Letter: Maestro's magical winter night

Wolfgang Sawallisch at the Kimmel Center in 2003 in the last performance of his decade as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Here's another memory of our late, beloved conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch: It was a snowy night some 20 years ago that my wife and I managed to reach the Academy of Music, only to find most of the audience (and much of the orchestra) missing. But Sawallisch surveyed the situation and made a command decision: He directed the orchestra members present to take seats in the hall and "enjoy the show." He then directed the ushers to open the doors to Broad Street, and invite passersby in from the cold.

The conductor then informed the audience that, as a virtuoso pianist, he himself would play the part of the orchestra, and the vocal soloists for that evening's performance would do their part. I can still recall him playing flawlessly through the score (with no rehearsal.) The soloists helped when he paused to address us, but his English failed him.

The evening's intimacy and the joy with which the master musician played will always be a high point of my Philadelphia Orchestra experience.

George E. McLaughlin, Kennett Square