Look what Shostakovich did to my fingers

Look what Shostakovich did to my fingers


norman lebrecht

January 19, 2016

frank almond fingers

This was Frank Almond’s hand last night after he had finished playing the second Shostakovich trio in Milwaukee, where he is concertmaster of the symphony orchestra. We asked Frank what happened. Here’s what he says:

I was playing a concert last night with the outstanding musicians William Wolfram (piano) and David Requiro (cello). The first half was substantial, a Rachmaninov trio and the Prokofiev F min. Sonata (violin and piano). Everything felt really great, full house, great colleagues, etc.

We started the Shostakovich Trio (No. 2) and early on my fingerboard felt a little….sticky. We finished the first movement and there was blood all over my index finger (and the fingerboard). All I can surmise is that a small cut had somehow opened on the tip and things went from there. We stopped briefly while I tried to clean things up a little, then gave as impassioned a concert as I can remember, although I’d occasionally wipe off my finger or the board when I had a moment.


frank almond fingerboard

The photos probably look worse than it actually was, since my other fingers ended up pretty dirty as well. I’ve never had this experience before, although I’m told the weather can contribute; it was about 3 degrees outside, and fairly dry. On the other hand, stranger things have happened at that venue (scene of the crime, so to speak).

It was at this hall that Frank was brutally attacked two years ago by two men, who stole his Stradivarius. He got the violin back. Now, he says, ‘my biggest issue today is to figure out how to practice….’

Share your own violin injuries below.


  • Robert says:

    A typical solution for skin cracks is superglue…


  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    OMG!! Well, Krazy glue with tissue paper usually does the trick. Glad you’re healed there, Frank!!

  • Larry says:

    the article is referring to “medical grade” superglues (he names some) and specifically says NOT to use Krazy Glue (Ie, that specific brand name.) How would you get Krazy Glue off the fingers, once its dried and hardened? You’d wind up pulling more skin off.

    Glad that Mr. Almond will be OK.

    • Jeffrey Biegel says:

      I have used it gently for many years, because the New Skin and other glues do not dry easily and spread more than necessary. The think layer of Krazy Glue followed immediately with a think layer of any soft tissue or toilet paper adheres and stays, covering the wound and dries quickly. It normally comes off from use and washing of the hands. I’ve tried other things, but this always proved to fix. (Now you got me worrying!!)

      • Jeffrey Biegel says:

        –and I’m talking very minimal amount, like hardly anything. I read the link above and agree–there are better ones which are mentioned. But for a small cut, or a deeper one from dry weather, the Krazy Glue has worked for me. This might open the door to many other such stories and perhaps, some better advice out there from readers.

    • Gregor Kitzis says:

      Larry, I first used Crazy Glue over 30 years ago when I sliced the tip of my left index finger (a crucial finger for a violinist) washing dishes an hour before I had to leave for rehearsal. I called the conductor to say I couldn’t play the violin with blood running down my elbow and he said nonsense and to use Crazy Glue. Since it was a slice wound I was able to push the skin back together to cover the wound, glued it shut and played the rehearsal. The glue comes off over time or you can just pick it off if there are parts getting in the way. You’re not putting it on raw skin if it’s a wound that can be closed and covered with your skin so there’s zero danger.

  • Alla Aranovskaya, First violinist of the Grammy nominated St. Petersburg String Quartet says:

    This violinist for sure wasn’t taught properly or he studied how to play violin very badly or simply not ready to play this masterpiece. Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, for violin, cello and piano, Op. 67, by Dmitri Shostakovich is not that hard and not required so much practice.
    I’ve played this piece for 40 years Never saw anything like this ugly picture that professional musician shouldn’t show publicly, because it’s shows that for many hours he over practiced putting his fingers in wrong position. So I presume that his students also will get this habits.

    So bad and so sad that people have no shame to make this squalor open for professional music community.

    • Gerhard says:

      Madam, you are really quite full of yourself, aren’t you?

    • Christian says:

      I’m laughing so hard of this. Only in Russia! (I hope this is somone else pretending to be you!)

      • Gregor Tassie says:

        Vse pravilno ona …… She’s quite right, its astonishing how poorly trained some ‘professional’ musicians are in the West.

        • Christian says:

          He got a cut in his finger, it opened and startet bleeding. What does that have do to with the general standards of Western musicians? Haha!

    • Marco Lorenzo says:

      “first violinist of the Grammy nominated St. Petersburg String”

      Having this under your name is enough for most of us to predict what kind of trash will follow.
      I agree that the article is rather pointless and IMO, people only show these kinds of pictures to illicit a “wow, he is so amazing! He is so hardcore!” kind of response from the masses, saying that anything is easy for you so it shouldn’t be a problem for others is ridiculously arrogant. Also, did you even read the article? He suggested that he may already have had a small cut. Constant friction with the strings merely opened it up. This can happen to even the most resilient players.
      My suggestion is that you should get over yourself. You are just a musician. Otherwise, with an attitude like that, your music will surely suffer as well.

    • Frank says:

      Thanks to Christian for the sensible (and obvious) conclusion. Incidentally, my main teachers early on were Russian, and I’ve been quite happy with the Yankelevich legacy.

    • Bruce says:

      So sad. If only he had a good teacher, instead of the incompetent Dorothy Delay (cough)…

    • Gregor Kitzis says:

      I remember Frank’s playing from when he lived in New York. You have never seen him play. Shut up.

      • NYViolin says:

        And playing a saw and atonal music (where no one can tell if you’re playing the right note or not) makes you some sort of musical authority??

    • Valerie Kraemer says:

      serious question
      does skateboarding while playing the violin enhance overall precision when not skateboarding? have you tried the variations while doing this? I would suggest knee pads to prevent injury. also, the violin is at risk, as variations in the pavement could unsettle your balance unexpectedly. I would say, even though it might be kind of fun, please don’t do it any more.

  • Gregor Kitzis says:

    Hi Frank. I’ve got a favorite Shostakovich Trio story, too. I was playing it in a church in summertime and just before my first entrance a mosquito landed behind my left thumb. That was how I learned that the myth that mosquitoes only bite you once was in fact a myth. I had about 80 measures of slow, quiet, legato playing before a rest and each time the mosquito bit me I winced. The cellist looked at me funny each time so I turned my hand to show him the mosquito and he started giggling, which of course made me giggle which made him giggle even worse so I looked away from him so I wouldn’t completely fall apart and the pianist saw me giggling and looking in his direction and thought we were making fun of his tempo because those 80 bars are a gradual accelerando and in rehearsal we were criticizing him for not speeding up soon enough so he started rushing, which just made things worse (and funnier). Finally I got to a rest and precisely on the next downbeat I smacked the mosquito and not only did I kill it but the echo in the church made it sound like I shot him!
    The rest of the performance was going fine and the cellist was rocking the C string stuff in the last movement until something I’ve never seen before or since happened. He broke his C string! He was a big guy but still, who breaks a cello C string???
    We stopped, he changed the string, resumed playing but magically the timing of all of this made it so when we got to the end of the piece where Shostakovich reprises the religious chords of the slow movement the church bells started slowly ringing. Not only that but the bells finished just before the last note so they ended, we paused and played the last note, the piece ended and the audience went bananas. It was quite a spectacle. Is it something about this piece?

  • Odin Rathnam says:

    Getting ready for a Korngold in Bogota Bach in 2004, I was practicing the return after the cadenza, and during one of the minor 9th glissando , sliced through all layers of my 1st and second finger calluses! Had to cancel an HSO Pops concert and spend a week on Jeffry Beigel’s regimen of super glue and tp.
    And, for the record, Frank, always liked your playing very very much!

  • Odin Rathnam says:

    Ok, my POINT. It was freezing cold and dry in HBG . Because of a lot of concerts and practice, my calluses were harder and thicker than normal and DRY AS HELL . The e string was a little past prime, oxidized and acted like a freaking cheese cutter. NOTHING TO DO WITH BAD TECHNIQUE OR TRAINING.