Donkey Shot in Vienna

About fifty years ago I was playing with the Philharmonia Orchestra on a European tour with Herbert von Karajan conducting and we were in Vienna.  It so happened that the Vienna Philharmonic boys had the evening off, as did the Philharmonia and we arranged a little party with them, about six of us altogether, all bassists.

It was Heurigen time, when the new wine had just been released.  All the cafés and restaurants had an evergreen branch hanging above their entrance to tell all the world that the new wine was in so we arranged to meet at a tram stop on the Schotten Ring and catch the tram to Grinzing, a suburb of Vienna where all the population went for a night out on the town.  It had many famous eateries and our Viennese friends knew the best ones, so we all trooped inside the restaurant of their choice and we ate a really gourmet meal and imbibed the delicious wine.

Conversation inevitably turned to what brand of strings we were using, and what type of rosin.  From there it turned onto conductors, and we solemnly agreed between us that they were all bastards, especially one, a certain Herr Doktor ——–  whom we all had encountered.  From there we started to talk about the repertoire, and any difficult pieces we had come across.  One bassist turned to me and asked if I had ever played what sounded to me like Donkey Shot.  I was nonplussed but suddenly realized he meant “Don Quixote” by Richard Strauss.

Don Quixote is not a very difficult piece for the bass compared with some of his other works, but there are two bars solo in a 3/4 # /# section that are not very difficult to play technically, but are difficult rhythmically, so I suggest that all you budding young players who are aiming to become a principal bass, sort out the rhythms, listen to a recording and put it in your scrap book.

After another round of the Heurigen wine the conversation became more relaxed and we turned to other subjects and then after a final round caught the tram back to Vienna, said our goodbyes, and I went back to the little hotel where I always stayed, the “Rote Hahn”.


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