a few words on performing Beethoven’s 9th symphony

Es­ti­mated reading time is 1 minute.

THE BOSTON SYM­PHONY was per­forming Beethoven’s 9th Sym­phony each Sunday during the month of De­cember. Now bass players hate “the Ninth,” as there is a long seg­ment in the middle where they don’t have a thing to do—page after page and not a single note! It makes them look and feel dumb sit­ting there like that.

So rather than sit on their stools idle for twenty min­utes, the con­ductor had de­cided that during this per­for­mance, after the bass players had played their parts in the opening, they were to qui­etly lay down their in­stru­ments and leave the stage.

This being Boston, there was an Irish tavern nearby rather fa­vored by local mu­si­cians when the tem­per­a­tures headed north, as they often do that time of year. Well, of course, once the bassists got back­stage, someone sug­gested that they head over to the tavern.


After tossing back more than a few shots of Tul­lamore Dew (this was an Irish pub, after all) in quick suc­ces­sion, one of the mu­si­cians looked at his watch and said, “Hey! We have to get back!”

“Nahhh. Don’t worry,” said an­other bassist. “I thought we might need some time, so I tied the last few pages of Mae­stro’s score to­gether with string. It’ll take him a few min­utes to get it untangled.”

Fi­nally, they stag­gered back to the Sym­phony Hall and took their places in the or­chestra. About this time, a member of the au­di­ence no­ticed the con­ductor seemed a bit edgy and pre­oc­cu­pied with some­thing, and said as much to her companion.

“Well, of course,” said the gen­tleman. “Don’t you see? It’s the bottom of the 9th, the score is tied, and the bassists are loaded.”

5 thoughts on “a few words on performing Beethoven’s 9th symphony”

Leave a Comment