Monthly Archives: September 2015

Another Audition Report, since That Other One seemed pretty popular

ASO Principal Bass Audition Report – June 1&2, 2015

We received over 60 resumes, and everyone who applied was invited unless they missed the deadline by an unreasonable amount of time.

Based on deposits received, we expected 36 total to show up. Of those, three were no-shows or last-minute cancellations.

We heard 29 in the prelims, and four additional players were invited to the second round, all titled tenured members of ICSOM orchestras.

The 7-member committee sat onstage, where we are able to hear the bass with a lot more presence and clarity than from the audience. The first two rounds were screened. The Music Director was present for the final round only.


No Bach or concerto. Everyone started with Mozart 39, first movement, mm 40-98.

Everyone also played Beethoven 5 third movement complete.

If players made it through those with good intonation, nice tone, good rhythm, and a clear Trio stroke, they went on to play the Haydn 31 solo, then Brahms 1 first movement letter E, then finally Heldenleben 9-12.

Most of my comments centered around:

Mozart 39: theme was too loud. Seemed like most people treated it like mf. 16th note passage rushed.

Beethoven 5 Scherzo: not enough vibrato. Lots of accented downbeats where no accent is written.

Trio: almost everyone played this too fast for 8th note clarity. We would much rather hear it slower than the Scherzo and with clear articulation.

Haydn: Many players added ornaments on the repeats, which were appreciated. Bravo to all who got creative.

Brahms 1: inconsistent note length

Heldenleben: sloppy arpeggios

Second Round:

Of the 29, three advanced to the screened second round, joined by four invited players.

Almost everyone played every excerpt. No solo Bach or concerto.

Mozart 35 first movement, mm 13-66.

Mahler 2 first movement, beginning to 2.

Beethoven 9 fourth movement K.

Brahms 1 second movement, mm 47-60.

Mozart 40 fourth movement mm 45-71.

Bartered Bride, beginning to 6 after A.

Many players were asked to play Mozart 40 again, lighter.

Final Round:

Of the seven who played the second round, three advanced to the unscreened finals, joined by a current ASO player.

Finalists were given the choice between a movement of solo Bach or a concerto movement. All opted for Bach. One played the 3rd Suite Bourrees in G, one played the 1st Suite Gigue in G, one played the 5th Suite Gigue in A minor, and one played the 3rd Suite Allemande in G.

All players played all excerpts:

Mozart 40 first movement, mm 11-136 and 191-225.

Mahler 2 first movement, beginning to 2.

Mahler 2 second movement, pickup to 6 thru 6 before 8.

Mozart 35 fourth movement, beginning thru m140.

Heldenleben, 2 before 61 to 70.

Ginastera Variaciones Concertantes movement XI solo.

Some players were asked to repeat certain excerpts, for example Mozart 40 a bit faster and more off the string, or with more attention to dynamics.

All of the finalists played basses with gated extensions, all played French bow (although our section is mixed), three played modern instruments, and one played standing (reportedly just to avoid the hassle of lugging a stool to the audition.)

After the finals, the committee and the Music Director conferenced for maybe 30 minutes. We chose a winner and offered a contract, bypassing our typical trial-week process.


ASO Section Bass Audition Report – Sept. 2015

AUDITION REPORT – Atlanta Symphony Section Bass Audition, Sept. 2015

In all, almost 100 resumes were received, and we decided to invite everyone who applied. Of those invited, about 70 responded that they expected to attend. Only 46 actually showed up to play prelims. We heard 31 on Sunday 9/13 and the remaining 15 on Monday 9/14.

Nine prelim players advanced to the second round, which was also on Monday.

Five of those advanced to finals, held Tuesday 9/15. Also in the finals were two players auto-advanced because they had made it to the finals at our recent Principal Bass auditions, as our contract stipulates.

In the prelims, which were screened, everyone played:

Brahms 1, 1st movement, letter E

Beethoven 5, Scherzo & Trio

21 of the 46 prelim players were dismissed after those three excerpts. After the Beethoven, we asked:

Mozart 39, 1st movement, theme through 16th notes

Heldenleben, 9-12

Mozart 40, last movement, m.45-71

Shostakovich 5, 1st movement, 22 through the high F

Only 10 players made it through all prelim excerpts. Of those 10, eight advanced. One player advanced before we even heard Mozart 40 or Shostakovich.

Occasionally the committee asked a candidate to repeat an excerpt with more attention to something like rhythm or intonation. This usually happened because the candidate seemed promising, and we wanted them to have another chance to earn our vote.

Making an occasional mistake didn’t cost anyone my vote. No one played a perfect prelim. Even those who advanced made mistakes, but they still came across as strong, controlled players who would probably make a positive contribution to our section, or at least as players who earned a chance to be heard again in the second round.

In my opinion, the most common reason players did not advance was poor intonation. Another very common error: not playing what’s on the page. When Brahms writes a quarter note, play a quarter note. When Beethoven writes a sforzando, play a sforzando. Also, in the Trio, many players took a tempo too fast for eighth-note clarity. I’d much rather hear the Trio at a slower tempo than the Scherzo, but with clarity. Also, in general, players who use vibrato sound a lot better than players who don’t.

Other housekeeping items: it’s okay to quickly check your tuning when you arrive on stage, but keep it brief. And playing a few notes to warm up shouldn’t be necessary.

In the second round, which was also screened, we heard:

Mozart 35, 1st movement, m.13-66

Brahms 1, 2nd movement, m.46-60

Mahler 2, 1st movement, page one

Beethoven 9, 4th movement, K – 17 before M

Heldenleben, 40-41

Bartered Bride, beginning – 6 after A

Bartok, 1st movement, m.27-56

Almost everyone played almost everything, but we were under some time pressure, so we trimmed the Heldenleben and Bartok from some auditions.

In the unscreened finals, on Tuesday 9/15, with the Music Director present, we heard:

Solo: either a movement of Bach or a concerto movement (candidate’s choice)

Mozart 40, 1st movement, m.111-138

Mahler 2, 2nd movement, 6

Heldenleben, 61-70

Mozart 35, 4th movement, beginning to m.139

Shostakovich 5, 1st movement, 22 through the high F

Finalists were often asked to repeat excerpts, with attention paid to certain characteristics.

Of the seven finalists, three played on older instruments, four on modern instruments; five played french bow; all basses had gated extensions.

Two finalists played the first movement of Koussevitzky, but were stopped before page 3. The other five finalists opted for Bach: 3rd Allemande in G, 1st Gigue in G, 3rd Bourrees in G, 5th Gigue in C minor (not in A minor).

I was very pleased with the overall level of the finalists. All are very talented players. Our decision to invite everyone who applied was also vindicated, because while some of their resumes showed years of professional experience in ICSOM orchestras, others had very little professional experience at all; some are still students.

After conferencing, the committee and Music Director decided to offer one section position to the winner, and to offer trial weeks to two other finalists to determine whether a second section position will be offered. Also, some other finalists were immediately offered opportunities to sub.