Several years ago, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra had scheduled Beethoven's Ninth under the baton of Zubha Mehta. At the last moment Mehta became ill and it was necessary to find a substitute.
They were able to convince Professor Theodore Badder from U. C. L. A.
Classical Music Department, an expert in Beethoven's Symphonies and a noted conductor in his own right, to pinch-hit.
The Fourth Movement of Beethoven's Choral Symphony, as it is better known, is unusual in several ways.
First it uses not only a chorus but several soloists as instruments during the famous "Ode to Joy" in the fourth movement.
Second, the bass players hate playing Beethoven's 9th. There's a long segment in this movement where the bass viols don't have a thing to do, not a single note for page after page!
It had been decided that during this performance, after the bass players had played their parts in the opening of the last movement that they were to quietly lay down their instruments and leave the stage rather than sit on their stools looking and feeling dumb for twenty minutes.
Well, once they got backstage, someone suggested that they have a few brews.
They had quickly downed the first couple beers when one said, "Shouldn't we be getting back to our seats? It'd be awfully embarrassing if we were late."
Another (presumably the one who suggested drinking in the first
place) replied, "Oh, I anticipated we could use a little more time, so I tied a string around the pages of the conductor's score. Batter has had to slow the tempo way down while he waves the baton with one hand and fumbles with the string with he other."
So they had another round and when finally returned to their chairs a little tipsy by now one look at their conductor's face told them they were in serious trouble.
And if you thought things couldn't get worse, both first stand players soon passed out right in their chairs!
Batter was furious and on the verge of completely losing it, as he began making gestures at the musicians while trying to finish the piece while flipping tied pages.
After all, It was the last of the Ninth, Thee Badder was a pinch- hitter, the score was tied, the basses were loaded, and two men were out.