Q: So. Did you get a new bass?
Pastorek: Yes I did.
Q: Where did you get it?
Pastorek: Albuquerque, New Mexico. At the Don Robertson Violin Company. I’ve known Don for many years, and I know that he has instruments there, and I spoke to him on the phone and he said, come on up and take a look at what I have.
Q: How many different instruments did you try out while you were there?
Pastorek: He had a bunch of old French basses that he wanted me to try, and he also said that he had this modern instrument. I said I don’t want to hear a modern instrument, because I don’t like modern instruments, they’re never any good.
When I went up there, Don wasn’t available, but his son Aaron was there. Aaron is a bass player. So he and I played five or six of these French basses, none of which were much good. And then Aaron said, well, here, try this thing. And I played it, and boom, it was a wonderful instrument. Holy smokes. And the thing looked quite old. So they have a recital room in their shop — a very nice recital room, about a hundred seat recital room — and we took four of these French basses and this other thing that he just picked out of the blue for me, and I played them in there and then I had Aaron play them for me. The French basses just were blah, nothing. Then he played this bass, and it just filled the room, it was wonderful. So I said, what is that thing? And he says, it’s a Luciano Bini, from Cremona, Italy. And I said, what year was it built? It looked like an old instrument. And he said, ’76. And I said, 1776? No. 1876? No, he says — 1976.
Q: Wow. So that’s very new.
Pastorek: It’s a new instrument, yes. Turns out that the first owner of the instrument was a guy in Italy — I’m not sure what city he was in — but he just abused it. He left it leaning against a radiator, out in the rain, and everything else. I mean, it looks like an old instrument. It’s got cracks in it, in the ribs — you know what the ribs are, the side part? — that are reminiscent of what would be a very old instrument. That doesn’t happen to new instruments. But it has a very mature sound, and it’s wonderful.
Q: Does his mistreatment of it — did that mature it, do you think?
Pastorek: I don’t know. Who knows.
Q: So are you still trying to get your old bass repaired, or did you just totally give up on that idea?
Pastorek: The one that was in the flood, I’ve given up on. There’s no way — it wouldn’t be worth putting it back together. The pieces are at the Amati Violin Shop, and I have my insurance money, so I have no idea what’s going to happen to it.
Q: Can you be more specific about what you like about the tone of your new instrument?
Q: You can’t? You talked before about liking things with a brighter tone….
Pastorek: Well, this has a very mature tone. It’s kind of dark, like an Italian instrument, but not so dark that I don’t like it. It’s just a good instrument.
Q: So you bought it?
Q: And then you drove it home?
Pastorek: No, I drove my car home. I put the bass in the back. No. Actually, he had a little bit of work to do on it, so he shipped it to me about three weeks later.
Q: How do you ship a bass?
Pastorek: They put it in a fiberglass trunk with straps and padding inside, very secure.
Q: And how do they deliver it?
Pastorek: They stick it on air freight and fly it to you. I went to the airport to pick it up — they’d deliver it to the house, but I’d have to pay extra.
Q: Is it their trunk? Do you have to send it back?
Pastorek: The trunk belongs to Don Robertson, yes. I used to have my own trunk that I used to ship around my old bass when I was trying to sell it. The custom is that I pay the cost to send it to you, and you pay to send it back. That trunk is now a wet sponge in the basement of Jones Hall, though.
Q: So how much did this all cost?
Pastorek: None of your business.
Q: This is for posterity. Did it — let me ask you this: did it approximate the value of your other bass?
Q: So the insurance is going to cover it?
Q: Yay. Is the bass pretty? What color is it?
Pastorek: It’s brown. If you’d come to a concert, you’d see it.
Q: I can’t come to a concert, I’m going back out of town. I was going to come to opening night, but then the World Trade Center was struck. How’d opening night go, by the way?
Pastorek: It was fun, it was good.
Q: You have a new musical director?
Pastorek: Mm-hmm. Hans Graf, from Austria. He’s done a lot of work all over the world. He’s got several small orchestras in Europe right now, an opera orchestra in France, and he also has the Calgary, Canada, symphony. As a matter of fact, he was in Calgary the weekend, or the weekend before opening night, which happened the week after September 11th.
Pastorek: It didn’t seem like he was going to be able to get here.
Q: Opening night was September 15th?
Pastorek: Yeah, he was in Canada. So, all the flights were cancelled, and they were trying to figure out how to get him here. One of the people in the office just started calling corporations that he knew had private jets, and he started calling charter lines and all sorts of things, and they found one of the oil companies had a chartered plane that was already halfway to Calgary. And because it was already en route, they could allow it to continue on. The flight was going to be empty — they were going to send it back to Houston because it was empty, because these people had cancelled it — but they continued on to Calgary, picked up Graf and his wife, and were going to fly back to Houston. Except it turned out that this kind of plane had to land at Hobby Airport, and they had no international — what do you call that?
Pastorek: Yes. They had no international whatchacalit at Hobby, so they had to fly to Denver, and go through the customs in Denver, and then fly to Houston.
Q: What was it like needing to do your opening night after September 11th? Did that change the concert at all?
Pastorek: I think we changed some of the programming, but minor things.
Q: Was there any sense that you shouldn’t be doing it, or that it was frivolous?
Pastorek: No, no. It wasn’t. It was something that we had to do. You don’t stop doing stuff like that because of a bunch of crazies. You do more of it, in spite of them.
Q: And you had a nice full house?
Pastorek: Yes. Packed.
Q: And did you do everything as usual? Were there larger security concerns?
Pastorek: A little bit larger, a little bit better security. There’s a funny story: the following weekend, at a Sunday matinee, one of our cellists — she’s Korean, and her ex-husband is German — her son, who is probably twenty-seven or twenty-eight years old, was at the concert. He walked into the theater, and sat down, and his seat was on that wheelchair aisle, the wider aisle in the middle of the theater. He sat down — this is before the concert — took his coat off and laid it on the seat beside him, then got up and walked back out again. He went to get a drink of water. The people around him called the police, called security. They said that he looked like an Arab, and he did something strange with his coat, hid something underneath it, then walked out. So they came in looking for a bomb.
Q: Oh no.
Pastorek: So this guy is half Korean, half German, and they thought he was an Arab.
Q: He didn’t get arrested or anything, did he?
Pastorek: No, no. They just talked to him. He thought it was hilarious.
Q: Is it pretty amazing that the season started back up again in time after last year’s flood?
Pastorek: I expected it to.
Q: You did? There wasn’t a point at which you thought it was going to have to wait another month or so?
Pastorek: No. If it wasn’t at Jones Hall, it would have been somewhere else.
Q: So where are you guys rehearsing now? Where’s musicians’ storage and dressing rooms and….
Pastorek: We rehearse on the stage at Jones Hall. Our dressing rooms are reopened as of this weekend. Right now, they’re putting together a plan to rebuild the library up on the second level. It’s going to be a combination of above the stage and in the lobby. They’re reconstructing everything up there. Basses are going to be on the second level, also. The percussion room may go back downstairs, they haven’t decided yet.
Q: So where’s all that stuff now, just on the stage?
Pastorek: I don’t know where the percussion stuff is. Our basses are in a temporary room upstairs. The library is at the librarian’s house.
Q: How much of the library did you end up saving?
Pastorek: They got all of it, but whether it’s going to be useable or not — well, it won’t be useable, but they’ll be able to get markings out of it.
Q: Right. They’re doing that NASA thing?
Pastorek: Yes. It’s freeze-dried and then vacuumed.
Q: And have they done any of it so far? Do they know if it’s going to work?
Pastorek: I think they got a couple boxes of papers back. They think that they’ll be able to just read them, you know, maybe photograph them. They’ll never be used.