Pianist plays on as spotlight crashes

Pianist plays on as spotlight crashes


norman lebrecht

January 09, 2018

We hear that Luiza Borac’s performance of the Liszt concerto at Bad Kissingen this weekend had more than its usual share of Blitz und Donner.

As the conductor pointed to the triangle section, a huge spotlight blew out with a bang.

Neither Luiza nor the National Theatre Orchestra of Prague batted an eyelid.

Review here.


  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    The show must go on. Good going, Luiza!! I have to admit, the most hilarious show stopping activity took place during a recital I was performing several years ago. Luckily, a trusted friend, Andy Gentile, was in the audience. For some reason, the dampers were not going up and down as usual, and notes were staying much longer than being played. Andy jumped toward the piano on the side, and started playing ‘whack-a-mole’ jumping around the expanse of the dampers, pushing them down as I was playing them to stop the sounds. It was a sight to see, and my family members had to walk out because the hysteria would have been too much. Somehow I kept a straight face, but I wish someone had taken a video of the show. Chopin’s Third Scherzo was quite a scene, as Andy pushed thew dampers down the cascading waves–can you picture it? yeah, stuff happens. Another time, as I started the Bach Prelude and Fugue in g minor WTC II, the middle pedal (for that low ‘G’ opening) took the right pedal (damper pedal) along for the ride. By the second measure, I heard more sound than I wanted and had to physically maneuver the locked pedals to unlock as I was playing–a la Victor Borge! The saddest part of that story is that it was the first piece heard in a major competition as I drew lot #1! Yup–this stuff can’t be made up and happens.

  • Respect says:

    Of course, Jeffrey, because this story is all about you. The Trump of pianists.

    • Bruce says:

      Here’s a story that happened to MEEEEE! ME ME ME!

      Actually it was just a concert that I was playing in, and it happened to somebody out in the auditorium, but I was pretty much the most important person there (as usual).

      We were playing some piece or other (I think it was Mahler 4, but it doesn’t matter — what’s important is that I was there), and apparently somebody up in the balcony had some kind of medical emergency. We I could see a bit of kerfuffle happening up in the balcony, and eventually a stretcher was wheeled in. The emergency techs got the person strapped onto the gurney, and proceeded to wheel them out through the WRONG DOOR, the one that doesn’t have a ramp but only stairs to the lobby. So they had to wheel the person BACK across the balcony to the right door. I don’t know if they eventually died or not.

      The entire audience was very impressed with me for keeping it together while this dramatic scenario unfolded. It’s one of the more dramatic things that has happened to me during a concert.

      One of the others was when the conductor sent his baton flying into the no-man’s-land between the violas and the trombones while I was counting rests and looking down at my hands. In fact, I was unaware of it even happening; but when I looked up again, there was the conductor, conducting… WITHOUT A BATON. Again, I called upon my years of skill and professionalism, kept my cool, and counted my remaining 16 bars of rest without letting on to the audience that anything had gone awry. Pretty impressive of me!

      • Bruce says:

        I am a very stable genius.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Congratulations! It is always nice to be a genius. And this story reminds me of the one happening in the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester where, during an extensive Mahler symphony, a man in the middle of the auditorium got up screaming incoherently (maybe it was the first time he heard a live Mahler piece). He had to be taken-away with some force while the orchestra ploughed-on through the development section.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    Sad response. It is sharing how such mishaps occur during concerts, not about any person. Sorry you read it this way. It was meant to give readers a laugh. No apology actually necessary, but just self defense for naysayers.

    • John Borstlap says:

      It was an amusing story – and indeed such things do happen. It reminds me of the sotry of the pianist who arrived too late at the podium of an open air concert in Kairo and found, on opening the piano lid, that the keyboard was missing.

      • Jeffrey Biegel says:

        That’s quite crazy, John. Hard to picture it. Curious why the piano lid wasn’t open earlier or for tuning?

        • John Borstlap says:

          There had been no time at all for tuning, or even for rehearsing: the pianist had had a delay, orchestra and conductor had been waiting for quite some time on that crowded square with an increasingly impatient audience, and while the pianist sought his way through the crowd he was spotted by the conductor who already started the Tchaikovsky piano concerto with the well-known introduction. The exhausted soloist ran to his instrument to get there in time for his entrance, sat down, opened the lid, and no keyboard – the orchestra fizzled-out upon the silence of the piano. Thinking of the majestic solo entrance, this could be called a grave disappointment for everybody concerned, including the audience.

          This is not a joke, I read this years ago in the memoirs of a pianist, telling about his young years, playing at unlikely places before his career took-off. This concert happened somewhere in the fifties, I believe.

          • Jeffrey Biegel says:

            These things happen. Human error is just that, without any ill intentions. A few years ago, a conductor mistakenly started without me, but it was understandable because he had already been on the podium from the first piece and it was dark in a venue not typical for concerts. He started over and all went well. Gotta takes these things in stride. Victor Borge did during a serious performance, and that’s how he started to do the comedy shtick.

    • Bruce says:

      Once again I am struck by the irony of this person’s having chosen the username “RESPECT.”

  • Jeffrey E. Salzberg says:

    The headline says, “crashes,” which made me think it fell to the deck, which would indicate malfeasance on the part of management and/or technical staff. From the text of the story, it appears to have burnt out (albeit catastrophically), which is difficult to predict/prevent.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    Years ago I have experienced a similar event. Likewise, the performers continued as if nothing had happened.

  • daveferre says:

    During the finals of the 2010 Chopin Competition, Yulianna Avdeeva (and eventual winner) had to deal with stage lights going on and off during her performance of the Concerto in E minor, Op. 11. Here is a link to her performance:


    Most noticeable at 13:00 and at 20:35, when the conductor points to the lights.

    Orchestra was Orkiestra Filharmonii Narodowej, conducted by Antoni Wit.

    The blinking lights took nothing away from this performance. The eventual cause was found to be a loose control cable for the computer controlled lights.