to diminish rapidly.

I know that I don’t always respond to you with the smiliest smile and happy face. I will try to do better. And I don’t expect gifts of wine and chocolate at every turn for helping you with a personal music problem. But a little bit of courtesy in such hectic times would go a long way.

Thank you.



P.S. I should be clear — most of you already are very courteous indeed. And for that I thank you on behalf of all orchestra librarians. The rest of you? You know who you are!

The End of the Season? Not Quite!

Posted in The Music by kschnack on May 12, 2010

Like a desert mirage, the “end of the season” lures us forward with tantalizing promise. We’ve slogged it out for some 36 or 37 weeks, nearing the end of 21 classical programs of three or four performances each, 12 pops weekends with two or three concerts, numerous specials (mostly one-night stands), 3 different youth programs each performed about ten times, fifteen or more December holiday concerts, plus three run-outs, corporate concerts, commissions, recordings, and the like. I am NOT, at the moment, going to calculate how many pieces of music that is for fear I would simply keel over in shock.

The regular season comes to an end in less than two weeks with Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, a bookend celebrating twenty seasons in the Meyerson Symphony Center which opened with the same work under the baton of the late Eduardo Mata. It’s a fitting tribute and cap to an exhilarating season of musical highs with our new boss, Jaap van Zweden, and will, without doubt, be exciting, moving and memorable.

But we are tired, tired.  We are ready for a break.

Like everyone else, the orchestra has been dealing with economic challenges even as it pushes hard to grow through the tough times. The annual fund campaign is in overdrive until the end of the month. Final planning of repertoire, artists and tours for the 2011-12 season is in full gear, including several ambitious artistic initiatives that will be new for the orchestra. And there is no let-up on stage for the music director and players in their constant pursuit of excellence.

So just when it gets close to the season’s “end” and we start to see that light, the accomplishment of all those concerts and programs which now seem a blur, we are hit with the cold reality that..……it’s not really over!

Oh yeah. The Summer Season of the DSO. The Parks concerts. The Festivals. The Patriotic Concerts. The Specials. The Residency. Gotta put those hiking boots back in the closet for just a bit longer.

Perhaps it’s akin to a marathoner hitting the wall. How are we going to summon up the energy, drive, creativity and focus to finish all this out?

Well we will. It’s what we do. (But it doesn’t mean we won’t whine a little.)

Now before anyone gets the idea that we aren’t grateful for our 52-week schedule, let me assure you that we are. We know we are fortunate to have full-time jobs with a great orchestra. We also know that means we all have to work hard, all the time, all year. I do not begrudge that work. I know too well what it’s like to not have a job or to be in a troubled orchestra. I know what it’s like to be in an orchestra that closes its doors.

Twenty five years ago I was living that nightmare, and struggling through the aftermath to make enough money to buy food. I didn’t know what I was going to do, where I was going to go, or how I was going to survive. But I kept working hard, landed on my feet, and have now been at the DSO for twenty seasons. I will never forget how lucky I am.

The maestro summed it up in a few words the other night as he walked out on stage for the last piece on the program – Ravel’s Mother Goose Ballet. He had a bad cold, and was drained. No one in this orchestra works harder than he, and the intensity of it all had caught up with him too. But he looked up and said with a lightness of spirit, “It will be fine. Music makes everything better!” And out he went.

He’s right. It does.

Schoenberg and Bugs Bunny

Posted in The Business,The Music,Uncategorized by kschnack on April 25, 2010
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Sometimes daily life in the orchestra library is an exercise in absurdity and irony. As such, it can become great fodder for storytelling. And it also serves to provide endless material for merrymaking so that when the going gets tough we librarians have something to laugh about.

I remember how thrilled I was after graduating from college and getting my first orchestra job, and playing Mahler Symphony No. 1 the opening week. Even the pops concerts in the beginning were exciting, performing with all those “stars.” As time went on, of course, the reality of the job set in and one could be a bit disillusioned by the amount of “non-serious” repertoire that was programmed. I know that many of my colleagues experienced the same adjustment from their expectations of what playing  in a professional orchestra would be like. All those years of study and practice, perfecting every technique so we could execute the most technically demanding classical symphonic, opera and ballet repertoire, to play back-up for a pops show? Yep.

These days I am older and more realistic (and hopefully a little wiser), and I understand better how challenging it is for the artistic leadership to develop creative and appealing programming while maintaining and raising the quality and level of excellence, and……making payroll. So, I admit there are worthwhile pops programs that are not only audience-friendly but artistically satisfying for the players. Of course, some US orchestras “don’t do pops” — or at least if they do it’s called something else — and many players yearn for their dream job in which they wouldn’t have to do those kinds of concerts. But let’s not forget that composers have long crossed back and forth between the so-called serious and popular music in their compositions. For example, Erich Korngold, and, yes, even Schoenberg, had to earn a living after they escaped Europe to Hollywood during the war. Did Schoenberg go tonal to please? Korngold wrote some pretty progressive music for films that, with merely a change in title, could have ended up on the concert stage as “serious” with no one the wiser.*

So, it is with great pleasure that I recount for you the following short incident that took place during a recent rehearsal:

We were well into rehearsals for a week of subscription concerts and the strings had just finished a rigorous work-out on Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht. As we finished the stage move to the Brahms symphony set-up I had to make an announcement regarding an upcoming pops program, for which the music had been promised but was delayed by the show’s creator. I got up in front of the orchestra and said “I am very sorry to let you know that the Bugs Bunny music  is late and won’t be here until Friday.”

From somewhere in the cello section I hear: “OH NOOOOOOOOOO!!!”

At which point we all lost it.

Because “Bugs Bunny on Broadway” is a pre-packaged concert that is performed in sync with the film clips of the cartoons, often to some of the most famous classical music ever written (you know, “Kill the Wabbit” set to Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”), I like to think Mr. Schoenberg would have found the absurdity, irony, and humor in the situation.

*John Mauceri gave a very enlightening talk examining this subject at a MOLA conference in LA a few years ago. An edited version appears on page 4 of this issue of Marcato and I encourage you to read it:

Auditions, Auditions and More Auditions

Posted in Preparing Parts,The Business by kschnack on February 14, 2010

Timpani Showroom (Photo credit: Melissa Rogers)

Timpani showroom?

Nope, just an audition.

Or rather, one phase of several auditions here at the DSO of late. We have had three days of preliminary, semi and final rounds for the Principal Timpani chair during the last month, and will finish the rest of the semis and finals on Monday following a long day of Assistant Principal Horn auditions. We just last week completed the Second Trombone auditions, and, on top of that, auditions have also been going on for several weeks to fill the choral director position.

You might wonder why I would be writing about auditions as a librarian, because you might think we don’t have much to do with them. But auditions can take a fair amount of careful music preparation. I’m sure most of us in this business have a pretty good idea of what the general audition process is for the players. But I bet most people, even the players, don’t realize what is involved behind the scenes in preparing music for the auditions.

Take a look at this list:

The repertoire lists are determined by the section principals (or, if the audition is for a principal position, by the next ranking person or committee) and conductor, and are sent out to the applicants by the personnel manager. Here at the DSO, we also often have a shorter list drawn from the full one for those who are asked to send tapes. We work with the principal or audition coordinator to identify the excerpts that will be required, getting exact starts and stops marked. Once the repertoire is determined, we then go into production of the audition book itself.

First, we assess which pieces on the list are under copyright, because the players will not be able to purchase those parts and we prepare them to be sent out. Amongst MOLA libraries there is an understanding that we will make these excerpts available to our orchestra’s applicants, but that we will try to do it in the proper, legal way. Currently, that means contacting the publisher for even an 8-bar excerpt of something like Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra and gaining their permission to make the necessary copies to distribute or post on our websites (sometimes this involves a fee). Some of the publishers still have the view that allowing us to freely copy or post audition excerpts is a threat to their “revenue stream” and that an orchestra could somehow misuse those excerpts. (I’m not sure how having access to 8 bars of the Bartok timpani part could create any kind of situation in which we could put on a concert and charge a ticket price, but you never know. Perhaps audiences would come to a concert with 50 timpanists playing the audition excerpts in unison…..hey, maybe I should talk to marketing!)

Anyway, after we get permission from each publisher of a protected work, we then create a little book to send to the candidates. This means extracting* the excerpts along with title, composer, key and time signatures, tunings if applicable, and anything else we want the player to have. Here we prefer to send out clean but corrected parts so that the committee can get a sense of how the player approaches the work without imposing our own markings. I should mention that some libraries create the entire audition book to be sent to all the candidates, but at the DSO we generally do not. For the mailing we only reproduce the copyrighted excerpts, since all of the other parts are readily available for purchase. The personnel manager then sends the auditions materials out including the specific list of works with bar and/or rehearsal numbers.

After that part of the process is finished, we move on to preparing the rest of the complete audition book for the actual day of the audition. In addition to those copyrighted excerpts already prepared, we extract the specific passages that may be asked from the other repertoire on the list. For example, if the list calls for Beethoven Symphony No. 7, we know that the candidate will not be asked to play the entire symphony during the audition. (Oh my, can you imagine??) So we extract only the portions that the principal determines are realistically possible to include. This cuts down on lots of extra and unnecessary work for everyone and moves the audition along more efficiently. We make  one or two performance-size candidate books (including all the excerpts for prelims, semis and finals) depending on how many players are anticipated, and up to 10 copies of the book for the committee (8.5 x 11) for reference during the auditions. A cover sheet is put on the front with the list and page number of each excerpt. And then our work is, mostly, done. If the committee and conductor want to allow for the possibility of sight reading, we may have some things ready to hand out on the day if they haven’t been predetermined and included in the book. The candidates are given the information at the audition about what will be asked just prior to each round.

One aside: discretion on the part of the librarian is important. We make sure we don’t talk about, show, or post (like in blogs!) what will be asked on the audition so that everyone has the same info. Of course, most players — especially wind, brass and percussion players — pretty much know which excerpts will be targeted anyway but no one, even in my own orchestra, is going to hear the specifics from me!

Many players bring their own music to auditions, and that is perfectly fine for them to do. I certainly understand this, and did it that way when I was taking violin auditions. But it is incumbent upon the player, then, to read the orchestra’s list carefully and be sure to acquire the proper parts so they don’t have a problem using an incorrect version or something.

Once we are finally finished with our work. we save everything physically and electronically so that we don’t have to start over the next time the same instrument or position comes open. When I am long gone from this job, my successor will have, hopefully, less work to do for auditions.

As for auditions for orchestra librarian positions, that is a separate post (and, yes, I meant to write “auditions”). I will regale you with the good, the bad, and the ugly of that process another day!

*Extracting excerpts used to mean cutting out parts like paper dolls and pasting them in order on clean paper before copying them. Now, with our document manipulation software, we do the cutting and pasting electronically and it is incredibly fun. We are proud nerds.

Timpani Everywhere! (Photo credit: Melissa Rogers)

Yes, Melissa, there is a Santa Claus

Posted in Preparing Parts by kschnack on January 16, 2010

In the past couple of weeks as we have pushed through the final edits of Moldydow and the Vlasts, DSO Assistant Librarian Melissa Rogers has exhorted me — only half kidding — to “please make it stop!”  We’ve all cleaned, corrected, re-written, inserted, repaired, rebound, bowed, and added rehearsal numbers until we are glazed over.

So, I am here to tell you, Melissa, that I am making it stop now.  The parts are finally all out to the players, we have enough marked/corrected scores to get through the performances, and we’ve made the practice copies for the orchestra.  I have a few things in Tabor to check with the conductor, but barring any last-minute issues arising from the edition differences, we are done.  Finis.

After all these weeks and months, it’s finally time to take a breather, get the kink out of your neck, and the cramp out of your hand.  We’ll be back in the weeds soon enough.

Merry (belated) Christmas!  And thank you for all of your hard work!

Ma Vlast Deadly Binding (Photo Credit: Melissa Rogers and her iPhone)


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.

Mein Vaterland, Mein Gott!

Posted in Preparing Parts,The Music by kschnack on January 4, 2010

I had a library nightmare over the holidays, and I don’t mean that figuratively.  You know those performance anxiety nightmares players can have over a particular piece that’s difficult or a recurring worst-case scenario?  Well, instead of dreaming my hand wouldn’t stay on the violin fingerboard or I couldn’t identify the proper chords on the keyboard for my piano jury, this was about a Má Vlast Meltdown.  In my dream, the parts were all messed up or missing for different movements, the conductor was berating me in front of the orchestra, the players were calling for my head…..  Mind you, none of this has ever happened to me in real life, but it felt real, I’ll tell you what.  Yikes.

I’ve never had the distinct privilege of preparing Smetana’s complete Má Vlast before, so this is our lucky season in the DSO library.  Sure, we’ve all done Movement II, “Vltava” (better known in the states as “The Moldau”), and here and there one or two of the other movements.  But American orchestras don’t program the whole thing as often as our Eastern European friends for whom it is “meat and potatoes”  repertoire, and a lot of players (and librarians) don’t know the complete work.  I’m really looking forward to the performances and learning the unfamiliar movements, but I can’t say the part preparation has been so much fun.  In fact, there are as many potential variables (read:  impending disasters) as in an opera.

There are several score choices for this work, including the Supraphon (considered the “critical”) edition, reprints of the Urbanek, and Eulenberg miniatures.  The parts can be purchased for every movement in the reprint editions, or rented in the Supraphon.  That combination is not an unusual one at all, and something we deal with for many other works.  One finds out what the conductor is using and gets the corresponding materials. Or, in many cases, the scores of one edition can be used with the parts of another without problems — often even the rehearsal systems match or can be easily coordinated.

Not so with My Fatherland.  There are very real differences between the editions (including the rehearsal systems) and serious legibility issues in some movements. There are even differences between scores and parts of the same edition.  The librarian will have a mess come rehearsal time if they‘ve decided to just buy all the movements, add some bowings, and put out the parts.  I highly recommend against that course of action.  For example, the reprint of Mvt. 4 (“Bohemia’s Forest”) is newly-engraved and clean looking, but the notes are so small, and so many staves are pushed onto each page, that we had to re-make the parts, enlarged as much as possible.  (Double the money, double the fun!)  No way the string players could share a part and actually see the notes well enough without doing that. There are other problems with the rental materials from Supraphon for some movements.

This is the first work I’ve dealt with that has so many issues from movement-to-movement, requiring an edition decision for each rather than the whole.  To make matters more complicated, any given conductor may very well have some combination of different editions of scores for the six movements, so depending on a complete set of either the rental or purchased materials without checking each movement could be, well, the beginning of your own nightmare.  In our case, the guest conductor works from this type of patchwork system (basically combining various editions plus his own changes added through the years), and we spoke at length about each movement — comparing editions, checking whether or not there were measure numbers, rehearsal numbers or letters, or all three, and discussing the problems.  He supplied us with specific corrections and other instructions that he has found important to address in advance as he goes from one orchestra to another.  I was grateful for his willingness to do this type of preparation with us, and very early on, unlike some other conductors I know….*  It gave us ample time to not only discern which editions to acquire for each movement, but also put his changes in the parts and prepare them as he wants.

Even so, this project has taken many weeks, and we are not quite finished yet for performances at the very end of January and beginning of February.  Before I spoke to the conductor, I asked questions of several library colleagues who had prepared this work and they were all very generous with their time and knowledge.  They offered valuable insight into which movements of the rental and purchase materials were the least problematic, all loaning parts and/or errata lists for us to use as we saw fit.  That type of assistance was so incredibly helpful when researching the editions and then speaking to the conductor.  It also helped in dealing with budget issues — I wanted to be able to use our set of Moldau, and purchase what I could to avoid renting all six movements.  In the end, we rented three and purchased three (so we now own the three most commonly-played movements), but have had to spend a significant amount of time fixing and matching things up throughout.  I think it’s safe to say that the DSO Library Team Smetana is ready to be done with this project.

I’m confident we’ve done due diligence on these parts, and my library partners have given their all for The Fatherland.  But that doesn’t mean I won’t toss and turn a few more nights before rehearsals making sure we’ve covered everything.

* When conductors (particularly guest conductors) ask for specific things to be put into the parts, they should have the good manners to do so well in advance of the first rehearsal.  And that doesn’t mean two weeks, it means THREE MONTHS OR MORE. In most major orchestras, the organization gets in touch with the conductor many months in advance to inquire (usually through a questionnaire) whether they are providing materials, requesting a particular edition, or requiring any cuts, special markings, etc.  If the conductor does not answer the questions until a week or two before the rehearsals/performances, then he/she cannot expect additional work to be done. By then the parts are out to the players having long-since been bowed and prepared by the library, and we don’t have the time to stop other preparation to un-do and re-do work that we already spent weeks working on.  Please don’t put us in that position, or, if you do, please be gracious when you are told that it is too late!

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