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Shocking new video: Concerto is stopped by cellphone

At a concert in Gothenburg Concert Hall on October 23, 2013, Christian Zacharias stopped playing in the middle of Haydn’s Piano Concerto, after a phone went off in the audience. The faces of the orchestral players are a study in horror, affront and incomprehension.

UPDATE: Want to know what happened next? Click here.

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Comments

  1. Top man. I wish more people would do this. The tyranny of these selfish, mobile-obsessed barstewards needs to stop.

    • Donald Wright says:

      In early July of 1987, I attended an all-Schubert sold-out piano recital in Seattle by Alfred Brendel–the first time, I believe, that he’d appeared in my then home town. In the middle of a pianissimo Andante passage, some thoughtless yokel, sounding much like an escapee from a tuberculosis ward, emitted what sounded like the most stentorian cough yet heard in the annals of recorded history. Brendel immediately withdrew his hands from the keyboard, turned to the right with lightning rapidity, and glared in the direction of the disturbance with a cockatrice-like malevolence that ought by rights to have turned the offender into stone. The audience responded with a stunned silence that seemed to continue for an eternity, but probably lasted no more than 15 seconds. One could well forgive Brendel for never again returning to that benighted, so-called Emerald City.

      P.S. Is it too late to bring back capital punishment?

      • Mr. Wright, Alfred Brendel did a similar thing during the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata, stopping and saying, “The performance will resume when the coughing ends.” I have mixed feelings about all this, but it makes for a good story.

        • i don’t know how he could even resume playing after being that distracted, he was so concentrated on his part, i would just want to give up the concert and leave.

      • Alexander Hall says:

        The great Alfred Brendel always knew how to put audiences in their place. It was reported that at the end of one movement of a recital he was giving in New York, after one bronchial tsunami after another, he turned to the audience and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not sure whether you can hear me but I can certainly hear you.”

        • According to Brendel himself, this happened in Chicago. Moreover, “for the rest of the recital, nobody stirred.” So much for coughing being involuntary.

      • Because, as we all know, coughs are voluntary and only emitted by yokels or (horrors), sick people, neither of whom have the right to listen to live music.

        • Brad Ratzlaff says:

          Sir, no disrespect intended; a single innocuous cough during a performance is one thing, but surely if an individual is sick or aware their ailment is likely to produce repetitive coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, or the need to constantly blow their nose wouldn’t ‘respect for others’ dictate that individual forego the performance or excuse them self during their duress so as not to disturb fellow patrons? Likewise, the number of times I’ve attended a restaurant or public venue that would otherwise lend itself to an air of quiet and/or solemnity only to have that peace disrupted by the whims of young children is too many to count. If you have children at an age where they’re unable to contain themselves, or if as parents you’re unable to restrain them, why would you subject everyone else to their whims? For God’s sake, take them to a place where that kind of behavior is expected. It’s simply a matter of respect for others, not to mention the artist and the art.

          • Please don’t invoke God’s name here. I’m completely certain God’s answer, to much more appalling behavior than this, was for Him to pour out His Grace on the offender. Please consider using your own name, instead of God’s the next time you take on a rant!

          • What’s the point of having a god if you can’t take his name in vain? Thats the best bit……

          • Mr Norrell says:

            Yes, because “for God’s sake” isn’t a common English expression that’s become so divorced from any religious connotation that even the non-religious would use it.

            For God’s sake, it’s just an idiom!

          • Stewart Aubel says:

            AMEN to Brad Ratzlaff’s comment. I couldn’t agree more.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            lynne says:
            October 27, 2013 at 8:10 pm

            “Please don’t invoke God’s name here. I’m completely certain God’s answer, to much more appalling behavior than this, was for Him to pour out His Grace on the offender. Please consider using your own name, instead of God’s the next time you take on a rant!”

            You are “completely certain” you know exactly what God would have done in this situation? How can you be completely certain? Are you God’s appointed spokesperson? Please don’t invoke God’s name here. Please consider using your own name, instead of God’s the next time you take on a rant!

          • Brad Ratzlaff says:

            Lynne, my apologies if my remark offended you. I certainly meant no offence.

        • Plus ushers always have cough drops on hand, but no one every asks for them. I have gone to concerts right after recovering from the flu and I just throw a few in throughout the performance. There is no excuse, and if a person is that sick, they should have stayed home.

      • Are you ok, Sir? I think you just overdosed with your thesaurus. Please seek medical attention immediately. Great comment!…….”cockatrice-like malevolence” Wow! Thanks for giving me a headache for the rest of the day.

        • I rather liked ”cockatrice-like malevolence”. Very poetic. Made me smile the rest of the day.

          • Donald Wright says:

            Thank you, Elwyna! And I swear that in the composition of my reply above–”pace” Mr. or Ms. F above, for whose headache I profoundly apologize–I didn’t avail myself of a thesaurus, or a dictionary, or the internet, or a mobile phone, or any other lexicographic tool other than the overripe vocabulary that lurks in my apparently medical-attention-needy noggin, lying in wait to spring upon the unwary–a side-effect, perhaps, of a lifetime of entirely too much reading.

  2. Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    Magnificent video and dignified commentary. Bravo Maestro Zacharias.

  3. Tiffany Hore says:

    At the Gewandhaus concert at the Barbican on Tuesday I had a girl next to me who checked her phone in between every movement. Even that, without any noise, was deeply irritating. Why is it necessary?!

    • I saw a couple next to me doing crosswords together in a CSO concert in Chicago, which is even more annoying than a cell phone ring.

    • Maybe she is awaiting a heart transplant. Otherwise, it is extremely rude.

  4. Ronald Bergan says:

    Bravo. They should confiscate phones, ipads etc at the door and then get them back after the concert, like checking a coat

    • Agree absolutely.

      • I also agree; I usually leave my mobile telephone in a coat or bag, and deposit in a cloakroom. If the cloakroom costs money (or there is none) or I am in the arena for a BBC Proms concert, my strategy is to remove the battery from my telephone about five minutes before the concert starts, leaving the battery in a trouser pocket. As the lights go down, I will pat this pocket to ensure that the battery has definitely been removed, thus considerably reducing the danger of forgetting.

    • Dennis Kuhn says:

      Good idea. But it needs more staff. And the procedure is probably not realizable.

      • It works in Japan, I know that much. You turn in your cellphone or camera and get a tag to carry with you once you exit, hand it over and they give you back your device.

        • In a culture based on etiquette I can understand this completely.
          It would be a case of honour to keep all the devices safe.

          I can’t say the same about the rest of the world.
          I’d be worried that my devices are being looked after by someone on minimum wage with only a basic security check.

    • Nick James says:

      Agreed, except for the bit about getting them back!

    • Kerem Eryilmaz says:

      absolutely terrible idea. do you have any idea of the extent of private, traceable or marketable information on personal devices? do you have any idea how easy it can be to rig such devices? and you would just leave it with strangers? would you do that with your wallets? seriously, you guys need a good lesson in data privacy. don’t ever do this. even with your devices off (you wouldn’t lend someone your debit card just because they don’t know your pin would you). i totally agree with the pianist getting pissed off and showing it, but what you are saying does not follow from the horror of cell phones on concerts.

      • Eliot McCann says:

        Then leave the damn things in the car, or at home- just DO NOT bring them no the auditorium.

    • all auditoriums should have a device that would block mobile networks

      • er, illegal in many countries, I think you will find.

      • Cell phone “jammers” have been ruled illegal in the US. However, I was working a small private event with Obama this past week and the guest were required to leave their cell phones at the entry….that would work.

    • operabunny says:

      Not really practical, I’m afraid. They should print the condition on the ticket and on signs as you go in that if you are seen our heard using a phone, tablet or other electronic device you will be ejected from the performance.

  5. Tom Emlyn Williams says:

    As I sang with the Dutch Radio Choir for most of nine years and most often in the Amsterdam Concetgebouw, there they play a ring tone quite loudly before each concert to remind people to switch off at least the sound. Yes there is an argument for signal blocking the whole of the auditorium and that would eliminate the problem that Tiffany Hore mentions above. The libertarian in me does see that that would make it impossible for someone “on call” from attending a performance where they had selected a seat from which one could quietly slip out without disrupting the enjoyment of others. What is necessary is an attitude of responsibility which appears all to often absent among so many, the word selfish comes to mind.

    • José Bergher says:

      At Carnegie Hall a ring tone sounds before the beginning of every concert and an announcement appears: “Please turn off all cell phones.”

      • They do that at the Royal Albert Hall as well, but I’ve still heard more than one going off.

      • And the attendants come round instructing people to turn them off. Still doesn’t make any difference though. Phones went off at least 3 times during Yuja Wang concert on Tuesday.

  6. I guess I’ll be the contrarian here, but why the need to make someone feel like a criminal? Just last week I was at a performance where I dutifully turned my phone off as the lights were going down. About 15 minutes into the piece my phone “buzzed” in my pocket. It had switched itself back on somehow and luckily was set to vibrate. It does happen. Have you noticed how many elderly people come to concerts? Someone is bound to forget or make a mistake in a room of 2000 people.

    If I was a new audience member or someone coming to hear a classical performance for the first time, I would be shocked at the derailing that a simple cellphone can cause. It contributes to the image of classical music as a refuge for the stuffy elite 1 percent, and we would do well to try and ease these silly restrictions that Beethoven and Mozart would have found laughable.

    With that said, of course the phone shouldn’t have gone off, and had I been in the audience, or on stage, I would have been royally pissed off, especially at such a delicate moment in the piece. But to fully stop playing deprives everyone of the exact experience that Zacharias so pretentiously lectures about. The mood was broken once by the cell phone, don’t break it again by stopping and admonishing the surely terrified and embarrassed concertgoer.

    I actually agree with the commenter above that phones and devices should be checked at the door. However it shouldn’t be as a punishment, but as a marketing tool! “Put away your phone for 2 hours…”

    • Why does it matter so much how one person feels?

    • I agree totally. Accidents happen regardless of what setting you’re in, and people should not be criminalized for something as harmless as forgetting to turn their phones off. To the harsh commenters here: have you never made a mistake or embarrassed yourself?

      It goes without saying that it’s unpleasant and disturbing, but seriously, get over it. Could a cell phone really ruin an entire concert of great music? I’m a little shocked at the extreme attitudes in these comments, and know that if I was an outsider to the classical music world, I would feel turned off (no pun intended) and disgusted.

      • Re Lutosławskian: The problem is that so many people take inadequate precautions. I have seen people, telephones in hand, take no heed of the announcement to extinguish them. If *everybody* routinely handed in their telephone or removed the battery, I might be more sympathetic to the person who, very occasionally, forgot.

      • Well, let’s see… it can. Maybe you know the first String Quartet by Smetana? I was at a concert in Aix-en-Provence where it was played as the last piece of the evening by the Jerusalem Quartet. There is that famous place in the fourth movement, where the first violin plays a high E-flat (?) which symbolizes Smetana’s tinnitus and is the most important point in the whole piece. Guess, when the mobile phone rang.

    • Right you are

    • If one is so completely unaware of the fact that they are entering into a place of respectful silence that requires turning off a phone, then clearly public shaming is not, to me, an excessive response. Do they not turn them off before entering church, the library, the movie theater, a hospital, a funeral home? Oh…..right.

      Sometimes the best and most long lasting lessons are the hardest.

      • As I said above, it’s possible that they made a mistake. If someone willingly left their phone on because they were too selfish to turn it on, then of course, public shaming is appropriate, but again, it’s likely this person made a mistake. The gentleman who derailed a performance of Mahler 9 at the New York Philharmonic had no idea that it was his phone’s alarm going off because he had just received the new phone from his work and did not know it would turn itself on.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          Cell phones don’t turn themselves on. They all have quiet settings which silence the ringer but leave alarms active (so you can, for instance, take a nap without being disturbed by calls but still be woken up by the phone). But if you power them down, they don’t come on by themselves.

          If you have a new phone and you don’t know yet how it works, them you simply power it down completely to make sure it won’t go off when you are in a concert or another “quiet please” situation. That’s what I did when I got my first iPhone – from my work place, too – and I had a rehearsal – “just” a rehearsal – in a local community orchestra – that night. I didn’t have a chance to play with it to see what it does, so I simply powered the phone down to make sure it wouldn’t go off. And guess what – I did survive for three hours without checking my messages, and I lived so I can tell that amazing story now.

          Besides, do you think the people at work who allegedly gave that guy his phone set an alarm for him that night, just to mess with him, when he didn’t have any work appointments – as he was going to a concert? Unlikely. No, I think he was just a douche who simply didn’t care. Until he got embarrassed after messing up a concert for…let me check how many seats Avery Fisher Hall has…2700 or so other people.

          • Re Michael Schaffer: Whilst I completely agree that the onus is on the telephone’s owner to be aware of its features, and that too many people are taking inadequate precautions to prevent their devices from causing disruption, I feel compelled to point out that the alarm on my telephone does have an auto power-up option, which enables it to sound even if my telephone is switched fully off. This is why I remove the battery if I bring it to a concert.

          • Michael – wrong. Many ‘phones do have an auto-power-on setting. I am a long-time Blackberry user and have two. My work one was replaced last week, and this caught me out (not in a concert or public situation, so it didn’t matter, nonetheless I wasn’t expecting the handset to power on after I had turned it off, nor to also turn itself off on a regular basis). Sure, now I know and have disabled this feature, but it took a week to deal with it.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            What phone is that? Can’t you just go in and disable/delete the alarm?

          • Michael – sure you can, but only once you know it needs to be done!

        • Susan Hochberg says:

          The man at the Mahler 9th concert made absolutely no attempt to turn his phone off – or to acknowledge that it was his in the first place. I know this because I was sitting across the aisle and just behind him and it was clear that the sounds were coming from him. There was no other possibility since he was in the first row on the aisle and everyone else around had checked to see that it wasn’t their own phone.

          • Susan, the man didn’t know it was his phone, because he did turn it off.

            It was a pre-set alarm which went off and if I recall right it was a new phone, so the man wasn’t used to the ringtone.

            And he appologized to the orchestra later on. An unfortunate event, nothing more and nothing less.

    • Sharon Ho says:

      A musician getting irritated about a cell phone going off during a performance has nothing to do with pretension or being “stuffy.” Distractions can break the focus of the performer and the mood for the audience (an audience who has paid good money to hear that performance, not to hear thoughtless peoples’ cell phones going off). There’s a very good chance that in this particular case, it was one too many times and he hit his limit, as any of us would if this kind of thoughtlessness never changes. For someone accusing others of being pretentious, you certainly have no issues being rather pretentious yourself.

      • 1: It’s not necessarily thoughtlessness. Sometimes people make mistakes, as I’m sure you have in the past.

        2. I completely agree that it’s distracting and annoying, but I also think that stopping the entire performance and making that the moment that is remembered is quite a bit more distracting then the few seconds of the phone going off.

        3. I’m a performer. I can’t count the amount of times a cell phone has gone off, someone has coughed in the quietest spot in the piece, a program has dropped to the floor, someone has unwrapped a cough drop in the slowest, most agonizing way possible. It drives me crazy on the inside, but I think as a performer, my job shouldn’t be to scold and admonish my paying audience.

        4. Leave the personal attacks out of this please.

        • I am in complete agreement with you. A professional should know how to deal with these situations. A performer is there to perform for others, not the other way around.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Completely agree. And because the performer is there to perform for others, not the other way around, when I go to a concert, I want to hear the performer, not the other audience members. I don’t go to a concert to hear their “performance”. And I am pretty sure the other audience members are also there to hear the performer, not me or my cell phone.

    • I agree with you, Bill. I am a professional violinist, but I also teach music appreciation classes at a community college in which many participants end up attending a classical music concert for the first time. My first thought upon watching this was “omg, what if that was someone’s first time at a concert, and they simply did not know these rules because they are used to going to pop music concerts? They are never going back again!” Which is super horrible given that, in my humble opinion, our job these days is to get as many new (and subsequently returning) people into the concert hall seats as possible! And okay, fine, it IS annoying when extraneous noises happen while you are performing. Also, that was a really loud ring tone, and a poor selection on the part of the owner. And yes, it would be great if people focused on the music when attending a concert. As performers, we should always be working to find a balance between our role as “defender of traditions,” and that of “gracious welcome-er to the land of really awesome music.” I don’t think that balance was demonstrated in this video.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        “I am a professional violinist, but I also teach music appreciation classes at a community college in which many participants end up attending a classical music concert for the first time.

        Then tell your college students: there is music to dance to, music to sing along and clap along with, music that is just there to doodle in the background, and there is also music that is made for listening to. So step 1 – switch of your cell phones!

        BTW, when you teach that college class, do you expect the students to actually listen to what you have to tell them, and to silence their phones or is it OK to take calls and check messages while you are teaching?

        • Thomas Wolke says:

          You are rude and your accusations are pointless.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            An “accusation” is when one claims someone has said or done something bad (“you ran over a dog”, “you insulted my grandmother”), not if someone disagrees with someone else’s opinions or even finds them silly. I haven’t “accused” anyone of anything here.

            “Rude” is when one just throws in an accusation (like “you are rude”) into a discussion from the sideline without explaining one’s point of view in any way (other than calling something “pointless”.

            So your post was just rude and pointless. And not even entertaining. I think you can do better. Would you like to try again?

    • Thank you so much for being realistic. Even as much as I appreciate fine music, there’s no reason to be so pretentious about it. Yeah, those distracting moments detract gravely, but enough with the condescending air of superficiality. Let’s be real.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      “…the image of classical music as a refuge for the stuffy elite 1 percent”

      Classical music, concert music, or whatever one may want to call it, is not a refuge for “the stuffy elite 1 percent”.
      It is a refuge for people who like to escape a world full of random and obtrusive noise, at least once in a while, and just listen. I don’t know how many percent of the population that is. But it is neither stuffy nor elite if you just want to listen to and enjoy music once in a while without being bothered by random noise.

      • I said it contributes to the negative image of classical music because the one video of classical music that everyone is watching this week is of a bunch of old guys on stage admonishing a paying audience member for forgetting to turn their phone off. Yes, it’s unbelievably annoying, but it happens, and you have to roll with it…

        I completely agree with you that classical music is not a refuge for the one percent. But that is the impression many non-musicians give me when they find out that I’m a classical musician. Videos like this don’t help.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          So what kind of video do you think would help “the image of classical music”? One in which cell phones keep going off loudly during a concert and the really cool dudes on stage don’t care and just go on playing? People who see that will then say “oh wow, I didn’t know how cool classical concerts really are – you can have your cell phone ring in the middle of it and that’s completely OK! Let’s all go to a classical concert right now!”?

          If you go to nice restaurant – or not even a particularly nice or “fancy” one, any restaurant really – and the people at the table next to you burp and fart loudly, squeeze out their pimples and pull long boogies from their noses, do you think that’s OK? Do you think it is “stuffy” and “elitist” if people prefer to eat without having to see and hear that? How about smoking? I am quite a heavy smoker, but I have no problem accepting that it bothers other people, especially when they are eating, so I don’t think it is “stuffy” and “elitist” that I can’t smoke in restaurants in many places anymore.

    • Diek Grobler says:

      Zacharias did state that it was the second time the phone went off. And I dont think Mozart and Beethoven would have found it laughable – it is the equivalent of having the town crier making an announcement in your concert, and I doubt if they would have put up with that. You clearly have not been on the other side of the footlights. It is deeply disrespectful to the artists and to the fellow audience members. And ALL theatres and concert halls remind people to switch of their phones, so the little old ladies dont really have an excuse

      • Diek, I’m a performer, so I know exactly what it’s like to have your performance interrupted by any number of distractions. But our job as professionals is to act like nothing is happening. We aren’t ushers.

        I completely agree that it is disrespectful and annoying, but short of confiscating phones, someone in a 2000 seat hall might forget, or not know how, or think they have done it.

        We shouldn’t act like going into a concert hall is like going into prison where everyone gets searched to make sure they aren’t going to cough, unwrap candy, talk, or do anything except sit down, shut up, and passively go along with what we are playing.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          “I completely agree that it is disrespectful and annoying, but short of confiscating phones, someone in a 2000 seat hall might forget, or not know how, or think they have done it.”

          Do you think there is a single member of the species homo mobilephoniensis that we all belong to now who really doesn’t know how to switch off his/her phone, when they spend most of the rest of the day playing with it?

          • I don’t spend all day playing with my phone and sometimes I forget that I even have it with me. The announcements help me to remember to check and to turn it off, but it is possible that I could think it was off when it actually wasn’t. My phone is not very user friendly since I didn’t want to pay a lot for it and I barely use it. Stop assuming that everyone is the same.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            “The announcements help me to remember to check and to turn it off, but it is possible that I could think it was off when it actually wasn’t.”

            That’s why they remind you to check if it actually is or isn’t off.

            You are right, not everyone is the same. Some people find it easy to just check if their phone is off, but for others, it’s a big drama.

          • It’s not actually drama. It’s that some of us don’t know every feature that our cell phone has because we don’t use them excessively. Like I said, I rarely use mine. I don’t know if it has any auto on features. All I know is that if I hold down the red button for a while it is supposed to turn off. Also, what if you completely forgot that your cell phone was in your bag and it had slipped down into a pocket so that when you checked, you thought it wasn’t there. My cell phone was lost for two days and it turned out that it had slipped into a weird pocket in my purse. No one called me during that time because very few people have my number. But what if I had attneded a concert during that time and some random person called my cell phone number? I would be mortified, but would you be ready to crucify me because of a stupid mistake? People are all human and sometimes they make mistakes. It’s part of life.

        • I know a cellist whose professor would sit in front of him and crinkle paper while he was playing his pieces to help him play through any distractions. Because distractions are part of life.

    • I fully agree with you and somehow question how pretentious can a performer be. Besides i guess that the public shows their respect already by paying a ticket which without doubt support us in keeping doing this humble job.No public no concert.

    • You didn’t turn your phone off. You thought you did. If you have to say ” It had switched itself back on somehow” then it wasn’t off in the first place.

      • It actually was. What probably happened is that I bumped it, or pressed it against the seat in such a way that the power was switched back on. What I’m saying is that if it possible for a 28 year old, relatively technologically capable person(myself) to make a mistake with a phone, it’s more than likely that the elderly, non-technologically capable people in the audience might have a problem too.

    • This is nothing stuffy or elitist about wanting some peace and quiet: it is a desire that unites cultures across the world, in both religious and secular contexts. If an audience member wantonly fails to take reasonable precautions to keep silent during a concert, they deserve to be ostracised, and should be discouraged/prohibited from attending further concerts until they are prepared to rectify their disrespectful attitude.

      • If your phone goes off during a concert, by complete accident, will you voluntarily prohibit yourself from attending concert?

        • In the unlikely event of my telephone going off during a concert (which would require it to somehow obtain an electric current despite having had its battery removed), I would either voluntarily prohibit myself from attending concerts, or change my habits so as to never bring my telephone onto the premises of a concert venue again.

    • I don’t see anyone else agreeing, but I want to say, “Hear! Hear!” If we want more people to enjoy classical music and we don’t want it to die off in a generation of two, then we need to shed the image of stuffy snobs who call others “yokels”. There a lot of mystery and custom surrounding this music to begin with and if you put the fear of God into people that they may unintentionally bring the attention of 2,000 people and the conductor down upon them, you make it all that much more unapproachable.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        Your link leads to a website about Catholic church stuff. I haven’t been to a church since before the advent of cell phones, so tell me, what’s it like these days during church services? Is it cool to take phone calls during services? When you go up there to take communion and your phone goes off, do you tell the priest to hold on to that wafer until you have finished your call?

        • Actually this is a real topic of conversation in the Church. What message do we send people when our first words to them are “Don’t dare do anything to disturb the rest of us.” We’re saying you’re not welcome here, your only possible contribution to the community is distraction. We prefer to be a declining remnant rather than a welcoming, hospitable community that encourages others to find out what we,re passionate about, to become passionate themselves, and to grow our community for the future. I know priests who would think it a great compliment for people to pull out their phones and tweet something said in their homily.

        • So are people actually brazenly taking calls during the concerts or did they accidentally leave the phone on and it starts ringing? I’m pretty sure that a priest is not going to stop the service if a phone accidentally goes off.

    • Incidentally, if you took a comprehensive survey of musicians that are part of the 1%, I’m sure you’d find the majority of these are rock-pop musicians. Further, examining the closed door practices of ASCAP, et al, we find large amounts of royalty money being funneled away from middle class, instrumental composers and being given to pop song writers who corruptly control these societies.

  7. Maria Robertson says:

    Bravo!! Well done by this fine pianist Zacharias to stop,and be silent- and really make a point about the tyranny of these cellphones- and the disrespect by the owner of the cellphone at the concert= to not turn it off during this concert- and this new sound-and cellphone-culture we´re facing as musicians and for people in general today, also as audience. Zacharias is right to the point when he explains and calls for a focus on one thing: listening to the music performed in the here and now- and thus be present both as an audience as well as the orchestra and soloist performing.Is it too much to ask?

  8. Alexander Hall says:

    I can only echo all the previous sentiments. I have lost track of the number of people in London concert-halls who believe that nothing is more important than looking at the latest email during a concert or the utter morons who refuse to switch off their infernal devices once they are inside the auditorium. If smokers can be prevented from drawing on their cancer sticks for the duration of a long-haul flight, why can’t concert-goers be stopped from using their mobile phones for much less time? There should be on-the-spot fines, in the same way that traffic police are empowered to levy such charges when infringements of the law take place. I’m tired of having my pleasure spoilt by people who should know better.

  9. WHAT A DONKEY!!! (the phone owner obviously) Nothing more to say

  10. An eloquent testament :-)

  11. In these days when we seem to have to organise our lives around the most stupid and selfish in society, ALL concert halls should have huge “PLEASE SWITCH OF MOBILE PHONES” notices on the stage before the artists come in. Those who offend should be dragged out, soundly beaten and banned from ever attending a live concert again. Just sayin’.

    • Derek Castle says:

      The Wigmore Hall stage has a big board with a crossed-out mobile phone on it. Before a recent song recital, the manager reminded us about noisy programme page-turning and finished by saying, “And if you want to cough, please do so now! “

      • I will say that the Indianapolis Symphony (at the Hilbert Circle Theater, Monument Circle, Indianapolis) provides cough drops at little stations throughout the upper and lower lobbies for those who, due to the difficult Indiana winter months, have contracted a cold with never-ending cough!

  12. Derek Castle says:

    This year’s NYO BBC Prom was a free concert. I sat next to three girls who played with their mobiles the whole time. I bit my lip through the first half, but when the scrolling and comparing continued throughout Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, I had to lean across and say how glad I was that ‘they were so moved’ by the Beethoven. Water off a duck’s back! So many young people get withdrawal symptoms if they are separated from their devices for any length of time. You’re not even noise-free in the Quiet Zone on trains. People with plugs in their ears don’t seem to realize that the infuriating, tinny ‘tsish-tsishing’ emitting from their ‘players’ drives people like me round the bend.

    • cunningfox says:

      That’s the NYO for you: each family contains only one musician, but all his relatives, who couldn’t give a toss about music, still get dragged to all of his or her concerts. Avoid NYO gigs if you want good audience behaviour – this is something I learned the hard way a long time ago.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      You are not alone in bemoaning the lack of consideration we have all allowed to develop in recent decades. I once had two young people in front of me at the Royal Festival Hall canoodling and kissing their way through an entire concert – I still find it amazing that something stopped me hitting both their heads with my concert programme – and on a recent trip to Manchester with Virgin Trains had a mother and her six(?) year-old daughter sitting behind me in the Quiet Coach. The child had one temper tantrum after another, bawling and screaming her head off and the mother did little or nothing to stop the din. When I got up to remonstrate with the mother, a handful of middle-aged women turned on me: “She’s only a child!” “Show some consideration!”

  13. Agree with much of the commentary here about the hideousness of the phones. A big But — my wife and I have three children at home. We have a sitter who has our cell phone for emergencies. We do turn our phones off, because one can check during intermissions. A properly made phone, though, should have a silent vibration feature. Would anyone hear that?

    This reminds me of another interruption which showed off great musicianship. I once heard Rostropovich conducting the National Symphony in a cello concerto. In the middle of a fast, forte passage the soloist’s cello suffered a snapped string. The orchestra stopped on a dime. It was like hitting a pause button. After the repair, the orchestra restarted as one full volume and full speed ahead. It was quite thrilling.

    • I’ll note that people with children at home were able to attend concerts long before there were cell phones to connect them with their babysitters.

      • So are you saying that because we once did not have cell phones and people were able to function, we should not have them now? Because that is like saying that people used to get to the hospital just fine without ambulances, so why should we need them now.

        Parents who are leaving young children at home with a babysitter would be absolutely foolish to not carry a cell phone. No, it should not make noise, but yes it they should absolutely be utilized by parents attending a concert. Please use common sense.

        • Common sense tells me that either you trust the babysitter that (s)he will take the appropriate decisions in the unlikely case of an emergency or you don’t. In the latter case, you shouldn’t leave your kids alone with him or her.

          Check your phone for messages during the intermission, call the babysitter when the concert is over. That should really be enough.

          • That is exactly what the original poster said. But that still means that there is a cell phone in the vicinity for good reason and since people are human, and parents of young children are often tired and sleep deprived, it means that human error could occur and someone could forget tot turn it back off, or they could think it was off or on silent when it actually was not. This type of thing happens in every day life all of the time. Mistakes happen.

  14. Reggie Benstein says:

    Phones are a major problem, but so is the loud coughing, fidgeting, flipping pages of the programme, dropping the programme (or something else), whispering, even talking out loud… and on.
    Mr Zacharias says it perfectly: concert going is one opportunity to completely focus and the music (and performers) deserve that respect at the very least.

    Is this too much to ask ??

    • Yes it is – at least very often, because for many performers it is just a job they do. They get their money anyway, no matter if they play great or superb or fantastic or sublime or whatever the reviews by the ones who get free tickets will say.

      • Mr Norrell says:

        For performers at that level, it’s never “just a job they do.”

        • It is. I have been to performances where you could feel the soloist was more worried about catching the plane home, than creating special moments. Like me on days where I just wanna go to the office and get out as quickly as possible to take care of my private life (i.e. attending a concert.. haha)

  15. Bob Burns says:

    There’s just no excuse for not turning a phone off at a concert.

  16. Perhaps this is the elegant way to respond… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uub0z8wJfhU

  17. James Brinton says:

    As for the three female phone addicts mentioned above, they should simply be ejected from the hall. There’s little hope for them, and less for the people forced to sit near them.
    For those with anxiety about outside issues, all phones have a silent/vibrate setting. Use this, then leave the hall at intermission to take calls or check texts.
    This is just common courtesy.

  18. So, when you put the ticket stub in your pocket for safekeeping; turn off the phone, or put on “silent” so you do not disturb others. With the cost of symphony tickets, and as one can discern from the talk here, there is a disgust with the lack of civility in the culture. Please do not be a boor!

  19. theotherside says:

    Yes the phone should have been off, but consider that a good proportion of the audience will have: discovered the concert and it’s performance dates, shared the details with friends and coordinated attendance, purchased tickets and navigated their way to the venue, then finally shared the experience across their social network (possibly contributed a review or even commented on this page) …all from just such a phone that so objectionally interrupted proceedings. The reaction whilst understandable, was perhaps a little over-the-top considering how much mobile technology supports the orchestral economy.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      That’s a very good point. Orchestral concerts did not exist before the advent of cell phones. It was next to impossible to get the dozens of musicians required together in the same place at the same time for rehearsals and concerts because they didn’t have cell phones, so they couldn’t text each other about the when and where and all that. And in the few cases in which they actually managed to put on an orchestral concert, nobody showed up to listen to it. Because without cell phones and internet, how could anybody know the concert was going on?
      Luckily things have changed now.

      • It was also possible to organise a moon landing without all this amazing technology. We haven’t quite stretched that far since.

        • One begins to wonder, if that was also possible *because* all that electronic distraction didn’t exist. The effects of the always online *smart*phone – misnomer, they are dumb phones because they make people dumb rather than smart – on the human mind do already show it’s effect in all walks of life. Language proficiency suffers, communication suffers, intellectual level suffers…

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            That’s a very fashionable thing to say, but I don’t think that is the case. People have always been dumb, people have always been smart, people have always used whatever information or entertainment technology was available to them for dumb purposes or smart purposes. It depends on the people, not the technology.

            It’s also very fashionable to say that the internet causes information overload but I think that isn’t the case either. People have always had access to more information than thy could process. It has always been up to the person to filter and seek out the information he/she really needs (or not). Before we had the internet, we already had vast libraries. Going online is no different from walking into a big library or book store. Whether you seek and find specific information you need or whether you just waste time thumbing through magazines (which isn’t always a waste of time, of course, random information can be very valuable, too) is entirely up to you.

          • We went from cutting edge to bleeding edge without blinking.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          timonwapenaar says:
          October 27, 2013 at 11:45 am

          “It was also possible to organise a moon landing without all this amazing technology. We haven’t quite stretched that far since.”

          I guess that’s why they had to fake the moon landing in a TV studio. It was a great idea, but they just had to realize that without cell phones, they simply couldn’t do it.

      • But it’s rather unlucky how the snobbish organizations don’t adapt to today’s life. Unlike many orchestras, other performers use Social Media to draw attention. It’s a shame how few orchestras i.e. in Switzerland even bother to use Twitter.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          What!?!?!?!

          Not all orchestras in Switzerland use Twitter? I am shocked! Amazed! And deeply saddened! If I happen to be in Switzerland and I want to go to an orchestral concert, *how on earth* am I supposed to find out if there are any going on *without Twitter*!?!

          • Seriously have you just taken the time out of your day to belittle everyone who has a different opinion than you? All the man above you said that they should use twitter and social media as a way to promote their music. If classical music does not adopt to how the music industry works now it will die out just like someone on here already said. If there is a mistake made and a cell phone goes off, don’t stop your performance to embarrass someone. Just makes you look very full of yourself

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            This is even more shocking news. Classical music has survived for a long time, in some cases for centuries, through political and cultural revolutions, social turmoil, world wars – but now this great cultural tradition is finally coming to an end because not every orchestra uses Twitter…
            Tell me honestly: is there any hope left or is classical music already on the brink of extinction? I don’t have a Twitter account either, so I guess it is partially my fault. How can I live with that shame for the rest of my life!?!

          • Wow, what an answer. Actually orchestras could reach a younger audience by using social media. Maybe have corners in the concert halls for specators intending to use Twitter. Maybe they could even use Twitter to guide the audience through a performance.

            With a bit of openness you could see the potential instead of trying to, as Brian say trying (you didn’t succeed I’m no smaller) to belittle a commenter who disagrees with you.

        • @Blake, above – Michael Schaffer wouldn’t have to belittle the counterarguments if they all weren’t so risible.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            It looks to me like Blake and his friends failed to grasp the – involuntary – irony of his comments:
            He complains that I don’t respect his or Martin’s opinions, but he himself thinks that “…if there is a mistake made and a cell phone goes off, don’t stop your performance to embarrass someone. Just makes you look very full of yourself”.
            So he doesn’t show any respect himself for Zacharias’ opinion, and calls him “very full of himself”. And then he whines about not being taken seriously. Risible indeed.

          • @Michael: It’s a big difference between disagreeing and the way you phrase your phrase your responses. I have no problem at all with discussion, diagreeing, counter argumenting and trying to explain why a commenter is wrong, but intending to make your counterpart look stupid is not very stylish.

            And btw, I completely agree that a performance is paused when a cell phone rings. The caller would not hear a word the receiver is saying, if the orchestra would play a tutti.

            Of course the last senstence is a joke. Rather the perfomance should be paused to give the players a chance to refocus. I have no problem with that. But the way some people react to a beeping cell phone seems to be way over the top.

            The ringing of a cell phone will occur now and then. Under the current circumstances (i.e. it is allowed to bring cell phones into the halls) it is unrealistic to expect all concerts, all year to go without an interruption. It’s unfortunate and even more so when it happens during a Mahler 9 or the above Haydn concerto. I understand the frustration, but feel there are better ways to deal with it than being annoyed.

            I used to be pretty annoyed by all kinds of noises until I started sitting behind someone who really gets totally pissed off by even the slightest bit of noise. After a few concerts I realized, that focussing on the orchestra instead of non-score-noises will contribute to me having an enjoyable evening.

  20. I wonder what would be the reaction to a cell phone ringing during the few silent moments of a free throw during a Lakers game . . .

  21. Then there was the 2005 Seattle Symphony performance when cellist Lynn Harrell’s OWN cell phone went off during “Don Quixote.”

    • Absolutely true, I was there for Harrell’s solo-duet performance on cello and cell phone. Always wondered who would be calling him at that time! Surely you’d have to know he would be performing at 8:30 on a Saturday night. But I have had a lot more empathy for those who forget to turn off their devices and less tolerance for performers who break due to annoyance ever since.

  22. Alan Penner says:

    When I was studying as a kid my teacher held ‘performance practice’ sessions for his students twice a month. We’d meet in the music school’s auditorium and play the pieces on stage in front of the other students, while our teacher would walk around the auditorium slamming seats, opening and closing windows, and talking loudly to others in the back. We caught HELL if we messed up because of the distractions. “Focus!” he’d say. “Unless you’re on fire, you never stop!”

  23. I wrote a piece several years ago to comment on this new reality – it’s called “Concerto for Cell Phone”
    Click the middle video on the bottom to see its premiere (hence what the conductor says at the beginning)
    http://www.stephensonmusic.com/videos/jms_web_files/videos.htm

  24. Vaquero357 says:

    Coughing – Two points from a concertgoer who’s lived in the U.S. Midwest all his life:

    1. Seriously, if you’re dying of croup, should you really be going to a concert? Even if you forget about peppering other innocent audience members with your germs (just like the possibly inconsiderate person who gave it to you in the first place), can you really enjoy the concert while your coughing up a lung?

    2. If you are seized by a random strong need to cough, is it too much to at least stifle it as much as possible in the crook of your elbow?

  25. Sue Lesser says:

    At a Seattle Symphony Orchestra concert, several years ago, the phone of one of the Bass players went off during a performance. Understandably, he was quite embarrassed, also, never seen again on that stage. Sometimes it is just a mistake, and not selfishness or rudeness.

    • My sister just told me one of their players phones went off during their concert last weekend. It seems like orchestras need more locker rooms :-)

      • They certainly need more lockers in the UK, or a greater willingness to use them. I wish players would leave their handbags off-stage (and instrument cases out of opera pits).

  26. Brilliant!

  27. Wayne A. Benjamin says:

    The all time best comment I’v heard in response to a cell phone ringing in a concert happened at Ravinia here in Highland Park, Illinois. The performing cellist stopped playing and said to the offender, “Please get their number and tell them I’m a little busy right now but I promise to call back right after the last note. ” There followed thunderous applause.

    • That’s a good way to deal with it. Rather than making the offender and everyone else feel miserable, such a reaction contributes to a geat night out. As long as there are no rules in place that disallow cell phones in the venues, there will be phones going off now and then. You can only disallow them in the halls though if you have enough secure lockers in place.

      Some venues are located strangely, so it doesn’t even allow some audience members to collect their coats after a concert without rushing out to be among the firsts to get to the cloakroom. If under such a time pressure to catch the last possible public transport connection, I take my coat into the hall – including all the tech stuff to avoid having to think about running out after the last note has been played. I judge the risk of my phone going off during a concert to be much lower (because I tend to turn it on silent well in advance) than the risk that I’d miss a train, because I can’t get my coat back in time.

  28. The Mass or other occasions that require a measure of solemnity and reverence ought to have a signal killer located nearby. Without them an ass will thoughtlessly leave his device un-silenced and will ruin the event for everyone.

    • A signal killer won’t stop alarm clocks to go off.

      And I hope for the offender that their phone goes off suring a mass preaching forgiveness and not one where the eye-for-an-eye of the 1st testament gets preached.

  29. Ho, come on! it happens.
    You walk in, you mean to turn it off and then the usher asks you something and your partner sees your friends sitting next to you and you think you did it and you sit and get excited on your special night out and you forget- it happens. I think he was super great for stopping, and a good point to put across, but the poor person does not deserve hate or condescending comments – be honest it could have been any of us.
    As for the guy who was complaining about someone checking their phone during intervals- well some people probably have kids who they left home with their babysitter and need to check up on things. The point is, some people’s whole life is music, and that is awesome and brilliant but most of the audience has other things going on as well, and sometimes shit happens. I promise you one thing, that person did not mean to leave their phone on! So no name calling is really justified.

    • I was on call for years and was forced to check my phone regularly. Without these business interruptions I enjoy concert-going much more. When I’m actually even able to “switch off” from my day-to-day life at least an hour before the concert starts, I have an even better night.

      But I agree it should be none of our business what someone else does on their seat. If they wanna check their phones, they shall do so. As long as they avoid noises. If they drop the phone though I might be so irritated that my elbow flies in shock and a self-defence reflex.

  30. Bill, you’re on the right track.

    I think you all have to slowly realise that things just aren’t the way they used to be. That is to say, there ARE mobile phones today. There weren’t 50 years ago. Besides, have you ever imagined how it would have been attending the premiere of this particular concerto?? People would be eating! Drinking! Gossiping! If you were lucky, as a performer, one or two people in the audience would like what they heard, and yell “da capo!”, and you would get to play the whole thing again, whilst everyone else ate, drank, and gossiped some more!

    It wasn’t until our most beloved anti-semite, Richard Wagner, decided that music was “more” than entertainment – music was “Kunst” – that he demanded people would sit still, not move, or breathe during a performance. And he didn’t even mean that so seriously: when asking that his first act of Parsifal would not receive the usual applause, he literally got what he wanted. No one dared to clap after it. Wagner was devastated! He was convinced no one liked it! He even went into the wings at the second performance, to try to start a post-act applause, but got hushed by his greatest fans!

    So, people: chill out. Take some magnesium. Get a relaxing massage. And then go enjoy music. We should bloody well be happy enough that concerts even still exist. By demanding the heads of other concertgoers over something as – in our day – trivial as a mobile phone, you’re literally cancelling your own subscriptions.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      “People would be eating! Drinking! Gossiping! If you were lucky, as a performer, one or two people in the audience would like what they heard, and yell “da capo!”, and you would get to play the whole thing again, whilst everyone else ate, drank, and gossiped some more!”

      Concert and opera audiences in Haydn’s time didn’t always eat, drink, gossip during performances. That’s just a silly cliché. Besides, what does it matter what people did back then? When you are sick, do you get into a horse drawn carriage, drive to the next barber shop, and get a good bleeding?

      • The question is what the paying audience of today wants, not what might or might not have been in the past.

        I prefer if people spending the evening tweeting, facebooking or even candycrushsagaing sitting beside me at a classical music concert, than them doing that at home. Because they are contributing to a financial success (or less of a desaster) for the performers. Everybody who pays for a ticket helps the others to keep the ticket prices down, to lessen the chance a community looses an orchestra.

  31. This response actually rather upsets me . I agree with the comment above that this admonition of what was probably an honest mistake contributes to the bad reputation of classical music as being elitist and solipsistic. As the commenter pointed out, any pre-Romantic composer would have laughed at this overreaction, pale by comparison to the disruptions they had to endure. A graceful professional would have tried his best to continue and not worsen the humiliation of a concert-goer sure to already feel mortified.
    Judging by the archaic ringtone, it was probably an elderly person who absent-mindedly forgot to turn their mobile off. Sometimes mobile phones switch themselves back on in your pocket by accident. It could have been an emergency, a babysitter calling a parent, a tragic accident- who knows?
    All sorts of things within the spectrum of human and technological error can disrupt concerts. That’s part and parcel of playing to a conscious, responsive audience. The concept of not being allowed to cough during a performance is also ludicrous. The snotty pianist should play in his living room for his teddy-bears if he wants an inanimate audience.
    We forget that the concept of a recital, and indeed an ‘audience’ at all is a relatively new one in the scope of human history. Music was originally intended to be interactive with no clear distinction between audience and performer. Time to stop bitching and keep up with the times, and the people living within them.

    • Bravo. Well said.

    • Derek Castle says:

      Laura, “time to stop bitching and keep up with the times, and the people living within them”. Heaven help us! Do we have to passively accept the tyranny of noise in our society – booming ‘music’ on beaches, in parks, in private gardens? So many people, and I’m afraid usually young people, are inconsiderate – not intentionally, but because they know no better, parental guidance being virtually nil. I travel regularly on buses and trains where it is the norm to put your dirty feet up on the seat opposite, have your ‘device’ on so that fellow-travellers have to endure the irritating noises emitting from it, throw your rubbish (including leaking drinks cans) on the floor. I don’t care whether the ringing phone in the Zacharias concert belonged to some forgetful old dear or a selfish 30-year-old, it ruined the music and the pianist was quite right to wait until it was switched off. It certainly isn’t all young people who are to blame (we get very few of those in concerts, anyway), there are plenty of old concert-goers who never think of stifling their full-throated coughs, who rustle programmes, sweet papers, have a chat with their partners, etc, etc.
      I shall be sad when the time comes for me to stop attending concerts, but that day is getting ever nearer if totally insensitive people determine concert-going manners. Sartre’s dictum “l’enfer, c’est les autres”, even if meant otherwise, seems to be coming more and more true.

      • Derek, while I sympathise with your fear of creeping deafness and gradual insanity a cause de the loud and frightful modern age, I also take great pleasure in telling you that I am 27 years old, a professional musician, and alumnus of the Royal College of Music in London.

        As such, I can say with certainty that your assumptions that all young people are uncouth louts is myopic and unfair. As a young person forging a career in art music myself, I will say that the outdated and inflexible attitudes of older concert-goers are often very off-putting for newcomers to the world of Classical music, and are doing more harm than good to our art. Certainly more harm than the odd mobile phone ringtone does to +-120 minute-long performance.
        I would not for one minute advocate intentional rudeness, noise or lack of consideration at a concert, but I would strongly encourage you to try and adopt a more Zen approach to the behaviours of your fellow man and to realise that to err is human. Given that this audience member respected the performer enough to pay an absurd amount for a concert ticket, make the necessary arrangements at home, and travel out to attend said concert, I would warrant a guess that this was not an intentional disruption.
        I take issue with the way Mr Zacharias poke to the audience member. Perhaps stopping was necessary to regain his concentration, but he had barely played a bar alongside the offending noise before ceasing to continue, and loudly chiding the sheepish offender.
        I have played orchestrally under Ashkenazy, Mason, Maazel, Haitink and others, in addition to many a solo recital, including premieres of my own works, and can tell you that I have never once experienced a performer of their caliber admonishing an audience member.
        That’s what ushers and front of house staff are for. It’s like an actor breaking the fourth wall, it just shows lack of class, lack ok of grace, and lack of appreciation for your audience. It’s obvious the blunder was just that, why hammer the final nail into the coffin of your performance by drawing even more attention to the distraction.

        As for the comments posted here (which are worrying to say the least) there are always the ‘white knights’ who try and laud their cultural superiority over others and deem anyone with differing experiences or knowledge of expect social customs a ‘pleb’. Those that feel that they need to defend the arts from these philistines who try and climb the ivory tower and make a bloody big racket on the way up. Well- we don’t need you.
        What we need is more people who are open to new experiences, open to creativity, open to collaboration, open to change and open to humanity, tolerance and freedom of expression. When people start valuing other human beings and the different positive contributions they can make to one another, the arts will begin to be valued more highly and take higher priority in our society’s hierarchical values.
        If you truly think hell is other people perhaps you should stay home and listen to a cd.

        • Derek Castle says:

          Laura, if you re-read what I wrote, I do not assume that all young peoplè are uncouth louts. I simply use the evidence of my ears and eyes to come to certain conclusions about the state of our society (see Panorama tonight, BBC1, “Our Dirty Nation”). You may be surprised to hear that I support our youth orchestras and am constantly encouraging the powers that be at Town Hall/Symphony Hall to find ways to get more young people to come to concerts. I think it’s too simplistic to argue that they are put off by the ‘stuffy attitudes’ of older people. A lot depends on the music teachers at individual schools; it’s a breath of fresh air to see a few enthusiastic students at concerts (£5 a ticket!) among us, the vast faithful grey audience of ‘wrinklies’. But if we all stay at home with a cup of cocoa, listening to CDs (which, as I indicated, is becoming more tempting for the reasons aired by many posters here), what is going to happen to your profession, and to ‘classical’ music in general? I do try to understand and value my fellow human-beings – I just wish a certain minority of them would do the same for me! (and yes, I am touched by the number of people, usually women, who jump up to offer me their seat on the Tube – and I will have a look at Zen, whatever that is).
          Perhaps Mr Zacharias went too far in chiding the phone’s owner, but who knows how frustrated he was? How much extraneous noise do you find acceptable at one of your concerts?

          • Derek, thank you for your respectful and balanced response. I realise you didn’t state that all young people are uncouth, I’m sorry to have jumped the gun there. I do feel that bringing age into the equation is unnecessary though. Advanced age doesn’t pre-suppose courtesy and class.
            I’m sorry you’ve had negative experiences but try looking for the positive ones, like those kind people who offer you seats on the tube.
            Well done on supporting youth orchestras and the cause of getting a younger audience into concert seats. I would wish for you to try and enjoy life more!

      • Derek, while I sympathise with your fear of creeping deafness and gradual insanity a cause de the loud and frightful modern age, I also take great pleasure in telling you that I am 27 years old, a professional musician, and alumnus of the Royal College of Music in London.

        As such, I can say with certainty that your assumptions that all young people are uncouth louts is myopic and unfair. As a young person forging a career in art music myself, I will say that the outdated and inflexible attitudes of older concert-goers are often very off-putting for newcomers to the world of Classical music, and are doing more harm than good to our art. Certainly more harm than the odd mobile phone ringtone does to +-120 minute-long performance.
        I would not for one minute advocate intentional rudeness, noise or lack of consideration at a concert, but I would strongly encourage you to try and adopt a more Zen approach to the behaviours of your fellow man and to realise that to err is human. Given that this audience member respected the performer enough to pay an absurd amount for a concert ticket, make the necessary arrangements at home, and travel out to attend said concert, I would hazard a guess that this was not an intentional disruption.
        I take issue with the way Mr Zacharias spoke to the audience member. Perhaps stopping was necessary to regain his concentration, but he had barely played a bar alongside the offending noise before choosing not to continue, and loudly chiding the sheepish offender.
        I have played orchestrally under Ashkenazy, Mason, Maazel, Haitink and others, in addition to many a solo recital, including premieres of my own works, and can tell you that I have never once experienced a performer of their caliber admonishing an audience member.
        That’s what ushers and front of house staff are for. It’s like an actor breaking the fourth wall, it just shows lack of class, lack ok of grace, and lack of appreciation for your audience. It’s obvious the blunder was just that, why hammer the final nail into the coffin of your performance by drawing even more attention to the distraction.

        As for the comments posted here (which are worrying to say the least) there are always the ‘white knights’ who try and laud their cultural superiority over others and deem anyone with differing experience of expected social customs a ‘pleb’. Those that feel that they need to defend the arts from these philistines who try and climb the ivory tower and make a bloody big racket on the way up. Well- we don’t need you.
        What we need is more people who are open to new experiences; open to creativity; open to collaboration; open to change and open to humanity, tolerance and freedom of expression. When people start valuing other human beings and the different positive contributions they can make to one another’s lives, the arts will begin to be valued more highly and take higher priority in our society’s hierarchical values.
        If you truly think hell is other people perhaps you should stay home and listen to a cd.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          Laura S says:
          October 27, 2013 at 9:25 pm

          “As for the comments posted here (which are worrying to say the least) there are always the ‘white knights’ who try and laud their cultural superiority over others and deem anyone with differing experience of expected social customs a ‘pleb’. Those that feel that they need to defend the arts from these philistines who try and climb the ivory tower and make a bloody big racket on the way up. Well- we don’t need you.
          What we need is more people who are open to new experiences; open to creativity; open to collaboration; open to change and open to humanity, tolerance and freedom of expression. When people start valuing other human beings and the different positive contributions they can make to one another’s lives, the arts will begin to be valued more highly and take higher priority in our society’s hierarchical values.”

          So…uh…cell phones going off in the middle of a concert is your idea of “new experiences; creativity; collaboration; change and humanity, tolerance and freedom of expression”…?

          And people who simply want to listen to a concert without cell phones going off are “… ‘white knights’ who try and laud their cultural superiority over others and deem anyone with differing experience of expected social customs a ‘pleb’…”?

          Do you think we could maybe be a little less dramatic and pretentious here? Nobody is trying to suppress cultural progress and individual freedom of expression when they ask “can you switch your phone off, please”.

          • Donald Wright says:

            Bravo, Michael S. Miss Laura S. also apparently failed to notice the unintended irony in her denunciation of those who attempt to “laud their cultural superiority over others” after having breathlessly told us–starting in her first paragraph no less–of her status as “a professional musician, and alumnus of the Royal College of Music in London,” and of her having “played orchestrally under Ashkenazy, Mason, Maazel, Haitink, and others.”

            And she failed to notice the irony in that after having denounced in one broad stroke “outdated and inflexible attitudes of older concert-goers,” and denounced Zacharias’s “lack of class, lack ok [sic] of grace,” and proclaimed on behalf apparently of all the young about those older concert goers who object to cell phones going off in midconcert “Well- we don’t need you,” she then proceeded to proclaim that “What we need is more people who are open to tolerance and freedom of expression.” Apparently that tolerance and freedom of expression does not extend either to Zacharias, nor to older concert goers.

            If tolerance for cell-phone noise during concerts is somehow a more “Zen approach,” and if she doesn’t welcome older concert-goers, one wonders whether Miss Laura might welcome a group “cell-phone ring-off” to occur during her next “solo recital,” attended of course only by the technologically well-equipped members of her generation.

            Ah, the self-importance of the young.

          • Derek Castle says:

            I think it reflects the “Me, me, me!” society, so wonderfully parodied in ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ years ago (to be balanced, of course, against those admirable young people who give up their time to do charitable work, help in the community, etc.)

          • To Michael S: What selective editing of my comment. An utter strawman rebuttal.

            1. The only reason I mentioned my ‘status’ as you call it (although I regard it as merely my job) and my work with professionals of that calibre (blessed as I feel to have such an opportunity), was to illustrate what, in my experience, constitutes professionalism on the part of a performer and what is expected of us on stage. I also wanted to make it known that most performers I have worked with are not as intolerant of human error as some concert-goers appear to be (and indeed some of the internet warriors getting uptight on forums such as this).

            I was also responding to criticism of the number of young people who are apparently “good for nothings” and was trying to defend the fact that there are many young people who work very hard in their respective professions, and many keeping the arts alive from within. That those with no parental guidance, or no respect for others are not as numerous as one might think. I realise that Derek did say “Not all young people” but I still felt it was an inappropriate time to bring issues of age into the equation. Age doesn’t pre-suppose manners or consideration.

            Additionally, you don’t think “l’enfer, c’est les autres” illustrates a “me me me” attitude? I also love how you assume I don’t do charity work. Again, presumptious holier-than-thou responses and twisting of words to suit your own firmly entrenched viewpoints. I won’t talk about the charity work I do, for fear of being accused of arrogance, as it seems ad hominem attacks abound here.

            2.As for my proposed “cell-phone ring-off”, if you represented what I said fairly you would also have included this passage: “I would not for one minute advocate intentional rudeness, noise or lack of consideration at a concert, but I would strongly encourage you to try and adopt a more Zen approach to the behaviours of your fellow man and to realise that to err is human.”
            OR THIS
            “I have never once experienced a performer of their caliber admonishing an audience member.
            That’s what ushers and front of house staff are for. It’s like an actor breaking the fourth wall, it just shows lack of class, lack ok of grace, and lack of appreciation for your audience. It’s obvious the blunder was just that, why hammer the final nail into the coffin of your performance by drawing even more attention to the distraction.”

            I proposed merely that front of house staff deal with audience issues, while performers need to do their best to continue on professionally. In an ideal world this wouldn’t be necessary, but alas this is not an ideal world.
            I sympathise with Zacharias but do not applaud his response.

            [Just for the record, I attended a very interesting concert where smartphones, ipads and other things were encouraged as the premise of the concert was a modern take on aleatoric music ,and the audience were encouraged to vote via an online survey as to what sort of passage they would like to hear next (texture/dynamic/instrumentation/tempo etc). There are creative ways to make technology useful to the world of Classical Music- and NO I'm not encouraging cell-phone calls deliberately made or taken during concerts, before you even start.]

        • Hear, hear, Laura.

  32. It is BEYOND time for concert halls, theaters and movie theaters to be able to block or scramble cell phone signals. And no, doing so should not be illegal. Before the invention of cell phones, we used to be able to sit through a concert, play or movie without the outside world being able to interrupt us. The world is not going to end during the 2-2.5 hours you are in an arts venue. That phone call or text from your babysitter/parent/child/whomever can wait until intermission or after the event is over. I am 42, a professional musician and arts patron, and am tired of having movies and live artistic experiences ruined by blaring cellphones and obnoxious ring tones.

  33. Maybe the concert wasn’t that good

  34. ‘Wow! Powerful stuff. Sleepless nights ahead for me. This probably shocked me more than anything else I have seen this week. I still can’t get those poor orchestral musician’s faces out of my head. And most of you probably can’t get your faeces off yours.

  35. I’m sorry, that last comment of mine was slightly over the top – like the ludicrous title. I don’t like mobile phones going off in concerts, but I think stopping is even more disruptive, as well as contributing to the ‘I think I’m far more important than I really am’ mentality that modern classical music often has.

  36. Capital Punishement for someone who coughed?

    • If their cell phone goes off, they drop their handbag and have noisy shoes… yess, then hang em, but please make it a public occasion, sell tickets and get a composer to write a requiem or something.

  37. I am surprised that he can’t play this Haydn concerto without the music.
    Just wondering how much preparation it took for this piece that can be played perfectly sight reading…

  38. MarieTherese says:

    While I understand the desire to keep your phone on- I have kids too- the bottom line is that they can and do ring during performances and it’s just plain rude. In Cleveland, the LOUD ring is played before the start of each concert , but invariably, at least one cell phone will go off during the course of the evening, and oddly, each and every time it happens, the errant owner is an elderly patron who first either doesn’t hear it or pretends that it’s not in his/her possession; eventually the thing stops ringing or is found and switched off. Clearly, the message conveyed by the simple playing of a loud phone ringing prior to the entrance of the Maestro is lost on at least some in the audience. And being in a cold climate, it goes without saying that there will be loud hacking and gagging from October thru April (and I won’t get into how I feel about audience members who take off their shoes during performances or those who bring neck pillows and fall asleep 5 minutes after the downbeat….)
    Surely some here are old enough to remember the days when MDs would give their seat number to the house manager and should an emergency arise, a call was placed to the theatre and the alert quietly conveyed. The only problem I could see with that now is that everyone would consider their needs paramount and feel that they should be contacted in the event that a crisis arises over the relative merits of “smooth vs crunchy peanut butter”. I guess that we are going to have to hope that a wave of common sense and courtesy returns to the human race- until then, scathing glares are in order.

  39. One does have to be careful, though. Vanska once glared at someone having a serious medical problem at a MN Orch concert. I guess that won’t be a problem in the future.

  40. At a Dallas Symphony concert several years ago a phone went off during those four quiet held woodwind chords in Mendelssohn’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” overture. The conductor cut off the second chord and then just waited for the thing to stop. Thirteen rings! And it wasn’t a simple beep, it was a full, old-style Alexander Graham Bell phone ring.

    Then they picked up with the third chord and continued on.

  41. I am the voice that tells the audience at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall to switch off their mobile phones before every concert. If anyone defies me, I will go round their house and stamp on their phones.

    On a more serious note, it must be possible to make a room protected from mobile signals (as they do on trains). The Barbican does this effectively by being a concrete bunker. But it’s surely not beyond technology bods to stop any kind of signal being received.

    The bigger challenge, of course, is to persuade people that they don’t actually need their phones for 2 hours. What a shame.

    • I am a pro jazz musician for 50 years with some experience in orchestral settings. When the orchestra stopped how wonderful it would have been if the soloist could have begun an imrovisation around this annoying interruption, playing with it and making something out of it.
      There would have hopefully been delight and amusement until he could have led the orchestra back into the written music. But this would take real creativity, wit and humour to pull off. Pete.

      • Michael Schaffer says:

        But not everybody can be as creative and witty and cool and just awesome as you are, Pete.

        • That seems somewhat uncalled for, Michael. Pete’s comment is a perfectly reasonable one. He didn’t say “I would have…”, he didn’t even say the soloist “should have”. Merely an observation that it could have been quite marvellous if a little light improvisation had been an option. And on that, I agree entirely.

    • You should not only tell them to turn phones off, but also to make sure no alarms are set for the duration of the concert on their phones, as well as their clocks.

      Alarms on some (or most?) phones ring even when the phones are off.

      But I agree with Pete in regards of using the interruption to create something nice, rather than being annoyed. It would turn the negative occation into something enjoyable.

  42. I once attended a performance when a young teenage girl in front of me starting texting at the start of the Humming Chorus. I was sitting behind her and I reached over and took her phone, put it in my pocket and said she could have it back at the end and if she made a fuss I would have her thrown out. She sat quiet as a mouse until the end when I gave it back to her and she legged it as fast as she could. Wny come if you are going to do that?

    • How were you interrupted by someone texting? If you had taken my phone, I would have borrowed some else’s and called the police. Your behavior was unacceptable – even classical music effete snobs have to abide by the same laws as the rest of us.

      • Even if the process of texting were completely silent, the light and movement comprise an unacceptable distraction to other audience members. I fully support Ms Long’s actions.

        • Derek Castle says:

          I agree completely. ‘Fiddling’ in general can be most distracting, whether it be with phones, sweets, handbags or programmes. Can these people really be interested in the music? I’m sorry, if, as one poster said, we expect ridiculously high levels of motionless behaviour from concert-goers. Most of the audience manage it, and seem to like it that way.

  43. Ronald Bergan says:

    I also suggest that cough drops should be given out to each member of the audience as they enter a concert hall.

  44. Bink Atkins says:

    Why are you all complaining so much about a momentary noise during a leisure activity, when we are all surrounded all the time by horrific levels of constant noise of a type that is extremely bad for our mental health? The real antisocial behaviour in our society is car-driving. (And aeroplanes.)
    Having had a nervous breakdown in the last year, I can no longer stand to leave the house because of the incredible level of motor noise. The experience of living with heightened sensory awareness forced me to notice the effect of all this constant noise – and movement – on mental health; and I am now convinced that it is deeply affecting all of us all the time, powerfully but subliminally undermining our ability for calm (thus happiness) and concentration. (Interestingly, I found that nature noises, particularly running water, had a counteractive effect to motor noises.)

  45. Please do not confine this to classical music venues. I had a performance of traditional Irish music interrupted by a woman reading emails next to me. Our local theatre begins every performance; classical, pop, country or a play or film, with a reminder to the audience to turn off their phones and pagers. My son played in a country band where, at a soft seat venue, the leader stopped and removed the cell phone of an offender.
    My wife was a teacher. She had a parent/teacher interview interrupted by a phone and, “Excuse me. I have to take this.”
    After disappearing into the hall for 15 minutes, the woman returned and didn’t understand why she had to be rescheduled for another night, since the person scheduled after her was ready for their interview. After all, it was an important call.
    My phone stays at home or in the car when I go to a performance, interview, library, restaurant or a walk on the beach.

  46. And what about calls in classes. “May I live the room?” “Do, please…” If calls are prohibited in classes, then it always happens that mobiles start calling as soon as the bell rings. Parents expect that the teacher should let students leave the room immediately…
    And finally, isn’t it strange not to let learning English using songs or music? Does not “Guilty” ( sung by Jim Reeves) go along the ESP for future lawers?

  47. sorry, … go along with the ESP for future lawyers?

  48. Interesting thread. Preparing for my thrashing: I don’t have a problem with someone doing crossword puzzles on paper or e-ink during a concert. It’s the light of the electronic device that I find distracting (the sound of the rings, too, of course). But if someone wants to quietly play sudoku while taking in a concert, so be it. We should not judge others on how they absorb art. They’ve bought a ticket, supported the band, and are not making noise. Leave ‘em alone.

  49. I have been giving and attending concerts for forty-five years and have never coughed in a concert–though it was a struggle a few times. In the last ten years or so I have carried a cellphone and so far have never failed to turn it off while attending a concert, mine or anyone else’s. I am even more careful, of course, at recording sessions. Yes, I realize that not everyone realizes how disruptive things like loud coughs and cellphone rings are in a classical music concert. But we really should make the attempt to let them know. I think that was what the pianist was trying to do. I don’t think it was pretentious or egotistical of him. I think he was upset on behalf of Haydn, the other musicians and, most important, the audience members.

  50. The person who goes to a concert with the expectation that the audience will sit stock-still through the entirety of a Raff symphony, as well as not shuffle programs, postpone flatulence etc is in the same boat as someone embarking on a second marriage: such expectations are the triumph of hope over experience. I hold Dr. Johnson’s words close to me these days whenever I venture out to hear my local orchestra. It pays to be a realist. Now I go even further: treating the experience of hearing music “live “ in a public space as an aleatoric experience; an opportunity revel in chance extra-musical sounds. With this approach, the blast of a truck horn on 13th street outside the hall during the initial fanfare of Haydn’s Horn-signal symphony is no longer an intrusion, but something that adds to that innimitable musical moment a twist of delicious irony. Coughs during the sublime moments of a Biber mystery sonata? Think of them no longer as obstructions, but rather another layer of counterpoint. Why keep life out of Biber? Why deprive his passacaglias? They can take it….and grow (how is it possible?) even more sublime.

  51. The Queen dealt with it very elegantly: when greeting somebody at a function that person’s cellphone went off. She said ,straight faced : “you better answer this,it could be somebody important! “.

  52. I was at a concert in Toledo many years ago. Two children in the front were being disruptive. The pianist, before even playing a note, leaned down to them and shushed them with his finger to his lips! Another time we were at the Toledo Symphony and the jerk next to my sister was whistling along with the orchestra. We glared at him, but he did not get the hint!

  53. “If that’s my agent, tell him I’m working!”

  54. It’s called respect for others…and it has become a rare commodity, because it is no longer valued in today’s selfish society. Me, me, me and my toys, which we cannot bear to be separated from, even to listen in peace to musicians who have dedicated their lives to performing unamplified acoustic music…played with heart and hands, not computers.

  55. Joel Frahm says:

    If you power down your phone, it’s not going to come on by itself. People need to be taught, because boorish, entitled behavior has become the norm at performances of all kinds now. I am a professional musician as well, and I have had it with the prevailing lack of courtesy. All those here on this forum making an argument that this is an overreaction? Please stay home.

    • Sorry Joel, inaccurate. Many ‘phones do have an auto-power-on function. The only way to guarantee no interruption from your handset is to remove the battery, which on a number of newer smartphones isn’t possible.

  56. As bad as it is, the cell phone is not as bad as hearing aids continuously airing during a a full solo recital. Believe me. Just happened to me last night. But such is life.

    • Why didn’t you ask (or got somebody to ask) the audience to check their aids? Surely the audience member didn’t notice,

      When are you playing the Liebermann concerto again?

  57. while singing in a choir and standing behind an orchestra, i have seen orchestral players checking their e-mails and texting in the parts of the music where they do not have to play!

    • Me too. Most recently at ENO in the UK. Just because players are in a pit doesn’t mean most of the punters can’t see them.

  58. nolan mendenhall says:

    I’ve ceased being in disbelief of the incredible rudeness displayed by this idiotic audience member. Zacharias’ comments are right on the money.

  59. I find it more unprofessional that the performer stopped than the fact that a phone went off or something. In Haydn’s day, there were no stuffy rules of etiquette in concerts. People came and went as they pleased, applauded where they wanted to, ate, talked, coughed, burped, etc. These stuffy sorts of attitudes are exactly why I felt disillusioned by the “academic” music world and left it behind a few years ago. A real musician; a real artist wouldn’t be distracted by anything so trivial, much less let his art-making be interrupted by another sound. What a joke. No wonder your audiences are leaving in droves.

    • Derek Castle says:

      “stuffy rules of etiquette”? If that mobile phone wouldn’t have ruined your evening, perhaps it’s better that you’ve left the fold of the 1% of elitist musical snobs.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      I think it’s a good thing you felt disillusioned and left the “academic” music world, whatever that means.
      A real musician; a real artist wouldn’t be distracted by anything so trivial, much less let his art-making be interrupted by people merely asking to enjoy music without cell phone alarms going off.
      You should rather hang out in places where you can talk, burp and fart as much and as loud as you want. It seems to be more suitable to your artistic and intellectual level.

    • I am a performer and find cell phones ringing at concerts rather disturbing.Cell phone usage is becoming a menace not just at concert halls but at any social gathering, very often people are more interested in the virtual communication that cell phones provide rather than actual communication between real people……after all I imagine that you wouldn’t be very happy me burping farting or producing any bodily or artificial sound at your wedding or funeral……

    • 18mebrumaire says:

      Russell: what evidence do you have of concert audience behaviour in Haydn’s day? Do you really believe that such behaviour as you describe would have been tolerated during a public performance of, say, the ‘London’ Symphonies, or one of Mozart’s Piano Concertos? Evidence, please, not anecdote.

  60. Steven R Schrier says:

    Alan Gilbert & the New York Philharmonic had a cellphone incident in 2012 during a Mahler concert. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/13/nyregion/ringing-finally-stopped-but-concertgoers-alarm-persists.html?_r=1&

  61. I am not hip on the big names in piano now but this guy could be a reincarnated franz liszt and this would be a diva move. “Concert etiquette” in which a bunch of people sit quiet and motionless for hours on end is a way to listen to music manufactured by snobs like Wagner around the turn of the 20th century, well AFTER most of the highly revered pieces being performed in this setting were written. If Beethoven or Mozart were alive today they’d probably be abhorred at the lack of crowd participation

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Letting your cell phone ring in the middle of a performance is not “participation”.

      • And no-one said it was, unless I’m mistaken?

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          Sure, Zach did, in the post right above mine.

          Zach obviously knows a lot about the history of “concert etiquette”. For instance, that it was “manufactured by snobs like Wagner around the turn of the 20th century” which one has to say is a pretty amazing feat by Wagner, given that he had already been dead for almost two decades around the turn of the 20th century!

          • Er, no he didn’t. Zach mentioned his feeling that Beethoven or Mozart would probably be surprised at a lack of crowd participation. Nowhere does he conflate audience participation with a cell ‘phone ringing. Zach doesn’t even mention cell ‘phones!

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            It follows from the context of the discussion. If this discussion was about people getting up and dancing, clapping their hands along with the music, then the implied meaning of “audience participation” in this context would be different. In this case, it’s not about that, it’s about cell phones going off in the middle of the performance. So to make a comment like “they would be horrified by the lack of crowd participation” in this particular context is silly and nonsensical on several levels to begin with. Besides, as he has also shown with the comment about Wagner and the turn of the 20th century, he has no clue about these things. It’s just something he has read or heard about somewhere, an often repeated cliché that people in Mozart’s or Beethoven’s times ate and drank and talked loudly at performances.

          • Not that it’s a justification of deliberate noise-making in the present day but the notion of more ‘social’ atmospheres during performances in ages gone by is not just conjecture. It’s actually been widely researched and follows on from anecdotal evidence from the era in question. This article might be of interest:
            http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/musical/2008/09/08/080908crmu_music_ross

          • Donald Wright says:

            Laura S., thank you for pointing to that marvelous article by the deservedly MacArthur-grant-winning Alex Ross! The article very much informs the present discussion.

            Ross does in one short cautionary passage gently admonish us to “be wary of reviving the habits of 1750 or 1800. Large tracts of the repertory of the past two hundred years would be unimaginable in that world: Debussy could never have disclosed the fragile epiphanies of “The Afternoon of a Faun” before a chattering audience, and Mahler’s catch-all symphonies would lose their dramatic momentum if they were chopped into bleeding fragments.”

            Still, as Ross so eloquently summarizes in his last paragraph, we would wish that somehow concerts could break free of their decrepit format and generate the excitement that they once did! I think of the wonderful account of a singer–I think it was Maria Malibran–who had to be carried out from the theater, insensate in an ecstatic faint, at the premiere of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Oh, that concerts could generate such an impassioned response today–but not one occasioned by their noisy interruptions, but rather by the genius of their content.

          • Derek Castle says:

            Donald, how right (no pun intended) you are. A lot of music making, and listening, has, by music’s very availability, become perfunctory. Our GMD can only give us a fraction of his time, as he’s ‘in demand’ in Boston, Berlin, Bayreuth, Covent Garden and on prestigious tours abroad with the orchestra. I can travel to London to see the Gewandhaus doing Brahms, Wozzeck at ROH, Gergiev at the Barbican with ‘Damnation of Faust’, while taking in Messiaen’s ‘Des canyons…’ at the RFH the day before. And all this in just one week. Then there are the many local concerts that I attend. Finally, for my sins, I can watch the Met Ring on Sky Arts while doing my emails and listen to a Mahler symphony while doing the washing-up (a multi-tasking joke, before anyone starts getting irate). I sometimes wonder whether I shouldn’t banish myself to some far-flung island for a few months to escape all these temptations, musical riches beyond avarice. However, I do know that familiarity (apart from one or two indestructible works) breeds contempt, and I shall never again ‘swoon in ecstasy’ as I did as a young teenager on first hearing the Bruch Violin Concerto or (and I can still remember where and when) the ‘big tune’ in the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pathetique’. A bit like a first kiss, I suppose.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            Donald Wright says:
            November 1, 2013 at 1:52 am

            “I think of the wonderful account of a singer–I think it was Maria Malibran–who had to be carried out from the theater, insensate in an ecstatic faint, at the premiere of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.”

            Maria Malibran was 6 months old when Beethoven’s 5th was premiered. That’s probably why she had to be carried.

  62. In Handel’s day, the sign “Men, please leave your swords at home and Women, please do not wear hoop skirts” was present. A simple request can be and now often is made to please turn off phones. I am a professional church musician whose art is talked through constantly, and yet many are also moved by the work I offer. As such, and even though I long for the time when my work is shown respect, I find it particularly discouraging that this kind of “diva-esque” behavior on the part of the performer is what is most remembered at concerts of classical music. Can’t there be a lot more respect shown by audience to performer AND performer to audience? I have found that relationship and personal touch trumps art in what is communicated in a concert almost every time. (I have come to this conclusion after 35 years in the field. I have tried behaving like the artists mentioned in the article and in subsequent comments, and the results were not favorable to either myself or the perception of the art I was involved in making. And I have tried ignoring the distractions which has been problematic to say the least.)

  63. Bravo!!!!!

    As to the issue of coughs. Bring some g-ddammned candies with you to concerts, always. And the concert halls should really give them out for those who forget. Carnegie Hall used to. Even symphony hall in San Diego, no den of culture, still does. But, you know, i you can keep from wetting your pants in a concert, if you really have to cough that badly, just get up and quietly leave.

  64. jeez what a stuffed shirt! I bet the phone was his wife’s

  65. just turn off your stupid phones before attending concerts people

  66. Paul Burton says:

    That’s what a child would do when performing a school concert.. maybe he should grow up and respect the fact that people have paid to see him perform, and people have lives. It’s a concert, with an audience. Maybe he should stick to playing in his bedroom where no one can interrupt him.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Paul Burton says:
      October 28, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      “That’s what a child would do when performing a school concert.. maybe he should grow up and respect the fact that people have paid to see him perform, and people have lives. It’s a concert, with an audience. Maybe he should stick to playing in his bedroom where no one can interrupt him.”

      Thanks for this deep wisdom coming directly from your bedroom in your parents’ basement. But who exactly do you mean by he who “people have paid to see perform”? The guy with the piano, or the guy with the cell phone?

      • The way some here react and describe all those lousy, little shits they are surrounded by in the concert halls, they seem to pay to see the performers on and off the stage.

  67. What is even worse is sitting in church on a Sunday morning and a cell phone goes off and it takes what seems to be forever before it gets shut off. Leave you phone in the car.

  68. Michael Schaffer says:

    But not everybody can be as creative and witty and cool and just awesome as you are, Pete.

  69. All the fighting about whether or not it’s OK to have your phone on during a concert is obscuring the entire point I was trying to make. There were two problems here. One, the phone going off. However it happened, it’s a crappy thing for every person in the hall, including the owner of the phone. The second problem, the one I feel is more egregious in a way, is Zacharias’ reaction. Of course he has the right to be angry– have been performing when the exact same thing happens and it’s incredibly annoying– but what I do not feel he has the right to do is shame the audience member who surely did not intentionally leave their phone on. He also creates a much larger distraction by stopping in the middle of the piece, speaking to the audience member, and then continuing on. We would not be having this discussion if, like so many performers do, he simply powered through the phone ringing, gritting his teeth. I never said he didn’t have the right to be angry, I just think he handled it incredibly poorly.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      I would tend to agree with that. I think he missed a great opportunity. Instead of just sitting there and fuming for a little bit, saying something over his shoulder, he should have gotten up, turned around, located the guy and really made fun of him in front of everybody.

      • A good person doesn’t make fun of people who likely are going through one of the most embarrassing moments of their lives.

        • Agreed.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          I know – a good person would just tweet his friends about what just happened. That’s what Zacharias should have done, right then and there. That would have been *cool*!

          • Zacharias isn’t a tweeter and not in the “cool” category, so I expect him to react different. But his wife could have asked one of the phone users, who were annoying her, to tweet about it. See, I’ve watched the full video above :-)

            By the way, I think Zacharias reacted fine. Stop, let the phone ring, continue. I can sense a bit of annoyance in the 1st couple of notes he plays after he continues. This all without embarrassing the already embarrassed.

            By the way #2, I respect Zacharias deeply. He was the first person to get up for a standing ovation for Lugansky at Verbier a few years ago. I also heared him play a few times and saw his Swiss orchestra at work.

            I understand his concern, that people shall blank out the rest of their life for an hour or two when they are going to a concert. But is it realistic to expect that each and every concert-goer will think the same way? No. Can classical music performers be picky and only let likeminded people into the concert halls? No. Can you expect each and every audience member to behave by a certain unwritten rule? No.

            So although, as I wrote, I understand – and actually share – his concern, I can’t see it as a realistic wish and therefore I feel we need to find a better way to deal with the issues (smart phone usage and people not really giving themselves up for the performance). Just pointing the finger and ask everybody to play by some rules, which noone will ever be able to enforce, doesn’t solve the problem.

            There are two ways to deal with the phone ringing:
            A: Disallow phones in the venues.
            B: Accept that, now and then, a phone will ring.
            I feel, altough as I don’t think the vast majority needs a phone in the venue, point A is not realistic. Security checks, cloakroom costs and so on.
            Therefore, I urge point B to be handled in a way, which doesn’t make an unfortunate situation even worse.

    • What’s the matter with these disrespectful pumpkin-heads that simply don’t have the common sense and respect to TURN THE PHONE OFF before performances?. No excuses.

      Coughing is different as one can be fine at one point during the day only to be hit with an allergy or coughing attack at other times.

  70. Albert Herring says:

    I will admit that I once got through 15 hands of piquet (including bidding) in the arena at the proms during a particularly turgid Mozart serenade, but to be fair, that’s pretty much what he wrote it to accompany. (That was back in the days when the real curse was digital watches that chimed – roughly – on the hour, which do at least seem to be extinct in the electronic ecosystem). I’m a battery-remover when it comes to phones, though, and I’ve walked out of concerts because I couldn’t hack (as it were) the coughing.

  71. Ita not hard to turn a phone off immediately if it goes off, that should have been done, but should have been turned off before Usually there is an announcer before the concert that asks everyone to do this. As for coughing, if you feel you have to in a quiet passage don’t , get up and go to the back and out and cough, I have done that, held my breath and ran out the back. Its all possible

  72. At one point, while singing in a lieder recital in the late 1960′s, Elisabeth Schwartzkopf stopped mid-song and said, “I do hope you can hear my singing, since I certainly can hear your coughing quite well!”

  73. The pianist was incredibly much too polite! I would have immediately left.People, meaning especially adults, don’t learn a learn unless they see its effect.

    • If you leave because of something so banal as a ringing phone, then you probably aren’t worth hearing in the frist place.

      Yes, avoidable noise is unfortunate, but it’s far from being the end of the world.

  74. dangilchrist says:

    Our children and grandchildren went at Christmas to play our brass instruments for some shut ins and single folks at each of their homes. We finished at a nursing home. we played some carols and then our daughter who was studying vocal music performance and singing opera sang silent night. An elderly man in a wheel chair started shouting “Stop it, your voice is killing me. You are terrible. ” She of course was singing beautifully and the other residents gave him an annoyed stare. She sang on, undaunted. I looked away from the elderly man and watched my daughter. She maintained her smile and her voice never waivered. The yelling stopped and I looked over to see my other daughter kneeling beside the man in the wheelchair and holding his hand. Both of them taught me lessons. One on the attitude of a professional, continuing the performance in the face of all adversity, and with courage. The other taught me compassion and respect. I remember when I was a youth reading a story of a great violinist named Paganini, who played a solo with an orchestra as each of his strings broke one by one until only one string was left. The measure of his greatness was demonstrated in his finale which was completed with only one string.
    a few seconds ago · Like
    From Dan

  75. Reminds me of this chap’s response: http://youtu.be/uub0z8wJfhU?t=35s Did anyone figure out if it’s real or staged?

  76. HERO!!!

  77. And people wonder why there’s such a negative connotation associated with classical music. I have attended, and performed in, many concerts where a phone goes off. Sure, it’s annoying, but life goes on. It’s not the end of the world. Sure, it’s impolite, but there are much more serious issues in life to get worked up about. As common vernacular puts it, this is most definitely a “first world problem.” Just enjoy the darned performance! Forcing people to surrender their phones is ludicrous, if not elementary. What about someone who has paid quite a bit of money to see the symphony, but has come down with a cold at the last minute? Is he supposed to just stay home, wasting the money he’s spent? I get that it can become excessive and annoying, but what are they supposed to do? Getting up and leaving in the middle of a piece or a movement is also considered impolite. If your enjoyment of an entire concert is utterly ruined by a brief cell phone interruption, that is sad. While I find these moments to be frustrating sometimes, especially at a tender moment in a piece, I find a performer’s or audience’s haughtiness much more disappointing. Realize that it wasn’t until the 19th century that undivided attention toward the performance became an expectation. It used to be that audience members relegated themselves to conversations with others during the performance. While I understand the frustration of having a moment interrupted by a cell phone ringing or an occasional cough, one should be realistic. Phones CAN turn themselves on (it has happened to me), and leaving them in one’s car or with a stranger at the door is not recommended (one would not do such a thing at the Baltimore Lyric). If you’re in an area where you can safely leave your phone in the car, fine. Not all areas are safe enough. It is only reasonable to assume that there is to be at least one brief disruption of silence in an audience of many during a performance of great length, be it a cell phone, cough, sneeze, program flipping, etc. The only time I have ever experienced total silence during performance is during a rehearsal, when there is no audience in attendance.

    • Derek Castle says:

      A single sneeze can be ignored; a mobile going off for 5, 10 seconds, or even longer, in quiet music, simply ruins it. Of course one wouldn’t expect the conductor to stop during the climax of the 1812 Overture – some might think the ringtone is just part of the bells, fireworks and whatever ‘effects’ the concert organizer brings together.

  78. I remember a concert of music by Boulez in NYC maybe a dozen years ago. I was shabbily dressed, had missed two days of shaving, and looked a bit rough, but I was curious and excited about hearing the works, some for the first time. The fellow next to me soon started rattling his program- it could as well have been a series of loud voluntary coughs (acts of aggressive war), and he was clearly winning in the pianississimo passages. I tapped him lightly. He didn’t respond, except to keep it up and stare me down. I ended up punching him on his program arm- it was a good shot- I was younger then and still had fast hands- and he fell silent. I wasn’t arrested, but I also missed some of the music when I landed the haymaker.

  79. After reading the comments, I think you’re dealing with a very squeamish audience as well…

    Ok, the cell phone isn’t necessary at all during a concert, but reading comment like crosswords being annoying????
    Dear mother of God, why did you ever allow people like this on the surface of this planet…

    • You may be right if the other guy doesn’t make noise, but, please, with a $20 or $30 or $40 investment, and the loss of sometimes precious time, ask yourself if you are paying to hear the artist on stage or for the diversion next to you. If your intention is to take in the whole scene, (after all at traditional Chinese opera – probably traditional Italian opera when some of it was performed as street theater- audience comments, noise and other participatory acts were part of the gestalt), then fine, but at some point there does arise a line in the sand, whether one is squeamish or not.

  80. Janice Gross says:

    I went to a concert back in the 70′s at Constitution Hall in D.C.to see Vladimir Horowitz. The audience mainly consisted of an older generation of concert-goers coming to see their beloved Horowitz. As Mr. Horowitz was getting ready to perform, 2 elderly ladies were coming down the aisle looking for their seats. Horowitz eyed them and patiently waited for them to be seated before beginning. The look in his eyes was not one of horror or distaste but just a patient look and a slight smile which brought a general giggle throughout. It was wonderful – something I’ll never forget! Oh, and the concert was amazing!!!

    • Derek Castle says:

      Janice, I attended an Elisabeth Schwarzkopf recital in Witten, a small town in the Ruhrgebiet, when the great singer was well past her sell-by-date. The hall was half empty. When some latecomers came in at the back, she smiled charmingly and said in her cod Viennese-Rosenkavalier-German: “Kommen Sie doch ‘rein, da ist genug Platz.” (Do come in, there’s plenty of room).

      • A Flying Dutchman was interrupted briefly after the overture by a bunch of late comers last week, but understandably so, as the motorway was blocked due to two accidents close to the theatre. Sometimes being late is acceptable.

        Karajan once stopped and restarted a concert my mother attended – i believe in St. Moritz. He turned around and said something like: “We’ll start again, when everybody is in”.

        Not everybody punishes or condems late comers.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          I was in a Karajan concert in Berlin where they let in a few latecomers after the first piece or movement. I think it was Missa Solemnis. There was a group of 4 people who had seats in the block right behind the orchestra, above the choir benches in full view of the conductor. They had trouble finding their seats (or it may have been that the seats were on the opposite end of the block and they had come in on the wrong side) so they stumbled around aimlessly there.
          Karajan watched them for a while with an amused look on his face, then motioned towards the stage and said “we have enough space for you down here” – they immediately sat down on the stairs right where they stood and the concert proceeded.

  81. Omar Soffan says:

    Give me a freaking break!….You think Haydn would have stopped his concerto from continuing had there been a cell phone ring ? In the mid 19th century, there was far more noise in a concert hall then there is today. I am a classical concert pianist and unless a train derailed and smashed into the building, I would keep playing. Some of these classical musicians are so full of themselves that the music has become about them as a performer as opposed to it being a tribute to the composer, just look at some of the constipated looks on their faces while they perform. A true artist is there whether or not there is 1 or 1,000 people in the audience and whether a person coughs, sneezes or a cell phone rings. This article is so ridiculous.

    • Michael Schaffer says:

      Omar Soffan says:
      October 30, 2013 at 10:49 pm

      “Give me a freaking break!….You think Haydn would have stopped his concerto from continuing had there been a cell phone ring ? In the mid 19th century, there was far more noise in a concert hall then there is today.”

      How do you know? Were you ever at a concert in the mid 19th century?

      Speaking of which, Haydn didn’t live in the mid 19th century. He died in 1809. You are a “classical concert pianist” but you didn’t know that? Really? Music is about more than hitting the right keys at the right time. It’s also about knowing and understanding the context of the music. And that doesn’t just apply to “snobbish” classical music, it applies to any style of music.

      • Donald Wright says:

        The analogy with Haydn also breaks down in that Haydn, unlike the free agent Zacharias, was a decades-long servant to the powerful Esterhazy clan. He was in no position to chastise his employers no matter what shenanigans they might get up to (probably none of them repetitive and mechanical, unlike a cell phone) during his performances. And from long practice, he would probably have been quite used to whatever background noises of human origin that they might have made on such occasions.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          Donald – true, but do we really know what “shenanigans” the Esterhazys and their guest got up to during performances of Haydn’s music? We know his patrons, especially the second one, Nikolaus, took their court music quite seriously. It wasn’t just something they did because one had to have one’s own court music if one was someone. They had their own little opera house and Haydn had a small but reportedly excellent permanent orchestra at his disposition. At some point, Nikolaus allowed him to publish his compositions, they were no longer the exclusive property of the Esterhazy family, so Haydn became internationally famous while still working in the relative remoteness (but also security) of Esterhaza.
          I can imagine his boss was quite proud of his famous “asset” and he liked to show that off to his guests, so maybe he expected them to actually sit down and listen? I wonder if it says something about what the performance conditions and audience behavior were at Esterhaza in Robbins Landon’s Haydn book.

      • Scott Nguyen says:

        I’m surprised and actually quite impressed with how polite and mature everyone is remaining while responding to that relentlessly condescending prick. But, I know everyone wants to know, what exactly happened in Michael Shafer’s life, that made him such a miserable cunt?

        P.S. Who cares how your last name is spelled.

        • Michael Schaffer says:

          Scott – thanks for asking, thanks for your interest and sympathy. I am a deeply unhappy person because people always misspell my name.

          I am interested in what shaped you, too, Scott. What exactly happened in your life that makes it necessary for you to vent your anger by calling people “prick” and “cunt” on the internet?

        • I’m surprised this comment didn’t get redacted. No need for such language on here.

          • Probably because the fine moderators here at ArtsJournal were relieved to see it plainly spelled out and have a good sense of humor.

          • Michael Schaffer says:

            I didn’t think calling people “cunt” and “prick” was a sign of “a good sense of humor”. I find it rather unoriginal. But that’s what I love about the internet – I learn new stuff all the time!

    • I must dissent from Mr Soffan’s suggestion that classical music should be just about the composer. I find that the best performers are those who engage with the composer’s music, as opposed to simply reproducing the notes. Speaking as a composer (and one who is very detailed and specific in my notation), I would actually feel uncomfortable if my performers felt that it were all about me. It is also worth remembering that many of the greatest works in the repertoire were written for, or inspired by specific performers (for example, Brahms worked closely with the violinist Joseph Joachim).

  82. EGAD – there are some fragile sensitivites on display here. The thought that a human being might cough because he or she needs to – Well! Poor “ed” was so profoundly traumatized he thought physical violence was required to deal with a “paper rustler”. He should have been arrested. And sued. Or, conversely, the “paper rustler” could have responded in a way that left “ed” picking up his teeth from the floor.
    I am a performing musician, and the disturbances I have put up with would fill the emergency rooms with these emotional basket cases – performers and audiences included.
    If I avoid classical music performances, can I be assured that these ticking time bombs will not cross my path?

  83. I love this thread. I agree with the author of this delicious article.

  84. Derek Castle says:

    Now, now Scott, ‘miserable’ will do. On a more positive note, I attended a performance of ‘Des canyons aux étoiles…..’ at RFH last night. I tried to locate the shuffling and mobile phones going off, but in vain….it was just Messiaen having fun with the vast array of percussion. 102 ? minutes of glorious colours in sound. And the packed hall seemed captivated – and noise free.

  85. Life hack: take the battery out of your phone for extra security. Or don’t bring the phone into the auditorium – who are you planning on calling during the concert?

    Kind of off topic, but this is happening SO often in concerts in Berlin that I have to mention it. At the end of a performance… say Wagner’s Walküre, or another piece that doesn’t end with a bang, but very quietly instead, people who shout BRAVO before the orchestra has even stopped playing the last note. Please just fucking enjoy the slience and appreciate the moment instead of trying to show off the fact that you know the show is over. It’s really pathetic.

    • Derek Castle says:

      Couldn’t agree more! These people are just unfortunate imbeciles. I find conductors nowadays are quite good at ‘holding’ an audience at the end, e.g. Barenboim daring a packed Albert Hall to applaud too soon at the end of the Ring this summer. An offender would surely have been strangled on the spot.

  86. Lena Jacobson says:

    I call he incessant coughing during solo recitals
    BRONCHITIS CENCERTITIS.

  87. I am a disciple of technology. I believe that the advancement of communications technology and the amazing leaps forward in information processing are the keys to discovering idiosyncrasies about both the Universe and the Human Condition that, up until now, were otherwise altogether hidden from even the most perceptive minds. However, as a professionally trained, hardworking musician, I never have, and never will tolerate the ignorance of individuals who have decided that technology takes precedence over something as immortally important as the live performance of great works of music, which is, in my most humble opinion, just as crucial to our survival as any new digital milestone we reach in this millennium, if not moreso (definitely moreso).

    I’ll say it w/slightly less verbiage. If you’re going to a show, concert, recital, first reading, workshop performance, sacred music event, or even the run-of-the-mill open mic, do the rest of the audience (and the cultured World) a favor:
    **Silence Your Cellphone**

    And if that is a function you’ve yet to master, keep it simple, sir:
    TURN IT THE &^% OFF.

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