Concerto disaster: String goes slack as soloist plays first downbow

Concerto disaster: String goes slack as soloist plays first downbow


norman lebrecht

November 20, 2013

This is an extraordinary misfortune to befall one of the world’s top violinists. Leonidas Kavakos waits through the orchestral introduction to Mozart’s concerto K216 in Helsinki. His entry is perfectly timed. But atmospheric conditions have caused the E string to go slack.

Here’s what happened.


Cool as a Finn (which he’s not), Kavakos retunes and starts again.


  • John Soloninka says:

    This is not a “disaster”! It just makes for interesting after concert talk, and makes the whole event seem very real. The perfection of performance can dull one’s realization that this is a human endeavour. Pegs slip. Strings break. Move on with grace and humour.

  • José Bergher says:

    No big deal. A sweet E flat against a G and a D doesn’t sound that bad, especially in Mozart, Berg and Monteverdi.

    • Good musicians play what’s written, not what they think sounds good.

      • John Soloninka says:

        Oh please!! Don’t give classical music such a snotty reputation! Think of all the improvisation by baroque artists and 19th century virtuosi!! Look at Gilles Apap’s Mozart 3 violin concerto cadenza on YouTube!!! Look at new Imperial College neuroscience research that says audience and musician become more engaged and intertwined during improvisation within standard classical repertoire!!!! Even more traditionally, good musicians NEVER play “just what is written”! They always interpret the music…often in dramatically different ways. Otherwise we would never bother recording or performing anything more than once. Have you had the privilege or opportunity to perform with or at least be coached by great chamber musicians? If you had, you would know.

  • R. James Tobin says:

    I heard him play the Brahms concerto (extremely well) in the Berlin Philharmonie a few years ago, after which he played an extraordinarily unusual and fascinating encore, the identity

    or composer of which I was never able even to guess. I would still like to know–especially after listening to Hilary Hahn’s unusual encores.

    • David says:

      R. James Tobin – was it possibly Recuerdos de l’Alhambra? This is a transcription of a guitar piece done by – I believe – the violinist Ruggiero Ricci. I mention it because I too saw Kavakos play a “fascinating and unusual” encore in the Berlin Philharmonie. I was so intrigued that I waited by the stage door to ask him about it! He was, of course, utterly charming and very happy to talk to me about the piece. I think it is on youtube…

  • I was there in the concert when this happened and talked to Leonidas afterwards. He swore it has never happened to him before! Also, he did not “wait” through the orchestral introduction – he was conducting it himself! Another reason why he had no chance to notice the slipping of the string before it was time to start…

  • Sarah says:

    I did see him play the Sibelius Violin Concerto (with the MN Orchestra) – maybe he’s an “honorary Finn”.

    • Mikko says:

      Kavakos has rather more connections to Finland than that… he’s a Sibelius Competition winner and he’s played in Finland many times since. He said in an interview last year that he was staying with the same Finnish family in Helsinki that hosted him when he was participating in the competition, over twenty years earlier.

  • Leonidas is a master–I am sure he carried on with his utmost professional grace and was respected. The worst thing I ever experienced was playing Brahms Second Piano Concerto, where in the second movement, the entire ebony portion of the middle E-flat above middle-C (figures!) decided to break off. I should have stopped the performance and ask if anyone had Krazy Glue–is there a doctor in the house???? Rather, I continued on, and I don’t know how the heck I ever got through the piece–must have sounded like a calliope; of course, E-flat all over the place. Now, I always have Krazy Glue on hand–and I don’t expect that to happen again–but you never know…

  • Emil Archambault says:

    There seems to be a tendency to hyperbole, here. After the “horror” video of the concerto without soloist, now there is a “disaster” of a slipping string. Could we avoid Youtube-style exaggerations?

    This is not a “disaster”. A “disaster”, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is “a sudden accident or a natural catastrophe that causes great damage or loss of life:” There was no damage, and certainly no loss of life. Let’s get down to earth again.

  • Midori Goto, when she was 14, broke 2 E strings on different violins… is the way you react what makes this a disaster or an amazing story

  • This misfortune can happen to any musician, and anywhere in the world. A natural reaction is important, the concert must go on.

  • André M. Smith says:

    Am I missing something important here? A peg on a violin relaxes during a performance and this becomes an international news event with thousands of breathless reactions throughout the world of stringdom? The fiddle needs to be restrung, there’s some walking to-‘n-fro, etc. The heroic soloist is lauded for his recovery in the potentially traumatizing event – from which a lesser mortal might have succumbed altogether – and the show went on to a resounding finish.

    Come off it with the melodrama! Strings break on horn valves (, trombone slides go rattling away as a right hand momentarily looses a grip (, trumpet mutes insecurely inserted are blown out, bell sections drop off the bottoms of oboes, bass drum heads split with heavy use and in cold weather (, and cymbals crash to the floor when their leather wrist straps shear off.

    Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Murphy’s Law.


    André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
    Formerly Bass Trombonist
    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
    Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
    The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.