Countdown to Retirement: Bass Solos and Sales

By Peter Marck

 November 2016 “L’Elefant”

“The Elephant” is the bass player’s ultimate solo; you learn it when you’re young and use it your whole career. It’s actually a very clever portrayal of a four- legged beast dancing a waltz: 4 against 3. Camille St. Saens also mocked both Mendelssohn and Berlioz by including elephantine renditions of “Scherzo” from Mid-summers’ Night Dream and Dance of the Sylphs two of the most delicate pieces in the repertoire. Of course, it’s an “in-joke” that only bass players and musicologists catch, but it’s our joke.

Well, here we are again; I received a phone call from Roni Porat regarding the next youth concert, “Do you have a good solo for the bass?”

“Why not “The Elephant”? Let’s put the bass section in front of the orchestra and show them what the bass can do!”

I put the bowing in the parts and told the section learn it from memory and it was a great success…probably my last time playing our best piece.

Now what is it about bass solos? The Elephant is hardly flattering, then there’s the solo from Mahler’s First Symphony; 33 seconds of terror in the worst range of the instrument with zero accompaniment. If you play it really well, the conductor says, “Oh, that’s much too beautiful; can you make it uglier?” Then there’s Pulcinella which is fun to play, but really, he’s just a clown. At least he’s not a drunk like Lt. Kiji! Actually, one of the most beautiful solos for double bass was written by Lalo Schiferin in his concerto for strings. Luckily, our personnel manager warned me a few days ahead of time and I came very prepared. I was the only one; my colleagues didn’t fare so well and the piece was cancelled after the first rehearsal…next life…


Middle of November

Out of the blue I received an enquiry from Boston about selling one of my basses…wow, the moment has arrived. It took about 2 hours to get used to the idea, then started in negotiations. If you’ve read The Goldfinch, you know what priceless is. I’m asking for a lot of money and my good instruments are actually in the class of priceless: it doesn’t matter how much they are sold for now, in 30 years they will be worth an equally incredible sum of money. When I bought the bass I paid $7,500 and 40 years later I’m asking $190,000! In fact, we don’t really own these instruments, we just maintain them so that they can be passed on to the next generation. There is nothing like the moment a great instrument saves your ass, or takes you to places you never thought existed; that’s priceless! But to sell a bass? It’s not going to be easy!

Well…false alarm: after telling him the price I got no reply; I guess he fainted!

March 2019 will mark a huge change in the life of Peter Marck. Join us on an intimate and personal quest through the tides with a passionate musician and IPO icon, and a dear friend.

For the first time and exclusively to IPO colleagues and followers, a musician of our Orchestra will share insights into the challenging but also liberating process he goes through – towards his final performance with the IPO.