Vancouver pianist suffers heart failure during concerto performance, continues playing

29 April 2022, 12:59 | Updated: 12 May 2022, 09:11

Alexander Toradze was performing with the Vancouver Symphony
Alexander Toradze was performing with the Vancouver Symphony. Picture: Getty

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

Prior to the concert, the audience was told the pianist had been experiencing a shortness of breath.

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Last week, Georgian-American pianist Alexander Toradze was scheduled to perform two concertos with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra USA, based in Vancouver Washington.

However, the classical musician, who turns 70 next month, had been feeling unwell in the run up to the performance on Saturday 23 April. By the day of the concert, Toradze was struggling to walk unaided, so was accompanied onto the stage by Dr. Michael Liu, a medical doctor and board member of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

The audience had been warned in advance that although Toradze had tested negative for coronavirus, due to experiencing a shortness of breath there was a possibility the musician wouldn’t be able to perform.

However, the virtuoso pianist played through not one, but two concertos; first, Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments, followed by the main event, Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto. Toradze is recognised worldwide for his interpretation of Russian repertoire and studied at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow as a teenager.

His performances, which both took place during the first act, were met with enthusiastic applause, but unbeknownst to the audience – and at the time Toradze himself – the pianist had experienced acute heart failure while performing.

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On Sunday, the day after the performance, Dr. Liu drove Toradze to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, where doctors told the pianist what had happened on stage. Toradze was meant to be playing with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra again tonight, but is instead being kept at the medical centre until his health stabilises.

Toradze recorded this video to reassure his fans and concerned members of the orchestra.

Describing the event as a “pretty memorable concert”, Toradze seems in good spirits and sends best wishes to all the musicians and his fans.

Listen to more piano concertos on our Classic FM Hall of Fame live playlist, exclusively on Global Player