@Allison said: “I’lll go out on a limb here, and say that most orchestral players can play as well as most –not all, but most–of the soloists who solo with the orchestra.”
There is a bit more to being a soloist that simply playing the notes correctly, or even with artistry, don’t you think? To have any value, should not the soloist have a voice that is inimitably their own? For the most part, isn’t that why people flock to return to hear them, not just the technical mastery? How about Heifetz? Who else has the same mixture of calm clarity and gypsy heart?
In addition, how can one not pity the poor soloist who not only has to perform perfectly, usually from memory, but to do so surrounded by players who have convinced themselves that they could do at least as well, if not better, and who may have undisguised contempt for them? My teacher, a Minnesota Orchestra Principal Flute, objected to having to play a duet with Rampal. He had disdain for this great soloist with the magnificent fluid sound that he could only wish for. I find that a devastating example of the destructiveness of this sort of mindset.