Berlin Philharmonic says violinist who fainted on TV is recovering well

Berlin Philharmonic says violinist who fainted on TV is recovering well


norman lebrecht

November 10, 2014

At yesterday’s Berlin performance of Beethoven’s ninth symphony the audience, both within the Philharmonie and on live stream, became aware of a disturbance in the second violin section. A player fainted in the back row and was removed.

The orchestra has since assured viewers on Twitter and other media that the stricken musician is on the way to recovery. We have withheld her identity.

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger observed the events in the hall:

berlin philharmonie beethoven 9



A few minutes into the ethereal slow movement I saw a bloke approaching the stage and beginning to clamber up. What on earth could he be protesting about with Beethoven 9 on this night of all nights? Then I noticed a violinist slumped lifeless in her chair. Together the bloke and the other violinist on the back desk managed to reach her before she fell.

The orchestra played on. If Rattle noticed, he gave no sign.

A few members of the audience then managed to get her off the stage and out. One or two members of the audience got up and rushed out – presumably doctors. The other violinist placed her violin carefully on her chair and returned to the music. No-one in the orchestra batted an eyelid.

A few minutes our hero returned and resumed his seat. Within a minute he was on his feet again. A member of the audience behind him had gone down. Once again he carried the dead weight out of the hall – this one face down. Once again people in the audience – the Berlin crowd is obviously well-qualified, medically – rushed out.

A few minutes later our hero was back in his seat. Later a second member of the audience went down – too far away for the hero to act.

At the end of the performance Rattle headed straight to the back desk of the second violins to comfort the shocked colleague. 


  • Christy says:

    Rattle? Did Barenboim not conduct? Or maybe I’m confused about the comments.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      That was another concert, beside the Wall.

      • Christy says:

        Ah, thank you, Norman. I found last night’s performance near the Gate on Youtube, conducted by Barenboim. Wonderful, but Kaufmann didn’t sing as expected.

    • Philip says:

      Not sure why you should think that Barenboim was conducting. Sir Simon Rattle was conducting a live performance of the Beethoven 9 last night in Berlin. It was relayed live via the BPO Digital Concert Hall. I tried watching it but gave up after a while due to technical problems, a persistent issue with the live streaming.

      Best wishes to the violinist for a full recovery.

  • Paul D says:

    So that’s what happened. On Digital Concert Hall, you could see the man approach the stage, then you could hear a bit of a disturbance. One member of the section did quickly turn around to see what was happening, during a break. The music flowed as if nothing was happening.

    Glad to hear the violinist is doing better.

  • Jenny B says:

    Alan Rusbridger probably would not have been able to see as the players faces well as I could. He was in the audience but I was watching it via the Digital Concert Hall and could pick up their body language and facial expressions.

    There was clearly consternation from the orchestra, especially first principal violas Amihai Grosz and Mate Szucs. They were sitting opposite the fainting person, next to the leader, and they were clearly worried. Walter Seyfarth looked very worried too. All of them seemed for a time to be going through the mechanical motions of the music, but thinking about their colleague.

    It is the first time I have seen the orchestra lose concentration, although it was not apparent in the sound and Simon Rattle continued brilliantly, but he was clearly totally aware. The players did come round after a time and I could almost see their brains click back into the fabulous music.

    There were some wonderful and moving memories of 25 years ago recalled by some of the players in the interval – I expect it is on youtube.

    By the way, there is a new lady in the horns. She was playing first horn. Does anyone know who she is?

    • Ed. McKenna says:

      Ist horn was Maria Rubio Navarro from Valencia. This was her third appearance on the DCH.

    • javier bonet says:

      About the lady playing first horn, she is a wonderful Spanish player, solo horn at the Valencia orchestra called Maria Rubio. I know her very good because she was one my students.

    • 5566hh says:

      I believe it was Maria Rubio Navarro, playing as a guest principal. It wasn’t, as Art Serating suggests, Sarah Willis, who wasn’t playing for that concert.

  • Emmaus says:

    Sarah Willis did not perform on 9.10.14.

  • javier bonet says:

    About the lady on the first horn, she is a wonderful Spanish horn player, solo horn in Valencia called Maria Rubio, I know her very good because she was one of my students

  • John Borstlap says:

    Beethoven IX is gripping music, especially in Germany, especially in relation to the fall of the wall.

  • Herrera says:

    Why do people think it’s a virtue to continue playing when one of the players collapses? What kind of ethical culture is that?

    1) First of all, it’s the devaluation of one orchestra section member over another, that is, for sure, the orchestra would have stopped playing if Rattle keeled over, or the concertmaster, so there is a hierarchy of who is worth more than whom then? principal 2nd violin? principal horn?

    2) Yea sure, Beethoven, Ninth, Berlin, Live, blah blah blah, like no one has ever heard a Beethoven Ninth by the Berlin before. Once again, I return to the first point, if one is to elevate the music over the players, than one should elevate the music above ALL players, including the conductor!

  • James Hill says:

    I was performing in Handel’s Samson a few years back and the conductor was taken ill (very seriously, as it turned out) and left the podium. After a few seconds hiatus the leader brought in the orchestra for the next section and a member of the choir came down through the orchestra to continue direction. It was shocking but as continuation was possible I’m sure it was the best thing to do. I hope if I keel over on stage my colleagues will be kind enough to step over me (and my instrument) and get on with the music!

  • rambonito says:

    Is Sarah Willis not first horn sharing the job with Stephan Dohr?

  • Tiffany says:

    No, the other principal horn chair is vacant at the moment

  • Peter L says:

    I am very impressed by the horn sound of this lady, I have never heard a hornist playing in such a “chamber music way”. I would really like her to join this orchestra !