What to do when a conductor throws up

What to do when a conductor throws up


norman lebrecht

February 01, 2010

A hilarious blog by Gareth Davies, principal flute of the London Symphony Orchestra, tells what really happens when a conductor is unwell. In this instance, Sir John Eliot Gardiner was puking in Paris five minutes before curtain and the players were trying to remember Plan B.

Read it here.

Happily, conductors are made of sterner stuff than tennis aces – witness Rafa Nadal wussing out of the Australian Open – and Beethoven is better at concentrating the mind than another set against Andy Murray. The end result was that the piccolo player got a free beer (she often does, I hear, and well deserved).

I once heard Franz Welser-Möst heaving his guts out in the interval of a Tokyo concert. He returned from the flush to give a Beethoven Fifth of reckless intensity, so edgy that no-one’s insides were safe. That’s music – you feel something, and you share it with others.



  • Maria Etzel says:

    If the concert conducted by W-M is the one I think it is, no wonder he was sick. Substituting at the very last minute, no rehearsal, live on TV and under immense pressure from musicians and critics. Amazingly, he recovered himself and conducted the second part. But, then, he is made of very strong stuff. If he hadn´t buried himself in Zurich, his expression, I doubt he would have survived.
    I listen to the Cleveland Concerts live on the internet and with a pair of good earphones am able to appreciate the exceptional quality of this orchestra and what a wonderful conductor he is. He may not be to everybody´s liking, specially those who love podium pounders, but his musicality is equaled to none.
    NL comments: At that stage, he was not yet under pressure from musicians and critics, but he was performing without rehearsal – high-wire stuff. And I concur with your conclusion.