My altercation with the back doorstep
Shortly before Christmas I was woken by the sound of the bin lorry coming down our little cul-de-sac and bolted out of bed to get the bin out in time. Unfortunately it was the first day of the cold snap, and the ground was covered in ice: as a result I went flying when I stepped outside and landed with full weight on left middle finger. At first I didn't think any real damage was done because although it was pretty sore and inflamed it looked otherwise normal. As a precaution I got it X-rayed and was shocked to discover it was actually broken: a tiny flake of bone had been pulled off by one of the ligaments. As breaks go this is relatively minor, but the recuperation time is still significant. 3 months on, it is well on its way to being fully recovered, but I still have slight limitation in movement at the extremes of the range and weakness due to having been unable to use it properly over a long period. I've avoided writing about it until now because I knew I would have to cancel some concerts but wasn't sure how many, and I didn't want to needlessly alarm promoters (the truth is I was also pretty freaked out by the experience and didn't want people asking me about how serious the injury was until I knew if myself). I managed to cancel fewer concerts than I expected but what I had to cancel was really disappointing - a tour of 10 concerts with my wife around Scotland. Some of these were taken over by a couple of other pianists - Aaron Shorr and Scott Mitchell - but thankfully some were moved to this month (we're on our way to Inverness for the penultimate concert as I write). The first concerts I did after the accident were Schubert duets with Paul Lewis at the end of January, and for these I had to refinger everything to avoid the injured digit. Needless to say, this was very irritating! Since then, as luck would have the repertoire has increased in intensity gradually - Beethoven 4th concerto last month, Britten concerto a couple of weeks ago. These I was just about ready to perform when they came up, my finger gradually being able to withstand more stress. By now, the only real limitation I feel is a reluctance to play full power with it. In a month I expect I'll hardly notice there was ever a problem. The only significant obstacle left is my first performance of Rachmaninov's 1st piano concerto next Monday. The problem is not so much a question of power (the other fingers can compensate), as of simply playing the notes: due to the injury I lost several weeks practise time, and what practise I could subsequently do was at first severely restricted to stop my finger swelling up. So I feel like I'm much less prepared than I would normally be for a first performance. I'm pretty frustrated by this, but at the same time I'm grateful I can play the concert at all. And anyway, the whole experience might not be wasted: you have to suffer to play the blues... and Rachmaninov.