A medical emergency at the Houston Symphony

A report by Deutsche Welle, ahead of the orchestra’s European tour:

He drives the music forward with wide, sweeping gestures, cajoling and beseeching his musicians, coaxing, teasing, sometimes conspiring, seemingly trying to maintain eye contact with each of the more than 100 players simultaneously.

Then, during the fourth movement of Antonín Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony, after 30 minutes of building tension, a door suddenly opens on one side. Voices are heard, someone lies on the floor. Awash in an orchestral fortissimo, the conductor registers the apparent medical emergency and stops the performance even though it is being broadcast live on radio. A few seconds later the door closes, and he leads the concert to a furioso conclusion, as though it were the most natural thing in the world.

“I didn’t want to ignore it, but to respect the situation and then keep going from where we broke off,” Andrés Orozco-Estrada later explained to DW. “It was unexpected, of course, but that’s how life sometimes is.”

The reaction to the emergency and the explanation sum up this conductor: On top of the moment, he reacts spontaneously – and keeps his cool. To him, a work of classical music is not sacred and distant but fully rooted in the here and now….

Read on here.

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  • Something like this happened a few years ago in the Philharmonie, while Simon Rattle was conducting Beethoven’s Ninth. I recall a string player collapsing, and a member of the audience, giving aid. And, the orchestra kept playing through it all.

  • I was listening online when it happened. I was told that someone in the audience fainted. The orchestra stopped playing for about 45 seconds and then resumed. I had a friend in the orchestra. It was hardly a big deal from what I was told!! The show might be archived. If it is I will post it.

    • The show will be archived. I made the recording for the Belgian radio but cut out the silence for the re-issue…

  • Same thing happened during a concert of Cunning Little Vixen with Rattle at the Berlin Phil. Some audience member had a medical problem, right in the center of the parterre section, and there was much fuss bringing him to the back of the auditorium and lying him down, and taking care of him/her for about 30 minutes. The performance kept going throughout, but it was quite disturbing, really.

  • I have twice seen medical emergencies happening in the audience while I was in a concert. Both were quite obvious — a knot of people gathering around a patron at the back of the orchestra level, and a stretcher wheeling someone out of the balcony — but they were handled very quietly. No sound reached us: from the stage, it all appeared to happen in pantomime. The conductor didn’t stop, not out of excessive professionalism but because he never noticed any commotion.

  • At a religious service I attended where someone fainted someone left to call an ambulance which came and the EMTs took the congregant to the hospital–through it all the religious service kept on going

  • We had a situation like this in Boston in 2013 during a Mahler Third led by Daniele Gatti. The women’s chorus didn’t have a clear idea of when to sit down (the transition after the fourth movement and the early part of the fifth movement are hushed and delicate), so they stayed standing well into to the finale. A singer in the front row fainted and fell into the French horns. Gatti stopped the performance, walked up to the collapsed singer, and escorted her offstage, then returned to finish the piece.

    • I have read that it was also Mahler 3rd (in Japan), a child of the chorus vomited(quite discreetly) at the beginning of the fourth movement.The girl kept sitting during the fifth movement and the music continued till the end. Probably Mr. P. Järvi did not know what happened because there were a lot of people on the stage…

  • In these situations, with terriorism in the back of everyone’s mind, don’t be surprised that more and more orchestras/conductors in the future would chose to stop the performance to figure out the situation first, rather than carry on.

  • It was quite warm inside the hall and that was actually the second fainting Incident of the evening. A different patron fainted during Hillary Hahn’s Bach encore before intermission. As Andres explained to the orchestra today, he felt the brief pause in the Dvorak was necessary not just because of the distraction of the noise, but also out of respect to the ailing audience member, who is hopefully fully recovered by now. We agree with his decision. The concert will apparantly be rebroadcast several times… check the Klara festival website. and the article of the broken link can be found here: http://www.dw.com/en/houston-symphony-on-european-tour/a-42922915.

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