Thursday, November 8, 2007

Mishaps in my time

This morning my memory bank took me to some examples, during my time, of mishaps suffered by some of the great performers in actual concert.
The first that came back to me was a recital at Eastman which I actually witnessed as a student:
The legendary violinist Jascha Heifetz was performing his transcription from Stravinsky's "Petrouchka" as an encore, and was in the midst of plucking multiple strings when he actually plucked one of the strings right out of its cradle - we all gasped and instantly wondered what Heifetz would or could do; well, as calmly as if nothing had occurred, he walked off stage, came back with what I presume was his alternate violin, the Guarneri, tuned it before us, and played through the Stravinsky without further disasters. An unforgettable time for me.
I was not there, but I know that one of the reigning Beethoven pianists, Rudolf Serkin, was in the midst of one of the Concerti by the great composer, when the piano start moving forward - evidently, the piano still had the transporting wheels connected, and this concerto indeed became a moving experience.
I was at Symphony Hall in Boston to attend a recital by the giant from Chile, Claudio Arrau. The most important work on the program was the defining Sonata by Liszt, and in the midst of one of the more dramatic sections, we heard a sound that Liszt had not written, which transfixed both Arrau and his audience. The Sonata ended within that micro-second, and shocked silence followed. A string had failed somehow and produced a sound that I cannot describe. Arrau left the stage(he must have been very upset, to be sure), a technician entered, worked on the instrument for awhile, and Arrau then returned. I do not remember whether he went back to the Sonata, for this was many years ago, but he DID resume playing.
An event which took place well before my time was an evening which featured a soloist playing one of the earlier Beethoven Concerti, with the composer in the audience(obviously at a time before the composer's deafness came on).
The performer was so nervous that he strode onto the platform with a cigar still in his mouth, and proceeded to perform, forming a pall of cigar smoke over the piano area, which persisted until the end of the first movement, at which time the cigar disappeared, resulting in an ultimately smokeless performance of the remainder of the piece.
One can only imagine what the relationship between composer and performer turned out to be after this event

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