From Chicago Sun Times:
Barenboim says 'pins and needles' are fading[/b]
October 27, 2004
WYNNE DELACOMA[/b] Classical Music Critic
Daniel Barenboim entered the building last week, and everybody at Symphony Center breathed a little easier.
So, it seems, did Barenboim.
After injuring his back in a fall while vacationing in Spain with his family in early August, Barenboim was forced to cancel more than a dozen concerts in Chicago, on the West Coast and in Berlin.
Matias Tarnopolsky, director of artistic administration at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, scrambled to find substitutes for the CSO's music director. He was scheduled to open the orchestra's season with concerts Sept. 10-18, and finding substitute maestros on short notice is no easy feat in a field in which conductors and soloists plan their schedules years in advance.
Matters were further complicated when Antonio Pappano, music director of London's Royal Opera House, had to bow out of CSO commitments last weekend to fill an unexpected vacancy on the Royal Opera House's podium. Pappano's CSO program was to have included Wilhelm Furtwangler's rarely performed Piano Concerto with Barenboim as soloist.
In the end, Barenboim himself saved that particular set of days, dropping the Furtwangler concerto and serving as conductor and pianist in a program including a Mozart concerto, a Brahms symphony and Arnold Schoenberg's Symphony in Three Movements.
"It's a very long and complex piece,'' said Barenboim of the Furtwangler concerto during a break in rehearsals last week "Basically, only three conductors know it really. One is Zubin Mehta, with whom I played it in Berlin exactly 40 years ago. Another is Pappano, who learned it, and myself. On such short notice, it was impossible.''
'Pins and needles'
Barenboim was relaxed and jovial during an interview as he stretched out in a black lounge chair in his dressing room backstage at Symphony Center, and he has demonstrated no signs of distress in recent performances. Physical therapy and the passage of time have been working their magic on the herniated discs that showed up a few weeks after Barenboim fell onto a stone floor at a restaurant in Spain.
"I'm much better. I'm much better,'' he said with a broad smile as he explained how the accident occurred. "All of you tell me all the time I work too hard. So I go on vacation, and you see what happens.''
Barenboim, 61, took his fall as the legs of a chair being held for him slipped from the restaurant patio's stone floor into a patch of landscaped border. He fell on his back and left side.
"I was very lucky,'' he said. "A little further in and I would have fallen on my head.''
His symptoms were slow to surface. "At first, I didn't feel much beyond some pain and bruises. But little by little, the nerve things started, and I couldn't do much with the hand. I had pins and needles.''
Treatment included ultrasound, laser and physical therapy. Surgery was considered briefly, but rejected.
"The surgeon said absolutely not,'' said Barenboim. "He said it was the kind of a condition that gets better with the help of a doctor, or in spite of the help of a doctor, or by doing nothing. In other words, time.
"A month ago it would have been impossible for me to play piano. But now the pins and needles come much less frequently and they're much weaker. I hardly notice them.''
Barenboim stayed away from the piano entirely for two weeks after the pain started, but slowly returned to it as a form of therapy. He returned to the stage earlier this month and knew he would be ready for last Sunday's all-Bach recital at Symphony Center as well as two sets of subscriptions concerts last week and Thursday through Saturday.
"I played a recital in Madrid [earlier],'' said Barenboim, "and I felt fine. I really wanted to come to Chicago, and I felt I could do it. I don't feel uncomfortable at all. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is the best medicine, for me at least.''
It's too bad Chicago has missed a chance to hear the Furtwangler concerto. But Barenboim's recital last Sunday of Book I of Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier'' as well as this weekend's CSO concerts featuring soprano Deborah Voigt in Arnold Schoenberg's "Erwartung'' offer rarities of their own.
The Chicago Symphony and Barenboim played several Schoenberg works last season, and Barenboim is looking forward to conducting one of Schoenberg's early, lushly romantic works: the monodrama for soprano and orchestra, "Erwartung (Expectation)'' composed in 1909.
"Schoenberg of that period is at his most expressive,'' said Barenboim, "and I think that the inaccessibility of the music for so many years to the public was partly due to the fact that these pieces were really not well played. They are very complicated. They require a lot of rehearsal and familiarity with the idiom, which conductors and orchestras didn't have for so many years.''
Last February, Barenboim surprised the classical music world by announcing that he would not extend his CSO contract when it runs out at the end of the 2005-06 season. He wasn't interested, he said, in the extra fund-raising and outreach duties the CSO administration wanted him to assume.
He is vague about his plans after 2005-06 but says he wants to play more piano and perhaps write another book. (He has written two memoirs and a pair of books with his friend, Edward Said, who died in 2003). He will also continue working with the East-West Divan, a summer program that brings young Israeli and Arab musicians together for study and performances. But he jokes about his last two remaining seasons as CSO music director, a post he assumed in 1991, succeeding the legendary Georg Solti.
"When I came here,'' Barenboim said, letting out a guffaw, "Solti said to me, 'The best years for the conductor with an orchestra are the first two years and the last two years. The first years they don't know you, and the last two, they know you are leaving.' ''