Andrew Litton's Final Season: Flying Batons and Practical Jokes

Classic Arts Features   Andrew Litton's Final Season: Flying Batons and Practical Jokes
The outgoing Dallas Symphony music director looks back on his 12 years with the orchestra. The first installment of a multi-part interview.

Playbill: I've heard a rumor about you throwing batons at violinists. True?

Andrew Litton: During one of my first concerts with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, when I was music director designate, we were performing Brahms' Second Piano Concerto. During the last note of the second movement, my baton hit the music stand, broke off, and skewered Sasha Adkins' violin. It actually was like Robin Hood: the baton was quivering in her strings as I cut off the orchestra. We were so lucky it didn't go in someone's eyes, but it did get a big laugh from the audience.

My baton also went flying into the audience during the third movement of Dvorák's New World Symphony. It was caught by a former staff member. I was very happy he caught it. My batons mean a lot to me because they are handmade by my godfather, a timpanist for the Metropolitan Opera. And with this being such a sports town, had it not been caught by a staff member, the person probably would have kept it!

PB: Okay, those were some of the musicians' favorite stories about you. What are some of your best memories?

AL: There are always numerous cell phones going off during performances. But during one performance, at the end of Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony, when one rang, I said, "I hope that's not Prokofiev!"

During my 40th birthday celebration Nadja [Salerno-Sonnenberg] and Jimmy Lin [Cho-Liang Lin] came out dressed as hayseeds because they were doing 'dueling fiddles.' I had no idea they were going to get costumes; Jimmy actually blacked out a tooth! It was very funny, a Taiwanese cowboy. It was one of the funniest jokes ever played on me.

PB: Most embarrassing moment?

AL: We were making live recordings with a soprano for a compact disc. The audience would burst into applause between movements and I would always make some sign there was more. But for the last show‹I don't know what I was thinking‹when they applauded I said, 'You know what they say, it's not over…' and I trailed off. There was a huge wave of laughter because our soprano ‹ well, it was a poor choice of words, but a very opportune moment.

PB: What about an unusual memory of the Meyerson? Something the audience may not know?

AL: Just so you know, I can tell every time the audience leaves the concert during intermission because the grate they must drive over to exit the arts district parking is directly next to my office. I can count the cars. I can hear them coming in, as well.

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