Anne-Sophie Mutter stops a concert.
Anne-Sophie Mutter was playing the gorgeous slow movement of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra when she…. suddenly lowered her instrument and stopped playing.
The conductor turned and stopped—and then the orchestra stopped.
And ASM started speaking to a woman who was sitting in the front row: “Either you put your phone away or I leave now,” motioning to the stage door.
The audience went wild with clapping.👏👏👏👏👏
Oddly, the woman, who had been steady recording the concert, stood to speak to ASM. Reportedly she apologized and expressed her admiration for the soloist. From most of the hall, it appeared that she was arguing or explaining. In any case, it felt like the wrong reaction.
Soon Orchestra personnel advanced and the woman was escorted out of the hall.
ASM waved at the wind players behind her and said we would now all get to hear the beautiful beginning of the slow movement again. As the orchestra started over, the audience applauded some more.
Winner: 🎻 — at Cincinnati Music Hall.
People have responded to my social media post about this mostly with appreciation and admiration for ASM. And dismay over the frequency with which the find themselves disturbed by mobile phones at a live performance.
One member of the Orchestra said she felt ‘just a little shocked to be in performance mode and taken out of it so suddenly with her admonishment.”
A few who were sitting near the audience member thought that she might not have understood the prohibition against recording. They felt sorry for her or just awkward about the whole thing. “She was a young person who didn’t speak English very well. She was bowing and apologizing and saying how much she respected Mutter.”
This prompted an online discussion about international culture and expectations about using phones to record at a classical music concert.
When my mother and I were in Prague recently, we were surprised to see that it’s common practice and apparently acceptable to video a live concert performance. We guessed that there is a legal difference (intellectual property rights in the US) and also a cultural difference (norms and expectations). We wondered how the musicians felt.
I’ve only seen a performer do something like this once before. My father came to DC in 2008 so that we could attend Alfred Brendel’s final US concert of his farewell tour. During the concert, an audience member coughed and coughed and coughed until Brendel turned and looked pointedly in her direction and she finally left, presumably to find water…or a doctor.
Something similar happened in Dayton last year. The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra has adopted “Hang Up The Damn Phone!” as their unofficial slogan after the conductor yelled it at a patron who actually answered their phone during a concert.
One Facebook poster described a recent phone interruption experience at another Ohio orchestra: “Something similar happened in Dayton last year. The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra has adopted “Hang Up The Damn Phone!” as their unofficial slogan after the conductor yelled it at a patron who actually answered their phone during a concert.”
Every live performance is a unique experience. You really never know what remarkable, extraordinary, unexpected thing might happen to provide a shared memory for everyone in the audience. There’s nothing like it.