Thinking Big: David Del Tredici, a conversation in 13 parts

Being Practical and Impractical

FRANK J. OTERI: Then it’s, as you alluded to, the practicalities of working with musicians in the orchestra. Rehearsal time is extremely limited for new music. What have been some of the issues you’ve faced in term of rehearsal time?

DAVID DEL TREDICI: Well of course my problem is that my pieces are so long. Nobody commissions an hour-long piece. I would get a normal-sized commission and then beg, or not tell them, lie… [laughs]. They’d say, “Oh it is? It’s really an hour?” For example Final Alice, which was an hour long, Solti said, “We must cut it. We cannot do an hour long piece; it can be no longer than 45 minutes.” I was sure he was wrong, so I said, “Please maestro, let me play it for you.” So I played him the whole piece on the piano, and he said, “No, no. We still have to cut it.” I realized that if I didn’t cut it, the one who knew the piece, he would cut it. I made a huge cut out of it. (Well, I thought it was huge.) Then the premiere came and with the cut it came to exactly an hour. It was a big success! [laughs]

FRANK J. OTERI: The recording that was released of that Barbara Hendricks is incomplete.

DAVID DEL TREDICI: The score is published complete, but the recording is with the cut. Yeah, there it went.

FRANK J. OTERI: It would be really nice to get a complete recording of that.

DAVID DEL TREDICI: Leonard Slatkin did it complete.

FRANK J. OTERI: But it hasn’t been recorded.

DAVID DEL TREDICI: No. In fact, they never made a CD of it. It was at the end of the LP era, so I wish it would come back.

FRANK J. OTERI: And how long does that clock?

DAVID DEL TREDICI: Without the cut? Probably an hour and 15 minutes, or an hour and 10 minutes.

FRANK J. OTERI: So they only wiped out 10 minutes; that’s not too much time. They should have just done it.

DAVID DEL TREDICI: Yeah [laughs], I wish.