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Downbeat news (updated): Franz is (not yet) on the mend

Franz Welser-Möst, who was substituted at the Vienna Opera after one act of Parsifal on Sunday, is responding well to physical therapy for a lower-back disorder and will resume conducting in Cleveland next week – or so we are authoritatively informed. UPDATE: No, he wont.  Cleveland Orchestra announced today that the back pain is too severe for him to travel (see Comments below).

Contrary to heated reports in Viennese media, the conductor did not collapse in the pit. He suffered back pain and withdrew from the opera in order to seek treatment and avoid further damage.

Franz has spoken openly to me and others about the long-term effects of a car crash in his late teens which left him the three broken vertebrae and nerve damage to two fingers in his left hand.

The accident put an end to his career as a violinist and left him with intermittent back pain and an awareness of the role chance can play in the life of a musician. With careful diary management, the injury rarely intrudes on his working life. Sunday was a rare exception. He’s bouncing back.

Franz Welser-Most being interviewed by Norman Lebrecht for

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  1. Graf Nugent says:

    So who replaced him in the pit?

    • Fabio Fabrici says:

      James Pearson, solo repetitor in Vienna State opera. Was in the house and jumped apparently in at a minutes notice at the beginning of 2nd act. Bravo indeed.

    • James Pearson, one of the repetiteurs

    • Christopher Oakmount says:

      A rehersal pianist. They rock!

  2. Gioconda says:

    After an hour Vienna State Opera´s Solokorrepetitor, James Pearson, took over – for the following performance and the last one tomorrow: Adam Fischer. BTW Kaufmann is yet cast for tomorrow´s performance…

  3. Gioconda says:

    conducting four performances (together with the Wozzeck run) within five days obviously took its roll…

  4. Not according to the Cleveland Orchestra, as of 2 p.m. Tuesday:

    Dear Colleagues,

    With deep regret, and on the advice of his physician, Franz Welser-Möst is unable to travel to Cleveland next week due to ongoing physical therapy for severe back pain. James Feddeck will conduct Cleveland Orchestra performances at Severance Hall on April 11-14; the program is unchanged.


    April 11, 12, 13, 2013 8:00 PM

    April 14, 2013 3:00 PM

    Cleveland Orchestra

    Severance Hall

    The Cleveland Orchestra
    James Feddeck, conductor
    Robert Walters, oboe d’amore
    Rebecca Nelson, soprano
    Nicholas Phan, tenor
    Stephen Powell, baritone
    Cleveland Orchestra Chorus
    and Children’s Chorus

    BACH – Concerto in A major (for oboe d’amore), BWV 1055
    ORFF – Carmina Burana

    Ana Papakhian

    Director of Communications

    The Cleveland Orchestra

  5. mhtetzel says:

    I was at the performance and FWM was substituted by the correpetitor James Pearson. He saved the night and did a great job and received great applause from the audience and also from the orchestra. The accident happened during the first interval, backstage.

  6. Back pain is excruciating and not to be under-estimated.

    FWV had to give up on playing the violin, that he still works in the industry is testament to his determination and professionalism. I am certain he would not have quit mid performance unless he really could not go on.

    I am pleased to hear he is improving, and that he has found deputies to cover for him whilst he recovers.

    • I’m not sure Adam Fischer would want to be called a deputy as he has conducted some 288 performances at the Staatsoper up to the end of last year (compared to FWM’s 161)!!!

      • In this case he is deputising for Herr Welser-Most who is in disposed hence he is his deputy. Had the contract been awarded the other way around, and it was Herr Welser-Most who was conducting at short notice, He would be the deputy.

        The description applies to the role, not the caliber or experience of the conductor doing it.

        • Michael says:

          It seems that Adam Fischer is a replacement or substitute. A deputy is clearly a subordinate or second-in-command. Unless Mr Fischer was already contracted to act as Mr Welser-Möst’s deputy, he has obviously been called in to act as his replacement or substitute. He may be deputising for him, but that does not make him a deputy!

          • I think what we have here is another UK-versus-US vocabulary misunderstanding.

            The word deputy in US usage always implies subordinate or secondary status; I take it that in the UK it refers only to substituting for someone else, with no implication of rank or status apart from being temporary.

            Norman, do I have this correct?

          • That’s a tricky one, Matthew. In general, in UK usage, it implies second in command – -deputy prime minister, deputy headmaster – even when, as in the first title, the status confers little or no power. In musical terms, a deputy – and the common verb ‘to dep’ – means stepping in at short or no notice. I hope I’ve got that right.

    • From person experience, I can confirm back pain can be horribly debilitating.

      The local Cleveland paper is also reporting that FW-M’s blood pressure was low at the time of the incident in Vienna.

      I saw him conduct Beethoven 4 in Cleveland a few months ago, and he seemed pale and out of breath. But the concert went without incident and concluded with a stunning and incredibly well controlled Scriabin Poem of Ecstacy.

      • His low blood-pressure could be attributed to the pain he was in (a noted phenominum.)

        Nausea and vomiting can be precipitated by back pain, but stating he had vomited (hypothetically speaking) would not change the cause, just describe the symptoms. (As I believe is the case here)

  7. If only FW-M could have held out till Act 3 of Parsifal. He could have then used the healing power of the production’s glow-in-the-dark Holy Spear! ===>


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