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Leonard Bernstein's 1984 Chicago Tumble, November 21, 2012

Music Ramble: Leonard Bernstein's Chicago Tumble

On Tuesday, November 20, 2012 3:57:03 PM UTC-6, wrote:

> I heard about the time Leonard Bernstein came to Chicago guest-conducting an orchestra in the 1970s or '80s and tumbled off the podium in Orchestra Hall after a Brahms symphony. Not hurt, apparently.

Don, I might've been among those you'd heard from about it. It was in the early/mid '80s, and I think it was the concert that ended with Brahms 2 (a few years later, he was back in town with the VPO doing the Sibelius 5, which I loved, slow as it was at points, and he didn't fall afterwards). I was in the first row of the lower balcony for that concert, which had been terrific until he took his tumble, which was truly frightening.

Bernstein was excited, rushing to this first-chair and that first-chair, shaking hands, hugging, when all of a sudden, after taking another bow from the podium and starting to step off, BOOM, he hits the floor flat on his front. The audience, which had been standing and loudly applauding and cheering, was instantly, absolutely, hold-your-breath silent. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who wondered if he had just dropped dead, which is how it looked, as he lied motionless for a second or so. He was helped up by musicians, soon sitting on the conductor's podium, holding his chest, looking pained, which was also scary to see, before being helped up and giving a sort-of wave to the audience, which applauded somewhat gently (probably in relief that he was at least on two legs) as he was helped off the stage. By the time I got home, the news was being reported that he was fine, had simply tripped, and his chest hurt because of a medallion (possibly from Koussevitsky, I seem to recall) that he wore under his shirt, and had bruised his chest when he landed on it. So, just another Lenny adventure.

Dave Royko

(Posted to RMCR, 11/21/12)

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