Arlington conductor trips on harpsichord, breaks hand

Just eight days before the start of its 12th performance season, the National Chamber Ensemble was faced with a potential disaster — the group’s concertmaster and violin soloist broke his hand.

Just eight days before the start of its 12th performance season, the National Chamber Ensemble was faced with a potential disaster — the group’s concertmaster and violin soloist broke his hand.

Leo Sushansky, who doubles as the NCE’s artistic director, suffered a “freak accident” Friday (Oct. 12), the group said. Mary Anne Ellifritz, a member of the NCE’s board, says Sushansky was rushing to answer a phone call when he made a perilous decision to avoid a disassembled harpsichord on his living room floor.

“He thought he would hop over it and make it to the phone in time,” Ellifritz wrote in an email. “He tripped on the music holder and went down… He wasn’t aware that he had gotten hurt at first, just bruised. When he went to put the hand under cold water, he saw it the fingers and hand were oddly shaped.”

And to make matters worse, Ellifritz says Sushansky subsequently learned that the call was from the front desk of his building — staff thought they’d received a package for him, but it was actually for another tenant.

“That’s quite a traumatic wrong number,” Ellifritz said.

With the ensemble’s opening concert set for Saturday (Oct. 20) at the Gunston Arts Center, the group desperately needed to find “an eleventh hour replacement” for Sushansky, and fast.

Luckily, the ensemble seems to have managed to have done just that. Another violinist with the NCE, Jorge Orozco, managed to come up with a solution to suggest to the group’s leaders; he had a friend who he thought might be up to the job.

Orozco happened to know that Dietrich Paredes (a touring conductor, violinist and the music director of the Caracas Symphony Orchestra in Venezuela) lives in D.C. and would likely be in town for the concert. After what the group described as “an urgent phone call,” Paredes agreed to fill in for Sushansky.

He’ll now lead the ensemble for the group’s “Masters of the Italian Baroque” program, which will feature work from composers including Vivaldi, Corelli, Albinoni and Pergolesi.

But that’s not to say that Sushansky will be completely sidelined due to his injury — the NCE says he’ll take over as conductor in the second half of the concert, leading the ensemble as it performs Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater.” The NCE will be joined by soprano Sharon Christman and Washington National Opera mezzo-soprano Anamer Castrello for the performance.

After its performance Saturday, the group will hold four more concerts this season. Its next performance is slated for Dec. 15 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington.

Season subscriptions to the NCE cost $145 after. General admission is $36 for adults and $18 for students. Group discounts for 10 or more are available by calling 703-685-7590. Tickets are available online.

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