A Slipped Disc reader, Christian Baldini, reports the following account of William Bennett’s collapse in the middle of the Richard Strauss oboe concerto on Saturday night in San Francisco. The latest hospital bulletin says he is in ‘guarded condition’ after suffering a cerebral haemorrhage. The entire music community worldwide is holding its breath for news of his recovery.
Just two minutes into the performance, Bill collapsed on stage, bringing the music to a full stop. That was a moment of great tension, pure, cold silence, and fear for his condition. One audience member who was sitting in the first row jumped (literally) up onto the stage and stayed by him. She was a doctor, and after about 10 minutes he woke up and she assisted him. She was asking what his name was and it seemed like he couldn’t talk back to her. The paramedics took about 25 minutes to get there and they finally strapped him to take him to a local hospital on a gurney. He is reportedly alert, accompanied by his wife.
Further eyewitness accounts, some suggesting the paramedics arrived sooner, appear in Comments (below). we have recived the following communication from Oliver Theil, director of communications at the SF Symphony:
For the record, Bill Bennett received immediate medical attention by in-house personnel on stage following his collapse. Paramedics arrived within 6-7 minutes and immediately began attending to Mr. Bennett on stage. It did not take 25 minutes for paramedics to arrive. Mr. Bennett was transported to a local hospital within 20 minutes.
William Bennett has written previously about the concerto:
William Bennett, long time principal oboist of the San Francisco
Symphony, describes the difficulties of the piece:
One of the challenges of the Strauss Concerto is that the oboe
voice is a constant ingredient and requires an air supply that
Strauss might have imagined easily available following his
experiments with the Vienna Philharmonic and the compressed-air
hoses he recommends for his Alpine Symphony.
Strauss wrote these long phrases in the concerto with Bernhard
Samuel’s aerophone (or aerophor) in mind. This device was patented in 1912 to help wind
instrument players. A small bellows, worked by one foot, communicated by means of a tube within the
corner of the mouth of the player, leaving him free to carry on his
normal breathing process through his nose whilst his mouth is
supplied with the air required for his instrument by means of the bellows.
[Steinberg, Michael. The Concerto. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.]