Binaca

One of my idiosyncrasies was to take a few drops of Binaca, a concentrated minty substance, before playing any major solos. The smell of the mint reminded me to breathe very deeply and very slowly, the physiological opposite of what would naturally happen in a nervous situation. This habit was tolerated by good grace, or even enjoyed by my colleagues who would say “I smell a cello solo coming.”

One of my colleagues (I’ll call her Ms. XX) tried to unhinge or discredit me by complaining long and loud about the fact that the Binaca made her sick. She even went to the general manager to complain that she couldn’t sit next to me when I used it. Ardis Krainik told her, “If that’s what makes him play so well, maybe you should try it.” She was then permitted to sit in the back of the section every time there was a cello solo. Among the orchestral colleagues, Binaca became known as “XX repellent.” At my retirement, my colleague Walter Preucil presented me with a very large board consisting of the first part of the Tosca solo with the treble clef and the five lines of the staff, and with Binaca bottles serving as the notes.