Thursday, 17 September 2015

Concert audience participation

The great Sir Henry Wood used to indicate (by gesture) his discouragement of applause intruding between the movements of a symphony or similar work. The brilliant performances of the last night of this year's BBC Promenade Concerts (Danielle de Niese's wobble aside) were marred for me by the applause after the first movement of Shostakovich's 2nd piano concerto. But it seems that inconsiderate behaviour is even worse in the south of France, if this tale by Pliable is anything to go by:

At a recent concert by the Orchestre Philharmonique de Marseille [...] I found myself sitting behind two parents and their three young children. Now the youngsters were as attentive as you can expect sub-teenagers to be during a performance of Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn; but the same cannot be said of their parents. For the first fifteen minutes of the song cycle the father answered emails on his smartphone. He then proceeded to unwrap a picnic with much rustling of paper, and consumed - among other culinary delights - a large and very crunchy baguette stuffed with seriously malodorous cheese. This Marseillaise audience was now on a roll, or rather a baguette; so they followed the fashionable example of Proms audiences by not waiting until the end of the Mahler to express their appreciation. But they were less familiar with Des Knaben Wunderhorn than their London counterparts. Which meant they applauded during, rather than between, the song settings; which prompted conductor Yaron Traub to raise his hand in admonishment. But at this point the audience was three goals up over the music, and victory was sealed by another killer move. Liszt's First Piano Concerto came after the interval, and during the Concerto the mother's phone rang loudly. She then proceeded to answer it, following which she discussed the call with her husband - all while the band played on. Now I may be a grumpy old concertgoer; but this is not the first, second or third time that my appreciation of a concert has been destroyed by the intrusive behaviour of audience members in general, and by the curse of the mobile phone in particular. 

In a way I am glad that I am no longer able to afford to attend concerts by the star orchestras if this is the way audience behaviour (no doubt influenced by stadium rock) is going.

No comments: