Monday, 20 June 2011

'Artistic terrorism' in Orkney and Paris

An excellent intervention from the Master of the Queen's Music concerning the 'artistic terrorists' who ruin performances by having their infernal mobile telephones ring out: click here. It would take a greater optimist than I to think that Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's plan to write to telephone companies to collect the fines will succeed, but at least he is doing something. Saturday's performance of Götterdämmerung at the Bastille unleashed one of the most extraordinary audience reactions I have yet experienced. Amidst a barrage of coughing and chattering, two particular instances stood out. The heavy-breather seated next to me, who clearly fancied himself some sort of 'expert', not only 'conducted' (mostly out of time) and imitated (entirely incorrectly) woodwind fingering patterns, but actually sang along from time to time. I had never thought of Wagner dramas as obvious candidates for 'community singing', but clearly I am a bear of very little imagination. In another apparently unprecedented move, a woman initaited loud applase roughly three-quarters of the way through Siegfried's Funeral March. Unless she were both deaf and blind, in which case Götterdämmerung might be thought an eccentric choice of six-hour pursuit, she surely could not have thought the work was over. Perhaps her act was intended ironically, though irony and motivation were difficult to discern. Oh for the days when the Jockey Club disrupted Tannhäuser with a relative modicum of style...


Théo Bélaud said...

As we debated this yesterday, here is a pretty non-exhaustive recapitulation of more or less unexpected applaudes I experienced this season in Paris.

There were some applaudes after
Schumann's Fantasy, 2nd movement (at least three times) and 1st movement (once)
Schubert Sonate D. 845, 1st movement - at a Radu Lupu recital !
Sibelius 5th Symphony, 1st movement (twice) and first of the finale chords of the work (once) - in tihs last case, it had already happend when E.P Salonen had performed it in 2007.
Chopin's 2nd Sonata, 1st movement, at least three times.
Of course, Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony, 3rd movement, everytime.
Mozart 2nd violin concerto, 1st movement.
Bach 1st Vioin Partita, ... Courante.

And the best oand fùmost famous of the all : Chopin 2nd Scherzo... after the double exposition, at a Zimerman recital.

There were probably more I do not remember now.

Lucy said...

Applause during the Funeral March??? The skin crawls just thinking about it. Incredibly (or perhaps, in view of all these depressing incidences, not) there was someone who applauded before Anne-Sophie Mutter had finished the Liebestraum 3 at her recent NY recital. But these reports from Götterdämmerung are puzzling indeed; I usually expect that the length and density of Wagner will serve as a welcome filter for coughing and chattering, let alone the more egregious occurrences you describe.

The idea of collecting fines for intrusive cell phones at least has the merit of being more realistic than fantasies of having the offenders drop dead like Hunding. The New York Phil has recently started forcing cameras to be checked in the coat room. I wonder if it would be at all possible to do something similar for phones (probably not, alas.)

Mark Berry said...

Lucy: I don't see why not: well done, the NYPO! If people are not willing to hand in their telephones, then they can stay away from concerts. Alternatively, cannot halls simply block the signals?

Théo: quite a list! Sorry to have added to it... A propos the Tchaikovsky - which I just don't understand: is it impossible to read a programme and count to four movements? - I wish I had heard Riccardo Muti (in Chicago?) turn round after such applause and instruct the audience to listen to the musical logic of the piece.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I certainly wish people would mind their mobile devices during concerts, but I'd call it rude and inconsiderate when they don't.

Terrorism? Who died when the phones went off? They are not bombs.

Alan Trench said...

Like at least 1000 other people in the hall, I was annoyed at some twonk in the Barbican audience last Thursday who decided to applaud before the last note of Bruckner 4 last Thursday. Bernard Haitink wasn't too pleased either, to judge from his expression.

But the worst behaved audience I've seen anywhere was at the Opera Bastille, who seemed to think little of coming and going throughout a performance of 'Wozzeck'. Anywhere else, the entry of latecomers would be strictly controlled, and those leaving the auditorium wouldn't be allowed back until a natural break. As this was in the vast area of the Bastille's stalls, the disturbance such movements caused was huge. It took a lot away from very good performances on stage and in the pit. Why do Paris's serious music-lovers stand for it?

Mark Berry said...

Lisa: obviously the 'terrorism' claim is intended to be provocative, otherwise the concerns of mere musicians would never appear in a British newspaper, especially a right-wing one. And just to reassure you: the phrase is PMD's, not mine.

However, I think there is a real problem in resolving the situation, in that the perpetrators seem not to care. (I am sure there are exceptions.) If they did, it simply would not happen with the frequency that it does: how difficult is it to turn off a mobile telephone, not least when one is requested to do so by notices and announcements? I find it strange, to put it mildly, that someone who cares nothing for the performance does not even care about the social disapproval incurred. If my telephone rang, I should be so mortified that I never set foot in the hall again, and I am sure that goes for most decent people. Since reasonable means appear not to work, we are faced with the question of what, if anything to do, to rid ourselves of this almost unbelievably selfish menace, which often ruins performances for many others. As I said, I do not understand why the signals cannot simply be jammed, but perhaps there is a technical reason.

The fact that those attending performances are treated as 'customers' does not help, of course. Since the arts are so appallingly under-funded, organisations have little option but to charge. If audiences were present simply because they wanted, indeed needed, to be, rather than because they could afford to do so, there would be no question of providing a 'service' and of feeding a sense of entitlement. Sadly, our ruling classes consider it more important to spend the money on weapons and war...