Faking it – the great unmentionable of orchestral playing – The Strad

Faking, smudging, flying, putting the orchestral pedal down – there are so many ways to describe not being able to nail every last note. Yet it is, to some degree, the great unmentionable of orchestral playing, as witnessed by the fact that every musician I interviewed preferred not to be quoted by name. Perhaps that’s because we’re professionals. We’re supposed to be able to play anything, at the switching on of a little red light. Yet I can still remember these heartening words from the principal cellist of a major orchestra about the ‘Storm’ from Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony: ‘How do I play it? I don’t play it; I fake it. I never even met anybody who could play it!’So why is it that, given the extremely high level of orchestral playing worldwide, even the best (occasionally) have to fake?

One reason is the amount of rehearsal time available. There’s no doubt that the more prestigious the orchestra, the more rehearsal sessions are allocated per concert and the more likely it is that the said concert may be repeated: all factors making faking largely unnecessary. There are also marked international differences, with orchestras in the Far East and the US generally getting more rehearsal time than orchestras in Europe, especially the UK.

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