This week, Juanjo Mena was too unwell to conduct Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony in Toronto and Yan-Pascal Tortelier was taken to hospital in Washington, prompting the cancellation of his first concert and jeopardising the second.
Others have cancelled recently with wrist injuries, a bacterial hand infection, repetitive strain and a wounded knee.
These are all distressing afflictions, but you have to ask whether conductors of the past would not simply have blazed ahead with one arm in a sling. After all, hands are only part of the conductor’s toolkit. Most of the work is done with eyes, lips and general bodily expression.
Nikisch and Bernstein had a party trick of conducting the orchestra, arms at their side, with eyebrow movements alone.
Mahler gave the premiere of the Resurrection with a migraine so severe it left him sobbing between movements.
Are today’s conductors made of less tough stuff?