Here’s a fun little story that one of my more senior colleagues recently passed along to me:
Many years ago, the conductor Hans Werner Henze was rehearsing Stauss’ tone poem “Till Eugenspiegel” with the Chicago Symphony. There is a particularly snarly passage for the bassoons and violas in this piece–it’s the sort of thing that regularly appears on auditions for those instruments, yet it is almost impossible to play in context.
When the orchestra got to this passage during one of the rehearsals, Henze stopped the orchestra.
“Violas and bassoons, may I hear you from letter E?”
The members of these sections collectively gulped, took a deep breath, and plowed through the aforementioned passage.”
After they finished, Henze smiled. Addressing the rest of the orchestra, he said,
“My dear colleagues… this is what we must cover up!”