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The co-existence of medicine and music is hardly new; the interplay between the two disciplines becomes ever closer as performing arts medicine is, increasingly, recognised as a medical specialty with those chronic neuro-muscular disabilities of which all professional musicians are at risk being now more readily admitted. Medicine offers therapy for musicians, in this context, while music offers therapy for those working in medicine as it lifts them away from the rockface of clinical life, with that murderous stress of clinical investigation and decision making, into another world—in which there is unity of thought and expression in the search for perfection of sound and ensemble as, under the guidance of a sympathetic conductor, an orchestra of doctors comes together to study, to rehearse and to perform. Very often they will work at the core of orchestral repertoire—Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert—as they play music which has been part of their lives, part of their growing up, music they have come over so many years to cherish, music at which they marvel as its greatness is revealed again and yet again. It offers a unity of purpose as they work at it, thereby moving them away from the awful loneliness that characterises clinical decision making and the position at the apex of treatment be it medical or surgical. Music encourages that emotional peace which allows emotional healing, a recharging of spiritual batteries for re-entering what an old London physician referred to as the battle against dirt, disease and death.
But why are so many doctors so musically gifted? There is a great Central European tradition of domestic music-making, so that children grow up with the great composers as part of the fabric of life. Those medical men who were exiled in the 1930s brought with them this tradition—they were fine players; they knew …