When unusual instruments step in at orchestras

Posted on: January 11, 2017

“Among its ranks, the New York Philharmonic counts 28 violinists, 11 cellists, four flutists, three trombonists and even one bass trombonist,” writes Charles Passy in Tuesday’s (1/10) Wall Street Journal (subscription required). “But when the call came for an accordionist this past week, the orchestra had to go outside its circle. The ensemble turned to Bill Schimmel, a New York-based master of the instrument who has made something of a specialty performing with orchestras…. A handful of classically trained composers have incorporated it into their works, including Kurt Weill, whose ‘Little Threepenny Music’ was part of the recent Philharmonic program. Mr. Schimmel, whose history with the Philharmonic goes back four decades, was more than up for the challenge.… In its 175-year history, the New York Philharmonic has hired artists who specialize in a range of nontraditional instruments.… No matter what instrument is involved, the Philharmonic typically begins the process by seeing if a musician from within its ranks can play it.… That often means turning to the Philharmonic’s three-member percussion section, since percussionists are known for their ability to tackle a kitchen sink’s worth of instruments, including, yes, a kitchen pot.”

Posted January 11, 2017