Concertmaster falls off stage in mid-concerto

Concertmaster falls off stage in mid-concerto


norman lebrecht

November 07, 2015

We are receiving reports that James Cuddeford, concertmaster of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, collapsed tonight during a performance of the Schumann cello concerto and was taken to hospital.

James, an Australian who has led the orchestra since 2010, is said to have been ill during the day and vomited several times, but he turned out nonetheless for the performance, with soloist Aurélien Pascal and conductor Christoph Poppen.

Between the second and third movements of the Schumann he appears to have felt unwell and tried to leave the stage. But as he rose from his seat he fell off the stage with his violin.

He is reported to be stable in hospital.

We wish James a swift recovery.


james cuddeford

Be careful out there.

Following-day report here.


  • Jack Liebeck says:

    Get well soon James!

  • Nick says:

    The Sinfonietta is a fine orchestra which normally performs in the Concert Hall in Hong Kong’s City Hall. If this is where he fell, mercifully the height of the stage is relatively small.

  • Jerome Hoberman says:

    I was broadcasting the concert live on Radio-Television Hong Kong. It was truly terrifying. As Nick wrote, the platform is relatively low, but still high enough for someone to break his neck falling off it, if unconscious and unable to protect himself, as seemed to be the case. Christoph Poppen instantly jumped down to the floor to assist, a call was made for a doctor and for emergency services, and James, motionless, was worked on on the floor for about 20 minutes before we had any indication of what his condition might be. He was stabilized enough to be taken out in a wheelchair rather than a stretcher, the concerto resumed from the beginning of the second movement and, after a shortened intermission, they continued with the scheduled Brahms 2. Everyone involved — orchestra players, conductor, soloist, management, audience — performed admirably and with impressive professionalism. I do understand,, though, that James’ Gagliano violin was broken — how badly, I haven’t yet heard.

    • A HK Sinfonietta Violinist says:

      I’m the violinist who picked up James’ instrument after the accident. The violin is pretty badly damaged with two long cracks on the top and a gash on the top right rib. Luckily James seems to be doing well and has been discharged from the hospital, but the violin will need major repairs (and may never sound the same again). He must be heartbroken.

  • Brent Hudson says:

    One more factor in violin attrition . . .