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Chicago Lyric Opera

Oh, those string players are so full of themselves

Oh, those string players are so full of themselves

Insider jokes are not just for White House Correspondents' Assn. Dinners or ESPN kibitzers or Academy Awards emcees. They also crop up in discussions about symphony orchestra musicians — a society unto itself. There are jibes and even sober-minded studies that characterize personality types according to the instruments they play.

Who are the string players? The divas.

What do you call oboists? The orchestra neurotics.

And the brass? Drunken bullies.

Concert hall audiences tend to believe that those hundred or so musicians onstage — all of them remarkable virtuosos — are never less than unified in their pursuit of artistic perfection. Or at least...