One of my favourite stories of the late Sir Neville Marriner is of the time he was told that a refugee violinist had been taken off the Academy’s train during the night and was being held by police in Salzburg while his papers were checked.
As soon as the train reached Vienna, Neville called the Musikverein, where he was booked in for sold-out concerts, and told them not a note would be heard until the missing violinist was restored to his rightful seat. Hours later, he was.
Not every conductor shows such care for musicians, especially when he also the entrepreneur and owner of the touring company. Most impresarios would replace the missing musician without a second thought.
So hats off today to André Rieu, the popular Dutch violinist, who has called off a fully-booked UK tour after one of his musicians was felled by a heart attack and taken to hospital in critical condition.
The shows could have gone on, but Rieu let humanity take precedence over entertainment values. He said: ‘Many of my orchestra members have been with me for more than 25 years. We are a family. We are deeply saddened by this tragic event and it is impossible for us to continue our tour as planned.’
Neville would have approved (and there’s no higher praise in my lexicon).