Melba Recordings

"... a label of fragrant distinction"

There are no products in your shopping cart.

News from Melba Recordings

Go behind the scenes for insights on our recordings, our artists and our future plans. Follow our artists' schedules and share the excitement of their journeys.

A Grand Surprise

Thursday, 20 February 2020 - 7:52am

Barry Tuckwell, Ben Jacks, Vladimir Ashkenazy. Photo: Terry Lane

Barry Tuckwell was a font of colourful orchestral anecdotes drawn from an extraordinary career. The following story is not from, but about Barry - a Sydney Symphony Orchestra cameo appearance and a reunion with an old friend.

Around the time of Barry’s conducting the Melba Recording  Rhapsodie: Fantasie: Poéme, in which  SSO principal horn Ben Jacks featured as soloist, Ben, as something of a lark, persuaded Barry to accept the minor engagement of playing sixth horn with the SSO in Rachmaninoff’s symphonic poem Isle of the Dead under the baton of Vladimir Ashkenazy. Barry and Maestro Ashkenazy had previously enjoyed many high-profile musical collaborations on recording, in performance, in chamber music and as conductor and soloist.

Unfortunately, due to prior commitments, Barry was unable to attend the first day’s rehearsal. This necessitated the engagement of a deputising player and Maestro Ashkenazy, in common with most conductors, abhors having to accept replacement players at his rehearsals.

As the second day of rehearsals was about to get underway, under the guise of smoothing the waters with Maestro Ashkenazy, Ben approached the conductor, apologising for the disturbance that the inclusion of a new player would cause. He suggested introducing the “young” replacement player to the Maestro and, as a not so young Barry emerged from the shadows, great mirth and joy ensued. Seldom, if ever, has a replacement or “casual” player been greeted with such full-hearted bonhomie by a conductor. Ben had pulled off a surprise reunion of old colleagues and managed to turn the abominable sin of engaging a deputising player to a wonderful boon. 

Each night, following the Sydney Opera House Rachmaninoff performances, the almost anonymous sixth horn player was singled out for a very special bow. This most unusual occurrence was greeted by applause from his fellow musicians and bemusement from most of the audience - apart, perhaps, from the few sharp-eyed music lovers in the hall who recognised an SSO alumnus returned from a sabbatical of over half a century.

Barry Tuckwell