As the Baltimore Symphony's tour of Japan was winding down Thursday evening after its next-to-last concert in Osaka, music director David Zinman was stricken with a kidney stone and had to be flown home to Baltimore yesterday afternoon.
What kept Zinman from joining his orchestra at a late-night Thanksgiving celebration and prevented him from conducting the final concert of the tour last night in Tokyo's Suntory Hall turned into a triumph for young Daniel Hege, the orchestra's assistant conductor. The orchestra played brilliantly for the 32-year-old conductor, and the audience responded with one of the warmest ovations the BSO has received in Japan.
"It wasn't the ending we planned, but it was still a wonderful way to end a tour," said Masa Kajimoto, Japan's top concert manager and the man who has sponsored both of the BSO's trips to the Far East.
Zinman had been taken ill almost immediately after the previous night's concert in Osaka, Japan's second largest city, and, doubled over in pain, was rushed to his hotel room where he was given painkillers and attached to an IV by Dr. Elizabeth Hilleker, the orchestra's tour physician.
Zinman had been similarly stricken two years ago during a guest-conducting stint with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The intense pain forced him to abandon the podium before the completion of his program.
Treatment for kidney stones is limited to intravenous feeding to prevent dehydration, and to powerful painkillers such as morphine. When the stones eventually pass through the kidneys, relief is almost immediate, but that can take 12 hours or more. On Friday morning, Zinman was still in severe pain, and he and Dr. Hilleker decided he should be flown back home as soon as possible.
As Dr. Hilleker and members of the BSO staff made frantic arrangements for Zinman's departure, his wife, Mary Zinman, threw her arms around Hege, kissed him and wished him luck.
"Listen, my dear, David's going to be fine," she said. "All he and everyone else wishes for is that you do great."
In a job devoted to conducting all the programs orchestra musicians often regard as drudgery -- children's concerts, pops concerts, outdoor concerts -- Hege has become the most popular assistant conductor in the BSO's recent history.
The orchestra had voted unanimously to offer Hege an unscheduled rehearsal -- something he declined.
"David and the orchestra already have everything beautifully polished and together," said Hege as he and the players boarded the plane that was to take them to Tokyo. "It's me who needs to get my head together. Besides, I think it's psychologically better if we don't rehearse. Everyone will be able to play with more concentration because they won't be so worried."
That's exactly how they played.
The Prokofiev symphony was dispatched with a gossamer touch, lyrical feeling and was seasoned with high-spirited wit; Debussy's "La Mer," if not characterized by as much sensitivity and color as Zinman's, nevertheless unfolded naturally and logically; and the gunpowder romanticism of Berlioz' "Symphonie Fantastique" exploded as forcefully as it had for Zinman, even though Hege chose faster tempos.
"Dan made exactly the right choice in deciding against a rehearsal," said BSO timpanist Dennis Kain after the conclusion of the concert. "Because we didn't know exactly what to expect, we were more focused on what he wanted to do."
Added principal violist Richard Field: "Even though his performances weren't clones of Zinman's, we were able to follow him because his beat was so clear."
On a large poster in the concert hall lobby, Kajimoto reproduced, Japanese and English, a note from Zinman. In part, it read: "Daniel Hege is a very talented young conductor who will make great music for you."
Only 44 people accepted the refunds offered by the Kajimoto Concert Management.
"When the people saw Zinman-san's note, they stayed," said Kajimoto.
What they stayed to hear, Kajimoto added, was as remarkable in its own way as the tremendous performance of Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2 that concluded Zinman and the orchestra's conquest of Japan three years ago.
"The audience realized that this young man had a special rapport with this orchestra and it became involved in the performances in a way I have never before seen in Japan," Kajimoto said. "It was as if the audience merged with the orchestra in pulling for Daniel, and everyone was thrilled when he succeeded."
Pub Date: 11/29/97