Soloist’s nightmare in closeup: A string breaks in mid-concerto

Soloist’s nightmare in closeup: A string breaks in mid-concerto


norman lebrecht

January 11, 2016

The soloist is Maximilian Simon and this is what happened during Britten┬┤s violin concerto in Jena last Wednesday:


The recovery is so smooth, it might almost have been rehearsed.


  • Will Duffay says:

    Coolly done. (And how good that the Britten is being played more. Wonderful piece.)

    • Jaybuyer says:

      Couldn’t agree more. I’d never heard it until Joshua Bell took it up some years ago. Does much more for me than the Piano Concerto.

      • Stereo says:

        Can recommend a great recording of the Britten and Walton concertos by Ida Haendel with Bournemouth S O and Paavo Berglund

  • Simon Evnine says:

    Great footage. Thanks for posting !

  • Tom Bangbala says:

    The same thing happened to Igor Yuzefovich in Shostakovich 1st violin concerto with Singapoe Symphony and I think the changeover is even slicker! Have a look.. Try from 39 mins in ( it happens at 39.40). It’s so cool that he finishes the concerto on a different fiddle with great aplomb.

  • Peggy Sweeney says:

    I remember this happening in the early 60s when Isaac Stern was playing the Beethoven concerto with the New York Philharmonic. He too quickly switched instruments with the concertmaster who replaced the string and returned Stern’s violin at the next opportunity.

  • bratschegirl says:

    Smooth, yes, but not surprising. It’s what fiddle players are taught, from the time they start playing in orchestras, to do in that situation. The only thing that surprised me was that the concertmaster took it offstage himself instead of handing it to his assistant.

  • Brian B says:

    The very dictionary definition of savoir faire.

  • Robert says:

    One of my teachers witnessed a concert where the soloist broke a string, then exchanged his violin for the concertmaster’s, who then exchanged it for the violin of the player a stand behind him, who then exchanged it for the violin of the player a stand behind him… and so on, all the way back to the last stand.

    The last stand player fixed the string and then the whole thing was done in reverse in time for everyone to finish with the violin they started with. ­čśÇ

  • harold braun says:

    Remember Midori,her E-String breaking twice in one concert,playing Bernstein┬┤s Serenade at Central Park with the NYPO under the great man himself in 1986?First she switched quickly her violin with concertmaster Glenn Dicterow┬┤s.When his E-String broke too,a few minutes later,without batting an eyelid she took the instrument of assistant concertmaster Enrico DiCecco.,,,,Big,big hugs and kisses from Lenny afterwards!!!!

    • Stephen Owades says:

      Harold Braun, the incident you describe happened at Tanglewood in 1986, not in New York. The orchestra was the Boston Symphony, not the New York Phil, and the concertmaster whose instrument Midori borrowed was Malcolm Lowe. At that point, Lowe borrowed the violin of his stand-mate, Max Hobart. When the E-string on her borrowed fiddle broke again, she borrowed Hobart’s instrument from Lowe to finish the piece. And Bernstein knelt in front of her as a sign of respect. This is all documented on video, by the way, and it made for a front-page New York Times review headlined “Girl, 14, Conquers Tanglewood with 3 Violins.”

  • John Canarina says:

    In 1956, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Juilliard School, a Festival of American
    Music was held, which included a concert by the Juilliard Orchestra, Jean Morel conducting, with guest soloist Isaac Stern performing William Schuman’s Violin Concerto.
    (I was a member of the orchestra.) The piece begins outright with the solo violin, and in
    the second measure one of Stern’s strings broke. He instinctively leaned over to the
    concertmaster, Raphael Feinstein, to exchange violins with him, and Feinstein wouldn’t give it to him. Stern had to leave the stage and restring his violin himself.

  • Judi says:

    I saw Itzak Perlman break a string and one of the other violinists (small group) hurried backstage to find a new string and took a while to find the correct string and replace it. Perlman brilliantly joked about it and had the audience laughing until the other player returned with the repaired Stradivarias. Quite a moment!

    • Derek Wilson says:

      I am trying to find the video (film) of that incident. I saw it on TV many years ago. Have you perchance seen it?

  • Jorge Grundman says:

    They are lucky guys…Imagine the same with a piano. I was witness of a masterfully performance of Albert Guinovart in which one of the strings of the piano suddenly was broken. But Albert continue playing with the same piano…Masterfully. he is a friend of mine.

    For those who still do not know him as a composer

    A special dedication to John Borstlap. I hope he likes it