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.


10 responses to “ASO Section Bass Audition Report – Sept. 2015

  1. Steven Rubenstein

    Very informative and incisive summary. Well written also.

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. This is really cool. I’ve heard about this process from other side once before. Just wondering, who is your royal ‘we?’ The section? Admins? Volunteers? Thanks for writing this out. 🙂


  3. Is it possible to get a spread of what sections were represented on the committee?


  4. That’s all I wanted to know (musicians). Knowing names wasn’t what I was going for. Thanks.


  5. Very difficult to play symphonic contrabass in tune.


  6. Thank you for the summary! It’s great to have information that is this transparent.


  7. Pingback: Inside the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s recent bass audition. | 8vbasso

  8. Thanks for the detailed report. So no solo till the final?


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