Just in: London Philharmonic disrupter comes out to face the music

Just in: London Philharmonic disrupter comes out to face the music


norman lebrecht

November 18, 2011

The following letter has been received at Slipped Disc from the apparent perpetrator of the LPO Bruckner disturbance. I could not possibly comment. But you can.


From Alex Verney-Elliott 

The ‘man’ was me and I think it was a polite response in response to an impolite performance: I walked out in protest against the self-indulgent  bad conducting of Vanska and the terrible playing of the LPO where the woodwind and brass were often out of sync and out of tune: It was a slow-motion performance with no sense of line and forward momentum and the Andante just dragged with Vanska losing his pace almost bringing the music to a stand still; Vanska conducted a terrible discredited perverted edition that is a total travesty (with those kitsch Straussian cymbal swishes) and the LPO were obviously not well rehearsed and in very bad form. It is about time Royal Festival Hall, Barbican Hall and Royal Albert Hll Proms audiences became far more critical and shout out like I did otherwise we will continue to have ‘dumbed-down’ tenth-rate performances like this: For the record: I shouted out to the audience: “He’s dragging it!, “It’s far too slow”, “Whay aren’t you all more critical?” and ending up saying: “It’s rubbish!”

I stand by all my objective statements of fact and think others should have joined in with me and been less cowardly and more courageous and critical: I did not display bad manners: the conduor did in his bad mannered performance  which was indeed a very mannered perverted performance! One person in the annex did say: “I agree with you!”

Norman Lebrecht incorrectly stated: “I do hope the South Bank administration have taken measures to ban the man (who is apparently known to them from past eccentricities).” This is libelous slander as I am not at all “known” to the South Bank from “past eccentricities”: Please name one ‘eccentricity’ that  I am ‘known’ for? This is the first time I have ever made a protest at the Royal Festival Hall or South Bank Center.

I do hope the South Bank administration have taken measures to ban Lebrecht (who is apparently known to them from past eccentricities of admiring third rate conductors and performances). Why does Lebrecht and the Royal Festival Hall audience supinely accept impolite and badly mannered performances?

Here is Erica Jeal’s idiotic account in The Guardian:

“If the concerto seemed to flash by, the same could not be said for Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony – though the audience member who in the fourth movement felt moved to stomp out, complaining about Vänskä’s tempo, proved only that there’s no way to heckle classical concerts without appearing weird. The conductor’s ability to keep the music’s momentum spinning in mid-air, which had made for a cogent first movement and a second movement that seemed like a symphony in microcosm, began to flag somewhere in the bald exchanges of the third. For all the detail of his conducting, the finale didn’t have the impact those first two movements had seemed to promise.”

Enough said about our dumbed-down critics reviewing dumbed-down performances of dumbed-down editions!  Why are audiences and critics so uncritical today?


  • No, NL was right the first time – ban him. By interrupting the performance he robbed others in the audience of their chance to make their own minds up without interference. And he sounds like a right twonk in his letter.

  • Hansjürgen Kohlhaas says:

    Mister, you have been in the wrong place, you should prefer the rock concert or the jazz club, and even there the musicians would spit at you if you let out your idiotic criticism.

  • Ian says:

    What a pillock.

  • Colin McCarthy says:

    I totally agree with Devil’s Trill. Mr Verney-Elliott’s behaviour was inexcusable exhibitionism. No doubt he considers his contribution was valid criticism in the interests of art – I suggest it is more akin to someone defacing a painting. It was the act of a vandal.

  • John Rizek says:

    I think there’s one point that need to be considered, beside the ban or not to ban discussion: It’s unquestionable that today audiences, critics and even musicians are way too uncritical. That’s a dangerous scenario to the musical creation, to musical appreciation. We need to be more critical in order to imagine a future to music.

    • Gerhard says:

      Whether generalizations like the notion, that everybody is insufficiently critical in music, are so much to the point, I have my doubts, but in general I can well agree with you. However, there is one thing which seems unquestionable to me: no matter what critical reservations one may have about any performance, none can justify a pompous and self-righteous attitude, let alone plainly rude and agressive behaviour towards other music lovers on and off stage.

  • Doug says:

    Totally agree with John. Who says we must be completely passive at performances? All this talk about the audience being part of the performance but is there some unspoken rule that we are supposed to just sit and be spoon fed? Perhaps what classical music needs is a form of Occupy the Orchestra or better yet, Occupy the Podium. (Occupy Upstairs?)

  • Richard Barber says:

    I very much admire that Mr. Verney-Elliott had a strong reaction to the music that was performed for him, and that he is willing to both OWN his strong opinions and elaborate upon them. A concert is an invitation to the audience to feel, think, and articulate. ———-HOWEVER———- There is a social contract at a concert: The artists perform their beliefs while the audience gives focused and respectful attention to the creation of art, THEN the audience registers their feelings and opinions of what they have just experienced, and it’s the musicians’ turn to “face the music.” An artist of integrity humbly accepts ANY judgement of the audience, when the music finishes. Therein lies the great risk which every performing artist must accept: that the performance, filled with the performer’s experience of the past and feelings of the present, just might be utterly despised.

  • Scott Rose says:

    Wer ist denn eigentlich dieser hochmütige Dummkopf, der sich wie ein Elefant in Porzellanladen benimmt?

  • Don Drewecki says:

    The answer to a bad performance is what the late B. H. Haggin suggested in a radio interview over 40 years ago: “I _would_ like to see a return to booing”, he told Patricia Marx Ellsberg, citing examples from the 1920s, in which Metropolitan Opera audiences would cheer Caruso but boo Giovanni Martinelli.

    Booing is probably the way to go — something they apparently still do at Bayreuth.

  • Derek says:

    Hmmm, A bit like Religion really, “My” way is the only true and right way !! ???? We can all be guilty of it sometimes 🙂 🙂

  • Why not ban bad conductors who vandalise scores??? None of you have the guts or critique to say what a vandal Vanska was in his perverted-distorted conducting akin to child molestation!

    • Tim Dowling says:

      Heavens above I don’t think Vanska is the vandal this case. Get some help sir.

      • Dear Tim Dowling,

        Are you seriously saying Vanska was not ‘the vandal in this case’?

        Did you actually attend the performance?

        Get some musical education Sir.

        Yours sincerely, Alex Verney-Elliott

        • Tim Dowling says:

          Dear Mr Verney Elliott

          Your comparison with child molesters was really too much for me.

          Thankyou for calling me Sir though.
          PS I am a professional musician and have played with Osmo Vänska. I quite liked his work as a matter of fact.

    • Derek says:

      Dude, In a thirty five year career as a musician I have called Conductors all kinds of names for the appalling things they have perpetrated on performances/scores/composer intentions. But your comparison to child molesters is WAY over the top, and any sympathy you might have had from me is null an void, 🙁

    • Harold Braun says:

      By reading this i now clearly see what´s behind all of this:Your mental condition is seriously troubled and maybe even deranged.You really,really should seek for professional help.

  • evert potgieter says:

    I was also there and saw the whole thing. and i have to say whilst not agree myself as to why, i wholly applaud this gentleman for standing up to a performance he didnt like and found disagreeable, and then walking out..
    how times have changed us into uncritical consumers of socalled high culture. a mere hundred or two hundred years ago this type of behavior would have been considered normal concerts. and maybe many more, who felt the same in audience would have done so too back then. i can even comically see some eggs and tomatoes flying onto the stage!

    after, when walking out i heard quite a few people agreeing with this gentleman, even admiring him!

    and maybe the most disconcerting thing is that he has reminded us that actually we do have a voice, we can interact with a performance, rather than be silently unresponsive.

    and maybe that just whats needed, more honest and direct feedback- and who know know it may just help improve performances of the future too!

  • I found it rather ironical that deaf people criticized me for ‘interrupting’ the dragged-out static performance and being a ‘vandal’ when that was EXACTLY what I was criticizing the ‘vandal’ Vanska of doing for he kept ‘interrupting’ the flow of the music with that vandalism of slowing down almost to a halt! Ban bad conductors!

    • Emil Archambault says:

      I feel it completely illogical to be arguing with you, as your behaviour is so beyond rationality that I am quite certain arguments will fly over your head. Nonetheless, your argument is so stupid as to leave me no choice.

      You may dislike a performance (or hate it passionately, if you prefer) as much as you want. However, just as for other perceived wrongs in society, there is a way to express displeasure. THE CORRECTIVE MEASURE OUGHT NOT TO EXCEED THE WRONG!!! By seeking to answer to what you (and maybe a minority) perceived as erratic conducting, you ruined everyone’s right to listen to the music. You may argue that you wasted money on a ticket for such a poor concert (again, your perception, I wasn’t there); however, everyone else had paid a ticket and deserved to be able to listen. You ruined that, and wronged the majority. If you choose to leave, you have the right to do so, but not at the expense of everyone else’s right to listen.

      Just like being victim of a theft does not allow to resort to criminal means to repair the injustice, having a conductor “interrupt” a performance (your own words) does not allow you to ruin it by revenge. The time for “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” has long passed.

      • Dear Emil Archambault,

        It was Vanska who ‘ruined’ everyone’s ones right to listen to the music because it was not Bruckner we were listening to: why are you so unmusical and so against what Bruckner actually wanted?

        Vanska’s behaviour was so beyond rationality using a perverted-distorted edition and conducting with a wayward mannered sluggishness vandalizing the music and ruining the composers reputation!

        Contrary to you claim: Vanska’s ruining of the performance gave me the democrat right to ruin his ruin: though I should have shouted much louder and out of tune to match the poor playing of the L.P.O.

        You are profoundly ignorant of musical tradition where critical interruptions during performances used to be very common with people continuously booing through out (and which still happens at La Scala).

        You (like the thick majority) may accept very bad low standards of conducting and playing – but I do not.

        Yours sincerely, Alex Verney-Elliott

        • Squick says:

          Your idiocy has made me so very very angry, Alex. You call everyone on this thread musically illiterate, yet we have no proof of your ‘literacy’. All we can see is that your spelling is dire; an we’re supposed to take you seriously? You absolutely HAVE to accept that what you propose is a silly contradiction. If it really is right for someone to interrupt any performance they dislike, and you appear to think all audience members have no idea what’s good and what’s bad, then we’d have shouting and wailing all through every concert, because you CAN’T PLEASE EVERYBODY. How would you like it if you were listening in rapture to the most wonderful concert and people started wailing? You’d think it was vandalism and idiocy, because you think you’re right and everyone else is wrong. Well, sir, that isn’t the point. If you don’t like it shut up and get out, don’t scream and get out. It’s not for you to decide what other people can hear without disruption. And don’t repeat about Vanska being the one who interrupted. And please be aware that I’m a musician. I didn’t hear the concert. I play in an orchestra. I exercise restraint at terrible conductors. I am ‘educated’ – I understand harmony, rhythm, structure, melody, tonality, chromaticism, atonality etc more than any critic seems to (they never mention these things – the vital stuff – they just go on about the artsy poetsy stuff which no-one can agree on), more than most conductors seem to and more than the audience seem to. Of course there is criticism but not of the right kind. If you stand by your criticism then why not show us your musical muscle and tell us WHY it was too slow, from an analytical, intellectual point of view? And no need to shout.

  • Jude Ziliak says:

    Mr. Verney-Elliott,

    I admire your courage and your willingness to speak up publicly like this. And I do share your sentiment that audiences ought not feel obligated to clap demurely for bad performances.

    However, present-day concert etiquette is predicated on the idea that each member of the audience should be able to experience the music privately, on their own terms, without interruption or commentary from others. Whether this is healthy or not — I am by no means sure that it is — it is what people expect. Your behavior was no more acceptable than would have been audible moans of ecstasy from a pleased listener. Until you admit such things, express your disapproval less conspicuously — or at least less impatiently — if you must attend concerts.

  • Don Hansen says:

    What happened to booing? I suppose they still do it in Italy but it’s been ages since I’ve heard it at a concert. Lackluster applause is good too, but don’t disrupt a performance no matter how bad you think it is.

  • I don’t like when people talk at movie theaters, so I could see myself being upset if I paid money to see this concert. That said, there need to be more people like this listening to classical music. At least he cares about what he’s listening to. I’d take passionate heckling over a sedated audience any day.

  • Barry Johnstone. says:

    While I’m not a diehard fan of Bruckner, and I actively dislike Wagner, I will continue to respect the fact that there are actually people in existence who like this stuff! (Different strokes for different folks) It’s OK to be critical, but surely that’s even more reason to try and be reasonably good-mannered about it.

  • NIgel SImeone says:

    Here’s the evidence – recorded in the hall by a silent member of the audience who recorded the whole symphony. I’ve just uploaded the relevant bit of the finale to youtube. You need the volume up quite high to hear what the disrupter is saying – but the noise comes over loud and clear.

    Here’s the link:

  • RB says:

    One of the funniest and proudest moments in Berlioz’s Memoires is when (as a Conservatoire student) he heckles a lousy Paris Opera performance of his beloved Der Freischutz. We read it as a sign of youthful inspiration and idealism becuase Hector went on to write such remarkable music. Let’s see if this guy has any creative or interpretive chops – or if he’s just another young fogey with an attitude surfeit.

  • istvan horthy says:

    It’s not for a member of the audience to start shouting because in his, possibly bigotted, view the performance is not good. Imagine if everyone started doing that. There are only two acceptable ways of protesting: not applauding and not going to hear that artist again.

    Among artists I would have started yelling at, had I been a fascist nut, were Bernstein (Mahler 7th), Kempe (‘Parsifal’), Klemperer (Bruckner 5th), Karajan (‘Pastoral’ Symphony) and the pianist Weissenberg.

  • harold braun says:

    Mr. Verney Elliot should be banned from concerthalls worldwide and sent to the football stadium,where his behaviuor would be more appropriate. If he didn`t like the performance,he could have expressed his feelings after the final chord.In not doing so,he deprived the “rest” of the audience to form judgement.This is contrary to all rules of democratic and civilized behaviour.ITherfore he should furthermore sentenced to pay each member of the audience the equivalent of the ticket price to compensate for his rude and primitive behaviour.

  • PJ de Boer says:

    Has it ever occurred to you, Mr Verney-Elliott, that some people in the audience might actually have been enjoying this performance? That not every single audience member may have been aware of the “terrible discredited perverted edition” the conductor was using? The way we enjoy and judge music is, by its nature, almost entirely subjective. What gives your subjectivity, apart from it being apparently more than averagely informed, greater worth than anyone else’s, so much that it would give you the right to violently break in on other people’s concentration, let alone the musicians’, robbing them of the possibility to enjoy the music, which after all they came to the concert and paid their ticket for?

    I’m writing this as a person who knows all to well the feeling of being at a bad performance and wanting to cry out against the perceived injustice of mediocrity inflicted on me. Fortunately or unfortunately, however, there is no such thing as impoliteness or bad manners in music. In human behaviour, there is. You have displayed it blatantly and stand by it. Next time – if ever you are admitted into a concert hall again – simply walk out. Silently.

  • David Crowe says:

    As much as I too am annoyed by rude and disruptive audience behavior, I also take some vicarious pleasure at Mr. Verney-Elliott’s actions. How many times I’ve wanted to shout, “It’s too damned slow! “or “God, this is boring.”

    This whole incident reminds me of a 90-minute performance of this same Bruckner Fourth by the Munich Philharmonic under the legendary Celibidache at Ann Arbor, Michigan, back in the 80’s. The finale was so slow that the string tremolo figure literally unravelled, stopped and had to be restarted – no shouts, no insults, just the obligatory standing ovation.

  • M.Etzel says:

    If you dislike the concert walk out in silence. Don´t applaude at the end. Booing at the end is also all right. But, be considerate to others and don´t disrupt the performance.

    • Dear Mr. Etzel,

      But Vanska disrupted the performance long before I did, in the Andante, when it almost came to a stand still ‘disrupting’ the flow of the music: I should have actually walked out then as Vanska was wrecking an already vandalized edition of Bruckner’s 4th Symphony. Like many concert goers today you tend to forget that it was only recently we have had this uncritical and tame and timid petty-bourgeois etiquette of being silent during terrible performances but never so in the 18th and 19th, even early 20th century, when audiences were far more critical and far more musical and booed and heckled during bad performances: it was the norm.

      So let us return to the good old days of audience participation and critical interaction and stop being so hypocritically ‘polite’ when an ‘impolite’ conductor rudely wrecks the written score of the composer.

      Conductors should be more considerate of others who pay to hear the score as written and not as vandalized and butchered as Vanska did; after all, we the paying-audience are paying his over-inflated fees.

      Yours truly Alex Verney-Elliott

      • Alexander Radziewski says:

        Mr. Verney-Elliott; you mentioned: “So let us return to the good old days of audience participation and critical interaction and stop being so hypocritically ‘polite’ when an ‘impolite’ conductor rudely wrecks the written score of the composer.”
        Okay, that would offer the right to show you by physical violence that I don’t agree with your point of view about the interpretation. Next time you come to one of our performances and make your personal show, I will leave my place on stage, hit and spit into your face and kick your ass to show you, that your articulated opinion let you become an outlaw with no right to be respected anymore.
        That’s what you want? The disgusting way you described the interpretation of the LPO and Venska gives no other solution to me.
        You are without any tolerance, without any empathy and your point of view is not the standard. Fortunately!
        Did you ever be aware, that such a live event is an imperfect event with surprises – fantastic, good and not so good one? I don’t buy your point that the LPO and Venska were on Level 0 in executing and interpreting the piece. Perhaps it was not her best day which is excusable when performing more than 100 concerts every season. Buying a ticket for a live performance can include an unforgetable event or you witness an performance of trial and error. The music world would become very poor and boring if only the all-inclusive right interpretations -who makes this solution?- would be performed everywhere which is not possible because each group consist in indivudals.
        French musicians smile about the German heavy-weight way to interprete french music and we smile about their way to perform Wagner’s music. I could scream about it but I can it also regard as a chance to listen to my music from a new point. That means to be willing to learn and to explore your own horizont.
        That’s the way I am happy -not only confident- with music for around 30 years including the not so successful moments.
        If you have a collection of recordings, did you ever own a perfect interpretation? If no, what do you expect on public performances? If yes, stay at your home, be happy and don’t offend and disturb the others who are open minded.

  • Dear PJ de Boer,

    You asked: “Has it ever occurred to you, Mr Verney-Elliott, that some people in the audience might actually have been enjoying this performance?”

    Not for one minute! How on earth could they have been ‘enjoying this performance’ when it was so badly conducted and so badly played (as well as being a distorted and perverted edition of the score?)

    Why are the Royal Festival Hall audience so musically retarded and backward I wonder?

    Yours sincerely, Alex Verney-Elliott.

    • PJ de Boer says:

      Dear Mr Verney-Elliott,

      You ask why people are not more musically cultivated. I deplore this as much as you do, but this is not something we can change by just snapping our fingers, let alone treating entire audiences as imbeciles… Which brings me to my main question: what does ANYONE gain from your behaviour at this performance? You’re attracting a lot of attention, if that is what you want. But I don’t suppose you think that it will actually help to make people around you “see the light”? If you do, I’m afraid you are seriously deluded.

      There are thousands of ways to voice dissent over a musical performance: refrain from applauding, walk out, boo for all I care. Or write to the orchestra, write to the conductor, post your reviews on a weblog. Or, even better, learn how to conduct and work yourself all the way up and try and stand there for yourself to show how it should be done. My point is, as a concertgoer, I don’t have some kind of “right” to show my disapproval in such a way that it disrupts the performance, making it impossible for the person next to me to enjoy or even form his own opinion about it. In a civilized society, we know when to keep things for ourselves and when to express them. You have clearly crossed a line, and as for your argument of century old “traditions” of heckling and booing that should somehow be honoured: Tradition ist Schlamperei.

      Yours sincerely, P-J de Boer

  • Dear Harold Braun

    You wrote: “Mr. Verney Elliot should be banned from concerthalls worldwide and sent to the football stadium,where his behaviuor would be more appropriate. If he didn’t like the performance, he could have expressed his feelings after the final chord.In not doing so,he deprived the ‘rest’ of the audience to form judgement .This is contrary to all rules of democratic and civilized behaviour. Therefore he should furthermore sentenced to pay each member of the audience the equivalent of the ticket price to compensate for his rude and primitive behaviour.”

    Football Stadium audiences ‘know the game’ far better than concert goes ‘know the score’ so this is another snobby elitist analogy that just backfires as football fans really know every move of a player but a concert hall audiences is largely ignorant of the music and often goes along simply to be seen at a social event and often cannot read a score (or know anything about orchestra standards and the art of conducting) whilst football fans largely know about the art of foot ball playing and are far more intelligent and critical than the vast majority of classical music concert goers. May the timorous Royal Festival Hall audience should watch more football games and listen to the fans shouts and chants and learn something about criticism!

    It was Vanska’s self-indulgent and bad mannered conducting that was ‘contrary to all rules of democratic and civilized behaviour’ and not my well-paced public performance that woke-up an audience half-asleep (as I distinctly remember – such was Vansk’s sleep-walking pacing).

    Therefore Vanska should furthermore be sentenced to pay each member of the audience the equivalent of the ticket price to compensate for his rude behaviour – as he earns more money from one bad performance than some of us earn in one year!

    Yours truly, Alex Verney-Elliott

    • Waldo says:

      Why is anyone giving this jackass the time of day? From the moment he started shouting, he was trolling for a response. Better to just ignore this lonely man than continue to attempt to reason with him.

      • andrea fontemaggi says:

        My are you right! Don’t treat this seriously…we all know that audience participation is good (even though no-one said there ought to be any democracy in the concert hall)…but please, simply boo at the end, or don’t attend those concerts ever again. No informed or well-educated listener is ever “more valid” than “ignorant” ones, or has any right to “right” a “wrong” performance…if you think it’s easy, please try your own career in conducting. If you think your view of this bad performance is so undebatably right, seek your own consensus any other way (you might be able to match the ability of many bloggers in recruiting “followers”, but I suspect not).

    • Harold Braun says:

      Dear Mr.Verney -Elliot,

      I can`t find any words in reply to the preposterous,pretentious,contorted nonsense of your argumentation.It reminds me sadly of the days 70 years ago in Germany,when my grandfather,a concertmaster in local orchestra,was virtually heckled away from the stage because of his jewish heritage.I simply refuse to put up with intolerance.it simply makes me throw up.

      • Cain Pinto says:

        Dear Harold Braun,

        far be it than I sympathize with anti-Semitic sentiments, which you have tasted and abhorred, I still must protest as your intolerance toward a discriminating listener as entirely emetic and not in keeping with your own integrity.
        In that you say it makes you retch, you express a sentiment which you claim to loathe; how little sense you talk, sir!!

  • Dear Mr. Alex Verney-Elliot
    I do not know if you are right or wrong regarding the interpretation of the maestro and the performance of the orchestra. I was not there and even if I was although I do know a bit about music I do not think I would know enough to tell you if you are right or wrong. Probably I belong to the class you say to be musically retarded.
    However for the sake of argument let´s consider for a moment that you are right and that people should be more critical. To be fair in that case I suspect that with an audience of say 3.000 people on the room (I do not know the audience numbers just guessing) if all took upon your challenge my guess is that rightly or wrongly we would not have a single performance where someone did not find the interpretation wrong or simply bad … Just a statistical application on my experience of observation of opinion of people after the concerts … and I think you would agree that in the event that this takes place in a performance you would be considering extraordinary you would find yourself robbed of the moment …
    In summary to be blunt I think that there better ways of both educating people and express your opinion about a certain performance. At the end of it I would say it is a good moment to choose … but then again this is just an ignorant opinion – and please forgive the irony of this last remark.

    • Cain Pinto says:

      Dear Fernando,
      better no music than bad music. And in so far as you subscribe to your misdirected statistical surmising, this is a good moment to revise our appreciation for good old argumentum ad populum’s fallacious twinge. What shall a tone deaf pedant have gained or lost had he heard a watered down recital from a maestro of old is a debatable point. Etiquette is the ninth stitch of conceit; should the conductor have broken wind, would you ignore politely and stifle your smirk, or would your roar with visible amusement and derision?
      I should have more respect for you if you did the latter, at least it would have been an honest reaction, rather than a condescending deceit. In short, one’s got to be a smug asshat to wait till his sensibilities have been trampled to make his protest.

      • Dear Cain Pinto
        Problem is that given an interpretation if you get a dozen experts they will tell you a dozen different things ranging from extraordinary to dull. Even in this one if you read the reviews you get that difference. So the question is that this is not a science rather an art and highly subjective to that matter. At the level we are speaking to say “bad” or “good” music is rather a matter of taste since the notion of exact rendition is something to which I do not subscribe. So the question is rather then if I am allowed to interrupt something good just because I personally feel it is bad. Given the nature of the above. I do tend to think not and that there better occasions to express one´s opinion. It´s not only a question of etiquette it´s a question of respect. My freedom to think and act freely stops (ends) where the one of the next men begins. But then again this is just the opinion of an ignorant and deaf pedant …

  • Christopher Oakmount says:

    Dear Mr Verney-Elliott,

    Let me start by saying that I also think that conducting standards have dropped, especially in Bruckner.
    I do not question your judgement and might well have agreed with you had I been there.

    I do, however, worry that your very public statement might incite less discerning “critics” to use the same method – interrupting a performance – to gain their moment in the limelight. It has taken centuries to reach the present-day common understanding that performances of music should be listened to in silence as to make complete enjoyment possible for a large number of people, and the loss of this would be grievous. Music needs silence, and interruption, no matter how well intended, is an act of vandalism that could set a dangerous precedent.

    Why not spread your knowledge of Bruckner by using the internet to educate us? How about a short video on YouTube where you explain your point of view, perhaps with one or two excerpts from recordings you approve of?

    Yours sincerely,
    Christopher Oakmountain

  • Is not Mr Verney Elliott following a tradition, still active in theatres like La Scala in Milan, of vocal protest of a perceived bad performance? Are not audiences today, particularly London audiences, just supine and dererential to bad or dull performances? Mr Verney Elliott’s intrusion actually livened up what had become an increasingly dull performance of the totally discredited (1888) version of Bruckners 4th Symphony. I note that some of the responses to this intrusion talk of being polite. Some, with a tone of class discrimination in regard to the ‘special’ ambience. of a ‘classical’ concert. Perhaps more vocal critique of ‘classical’ performances would bring about higher standards in conducting, orchestral playing and instrumental solo playing. It would also present a challenge to the current lamentable standards of concert/opera mainstream criticism. Of course, one experiences a different, more carnivalesque atmosphere at a football match. Here the audience is more criticlal, more vocal, more engaged because it is 99% more knowledgeable of football (its intricate tackling techniques etc) than a standard SBC ‘classical’ audience are of ‘classical’ music, clapping anything they are presented with out of politeness! I also notice that no one has mentioned a word about politeness/respect in relation to the composer! It is more or less certain now that Bruckner did not intend such travesties to his music as we hear in the 1888 version, even when it is tonally dished up by Mr Benjamin Korstvedt! The superb editions of Novak and Haas were both based on Bruckner’s original source material, and final wishes. Also by the time Mr Verney Elliott made his exit the performance had become not just dull but incoherent, as though it had lost any sense of direction, partly to do with excrescences of the 1888 edition, especially in the last movement. And the LPO were not at their best on this occasion.

    I only wish there had been more vocal criticism of the performance of the preceding work, the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. Miss Jansen played in a most unidiomatic fashion,frequently holding up the flow of the music with all kinds of mannered rubato and rallentandos; also with frequent tuning problems especially in the first movement. And there was little dialogue between soloist and conductor. Unusually, Vanska conducted in a rather detached and dull manner, with none of the dynamic flaire and panache so intrinsic to this music. But the performance achieved something like a standing ovation!

    Supine uncritical audiences foster increasingly lower standards in classical performance. Lets have more, not less, vocal criticism when a performance starts to become routine and misconceived. Rather than showing a lack of respect, would this not garner more respect for dead composers like Bruckner, who no longer have a voice outside of their music!

    • Mr. Diggines is absolutely right: Audiences at the Royal Festival Hall, the Barbican Centre, and worst of all, at the Royal Albert Hall, are mainly thick and musically-illiterate often totally ignorant of the music they pay to hear and this is real ‘bad manners’ – by being ‘impolite’ to the composer – as most concert goers know nothing about the music they are hearing or the art of conducting and orchestral playing including our over paid classical concert music critics who tend to write in uncritical ‘dumbed-down’ cliche-ridden sound-bites.

      It is high time our supine and servile audiences woke up and started listening more critically and to loudly vocalizing criticism during bad performances otherwise standards will continue to spiral downwards as with the Philharmonia Orchestra sounding so awful with weak thin strings and barely audible double-basses.

      • Istvan Horthy says:

        I entirely agree: our concert hall are full of “thick” people – only excepting you and me.

        P.S. Have you tried Valium?

  • paul cameron says:

    I didn’t attend this concert so can’t comment on the performance but I think it’s all too true that audiences today are far too uncritical and applaud everything, good, bad or indifferent. A result of this attitude is a lowering of standards simply because there is nothing to fear if you hash the whole thing up!
    Maybe Mr. Verney-Elliott went a bit over the top but the principle is right, audiences should be more critical of what is being offered but it could be that we have reached a stage when the vast majority simply don’t know what is good and what is rubbish, wittness the wild applauding (on you tube postings) of some absolutely appalling opera singing!!

  • brokhausen says:

    this is one performance of the tchaikovsky violin concerto which the audience should have heckled. Mr Verney Elliott should teach and disseminate his methods to audiences in other countries.

  • Jude Ziliak says:

    I should also note that every conductor has their weaknesses. I think Mr. Verney-Elliott should consider whether he wants to speak so slanderously of Vanska when he has given the world some of the finest readings of Nordic symphonic repertoire ever, has restored the Minnesota Orchestra to its long-lost prominence in American musical life, and has put out a Beethoven cycle to shame many bigger names. Is he a brilliant Bruckner interpreter? Probably not. But my favorite interpreter of Debussy perpetrated the worst Handel I’ve ever heard from professional musicians. I hope no one judges me on my worst work; it’s a whole lot worse than my best.

    And Vanska as vandal? Please. That’s nonsense. The underlying notion that werktreue is a moral issue that can be judged by one audience member is philosophically and artistically ridiculous. At most, Vanska had bad ideas. So what? Nobody died. The work hasn’t been permanently defaced or ruined. I speak as a performer of early music on period instruments. Performance is contingent, and the liveliness of our musical community is dependent on experimentation, subjective decisions, and variety. Urtext, schmurtext. Should bad editions be taken as authorities? No. But neither should good ones be enshrined and worshiped. That way lies a permanently moribund culture of music.

  • Waldo says:

    My comment got a little lost in the woods about 20 posts ago, but I wanted to say this: He’s a troll! From the minute he started shouting at the concert to when you’ve all been baiting him with this huge comment thread, he has been nothing but a dope who is relying on provoking other people. Ignore him, and he will go away!

  • ken n says:

    Good grief.
    Dreadful behavior. Even if 50% of the audience agreed (which I doubt) he has no right to interrupt the performance for the rest.
    In music criticism there is no objective truth. Which as it happens, is one of the reasons I enjoy music, especially live performances, so much.
    I hope he is banned from concert halls.

  • Dear Jude Ziliak,

    I admire Vanska in the Nordic symphonic repertoire which was why I was so surprised he lacked the structural grasp of the Bruckner 4th Symphony; and I was watching Vanska directly face to face and he was vandalizing the music by pulling it to pieces and indulging in absurd acting antics pulling grotesque grimaces (like Bernstein and Rattle engaged in) that are actually insulting and ‘impolite’ to his under-paid players.

    Vanska slowed-down so much in places that he ‘disrupted’ the flow of the music and this is ‘vandalism’ akin to slashing an oil painting – for he slashed the structure of the score so reducing it to a patch work of fragmentary ruins.

    Best regards A.V.E.

  • Janey says:

    My well-considered, learned response on Mr. Alex Verney-Elliott is this –

    The guy has a screw loose.

    But he’s darn funny.

    Thank you.

  • Ziggy says:

    “A gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender (or anyone else) of a wrong he believes to have been committed against him. He has refined manners, and is courteous…”

    No matter what A.V.E.’s opinion of the performance/conducting/price of fish, it is uncouth in the extreme to shout out his disapproval mid-music. I don’t care if he was correct to the last comma in his opinion, he should have waited for a gap between movements & left; or stayed until the end of the performance and then made his feelings known.

    I passionately disagreed with Norrington’s interpretation of Mahler 9 at the Proms earlier this year, and found ithe resulting performance profoundly distressing: but I wouldn’t have dreamt of emulating such appalling behaviour. It’s the behaviour of a very callow boy. Let’s hope he a) grows up; b) learns some manners, & c) develops tolerance.

    • Harold Braun says:

      Dear Ziggy ,right you are.I tried to sit through a performance conducted by Norrington years ago,but when i couldn t stand it any longer,i left the hall as quietly as possible.Since then i have avoided Norrington performances like the plague.This summer i witnessed what must have been the worst performance of Tchaik5 ever,conducted by what i consider one of the ridiculously overrated conductors nowadays,Ivan Fischer,played by his Budapest Orchestra.The performance was incredibly calculated,fussy,and trying to be important by underlining minor voices and neglicting the important ones .It really made me cringe in my seat .But did i stand up and prevent others who might have another opinion from enjoying it? Did i hell! I just refused to clap at the end of the concert..I didn`t need to boost my ego by disturbing the concert.

  • Erik says:

    I have been reading this story and subsequent responses all Monday morning while waiting in the green room for a children s theater. We have been discussing this both amongst the young and experienced actors in the show as to the appropriate response and audience member has a right to when facing what they view as a disrespected performance. From here in Orlando, FL we have enjoyed the conversation. Many agree that a negative response is only appropriate when greatly offended and only to boo. Others believe negative feedback is not appropriate at any time during the performance but open afterwards. I and others feel that discourse that is truly felt and expressed just like audilation over the course of live performance is appropriate. The nature of live performance is the audience involvement. Whether negative, positive, or non vocal the energy and response is important.

    Personally I thank A.V.E for creating the conversation here as well as those both intelligently arguing for and against A.V.Es actions.

  • john summers says:

    Surely the point is that the audience paid to hear the concert – not Mr Elliot shouting about it – however perceptive he believes his opinion to be.

  • William Bard says:

    For those of you who have not yet done so, you may want to go check out Mr. Verney-Elliot’s Facebook profile at:


    Isn’t it interesting that under his “People Who Inspire Alex” section, he lists “terrorists.” And under his favorite quotations, he lists “We manure the earth” by painter Francis Bacon to him in 1981. Under his “Political Views” you will find the word “jihad,” and under his “Religious Views” you will find that he supposedly worships the Egyptian god Amun-Ra. This guy seems pretty screwed up. His life is better served pooping on the Earth with his painter friend than sitting in a concert hall critiquing a purely ordinary concert. I’ve heard far worse concerts, and I didn’t react in the manner Mr. Verney-Elliot did.

    • Harold Braun says:

      Yeah,and like so many frustrated,self appointed prophets with a misguided missionary zeal he seems tu be a nutcase.

    • Harold Braun says:

      Yeah,and among his favourite activities he lists killing and thicking.For more information on him go http://the headmaker.blogspot.com.And what coincidence it is that he is interviewed under his(i assume)artists name Alex Alien by the same Mr.Evan Potgieter who strongly spoke out for him in this blog.Sounds all very weird to me!!!

    • Anon says:

      William – “isn’t it interesting that…” well, no, not really. Has it occurred to you that a Facebook profile looking like that is somewhat likely to have been constructed only with the intention to provoke, rather than to reflect the creator’s true opinion? Or that is it likely to be the work of an impostor seeking to discredit, rather than the real Alex V-E ?
      (If the real Alex V-E contradicts me and says it is him, and a genuine reflection, then fair enough and I take it back.)

  • Garth Winter says:

    Well, that’s Care in the Community for you, folks! Leaving aside the question of how religiously the composer’s wishes, in the form of the printer score, have always to be adhered to, I wonder what gives any one loudmouth the right to insist on hearing *his* version of how the work must sound, rather than the conductor’s? And in the process spoil the experience of the other listeners who have paid to hear this interpretation? As an orchestral musician I deplore the suggestion that audiences be encouraged to boo performances they don’t like (performances usually given by players and conductors whose levels of skill and discrimination they can only dream of), though strangely enough I never object to a ripple of applause between movements! It’s just a matter of good manners. No amount of twisting the argument to allege that it was Vanska being ill-mannered to poor old Bruckner (whatever that may mean) can disguise the sheer bad behaviour of the “protest”. And, as the review said (he should have read this more carefully) he just looks weird.

  • Jonathan Zoob says:

    Alex Vernon-Elliott has a past. For a number of years he wrote criticisms on concerts and CDs for the website Seen and Heard, now known as MusicWeb International. A quick search will reveal many examples of his writing but you need to know that he used to call himself Alex Russell. He had a bee in his bonnet about conductors in those days too.

  • Adam says:

    Ouch!! Car-crash central!

    Very passionate stuff on all sides. I can only say that everyone makes mistakes in performance – even really famous conductors with the Vienna Phil just completely balls-ing it up and giving the wrong entries and whole divisions getting lost etc etc, but the only time I ever booed someone (at the end I might add, and vociferously so) was when they just hadn’t done any rehearshal and really didn’t know what on earth they were playing which I considered was disrespectful to a paying audience. I guess he knew it too because he never came back on for a curtain-call (on a concert stage, as it were – if you see what I mean……)

    I guess after a while (1,350 concerts and operas so far and counting) you eventually see everything. Singers falling into the pit, power failures, scenery breakdowns, fire alarms, singers breaking legs, pianos collapsing, people dieing in the audience (I kid you not!), total loss of voice on stage, people having sex (in the loggia boxes at the proms,) people fighting each-other with fists, double basses falling off stage onto your lap beam-on, political demonstrations etc etc. I wouldn’t say modern concert life is THAT tame is it? I find it quite amusing.

    At the end of the day whether its Bruckner or Beethoven, or Bach, Berg, Berlioz, Brahms or whatever the music always lasts for another day and will certainly outlive me and whatever my entirely personal opinions maybe!

    Love and peace to all.

    • Pete Parker says:

      agreed, heard a very poor Bruckner 9 (missed entries, wrong notes) by a group who should know better – the Vienna Phil and Barenboim

      • Kai says:

        Agreed too. I also attended a very poor Bruckner 9th in Shanghai here a few days ago by the Berliner Philharmoniker and … Sir Simon Rattle. I thought the brilliant orchestra was totally abused by Rattle in this case. My friend and I left right after the first round of claps and cheers.

  • Dear Harold Braun,

    You cannot ‘find words’ simply because you have no argument and merely show your total ignorance of the long-standing ‘booing tradition’ which is still practiced in Vienna, New York and Milan and elsewhere where people are not as timid and and scared and hypocritical as uncritical and unmusical English audiences where petty-bourgeois ‘politeness’ at bad performances merely masks their ignorance and thus shows ‘impoliteness’ to the composer being raped and molested!

    It is because of uncritical people like you that standards have deteriorated at classical concert performances! You remind me of all those thick morons at The Proms at the Royal Albert Hall who wildly applaud at any rubbish that they here – such is the boorish behaviour of bad manners!

    Yours truly, Alex Verney-Elliott

  • Dear Jonathan Zoob,

    Correct: I used to be called Alex Russell and changed my name by deed-poll to Alex Verney-Elliott in memory of my deceased partner: is their a crime in that?

    And what you mean by me having: a “bee in my bonnet’ about conductors” is simply called ‘musical criticism’, and, yes, I did criticize third rate conductors like Vladimir Ashkenazy and Simon Rattle: is that not allowed then?

    Yes: I wrote concert reviews for both Seen & Heard and Classical Source – but Colin Anderson sacked me from the later because I criticized the bad playing of London orchestras so much and so he used to cut my reviews to shreds whenever I pointed out how bad the playing was of the Philharmonia Orchestra and there was a conflict of interest because Classical Source was also advertising the Philharmonia’s Signum CD label which means that Classical Source was not seriously into serious autonomous musical criticism but much more about marketing and promoting the Philharmonia (as was the case when my father, Ken Russell, wrote an editorial that was cut that included comparing the terrible playing of the Philharmonia Orchestra under von Dohnanyi in his Brahms Cycle on Signum – to Klemperer’s EMI Philharmonia Orchestra Brahms Cycle; indeed, the ‘Philharmonia Orchestra’, it could be argued, contravenes the Trade Descriptions Act since it is NOT the Philharmonia Orchestra as it was but a third rate orchestra with an appallingly thin string tone.

    I noticed Colin Anderson curiously missed hearing thus reviewing my walk out protest in his review of the Vanska concert because his reviews always describe more about the extra-mural activities going on in the Royal Festival Hall than the actual music itself – such as mobile phones going off, noisy late comers coming in, and coughs – but on this particular occasion: silence: I wonder why?

    Warmest wishes, regards Alex Verney-Elliott (formerly Alex Russell)

  • AWT says:

    Is Mr Verney-Elliott some kind of joker? I suspect he’s simply trying to comically rile people in order to collect comments for a cheap ‘Timewaster Letters’ esque publication.

    Mr Verney-Elliott – I presume this is also your work?

    Do grow up.

  • C.J. Sperling says:

    Dear Mr. Verney-Elliott,

    Your quote “third rate conductors like Vladimir Ashkenazy and Simon Rattle” shows again a level of – well, let’s call it “self-assuredness” – that hinders most musicians to take You seriously. It’s exactly this behaviour of “I know better than everybody else” that made Your possibly legitimate criticism of the concert worthless and ridiculous.

    If You’re not content with what the musicians do: by all means, let Your anger out – but only after the music has finished. When others applause, boo as loud as You can, say whatever You think, as loud as You want, expose banners, whatever. But please accept that others might enjoy the very music You despise, and possibly for reasons as good or bad as Your own. So don’t destroy their experience.

    You’re not god, you’re not the only one with musical knowledge. I even very much doubt Your basic understanding of what music is and can be – Your austere judgements display a lack of humbleness towards music that fits a third-rate province starlet.

    It’s not completely about “timid and and scared and hypocritical (and) uncritical and unmusical English audiences”. First and foremost it’s about You imposing Your judgement to everybody else in the audience, they want it or not.

    Just stay out of concerts if You can only accept music that is 100% serving Your personal taste, and if You feel the urge to ruin the evening if it’s not.

  • harold braun says:

    By the way,Mr.verney Elliot seems to have at least some superficial knowledge of the work,because he did his woeful stint during a quiter moment of the score.He had`t the balls to do it during one of the many Generalpausen of the piece.That saysit all!Poor wretched thing!!!Being a professional orchestra player for 33 years now,i assure that playing a Bruckner symphony on trumpet is very demanding even without any disturbance like coughing etc.But what does this bother a poor frustrated schmock like him.Just forget about it.

  • Gentil-Prof says:

    I think I have understood everything.

    Next time I’m in a restaurant, if I don’t like the food, I’ll do as you probably would : I’m gonna have a pee in everybody’s plate, so the cook will surely understand …

    Got it ??


    Oh …
    I’m glad that, at least, you paid for the concert. Hope it was expensive.

    • Mr Blue Sky says:

      Sadly he was in the choir seats. Not the most expensive block, which is a shame. I’d have loved to have seen him pay through the nose for his disappointment. Sad deluded wretch that he is…..

  • J says:

    If the point here was to give an opportunity for a lunatic to shine, I reckon the goal has been achieved.
    You simply do NOT interrupt someone who is expressing an idea. I was taught that in primary school actually. You know…. the raise your hand before talking thingy? If you felt so vandalized you had to leave, I can´t oppose to that. Just don’t bother everyone else. Do it quietly, without disturbances. If I go to a concert, I form my opinion based in what I think, surely not based in what someone else is yelling in my ear. Besides, you go to a concert to hear someone’s version of the piece. If you can’t handle it, stay home and listen to your over-played 50 year old LP record. Or! and here’s a crazy idea… learn how to conduct an orchestra and convice us of your far superior view of the piece. I will most definitely allow you finish before going all psycho on you.

    Respectfully (just being polite here…),

  • Harold Braun says:

    Now that we `ve given this fathead the kind of psycho boost he did his pathetic slapstick for by discussing it here,could we close this case and return to the serious business of our time and,of course,the arts?

  • Florian Donderer says:


    I can do without these “good old times of audience participation”
    I prefer empathy and tolerance – that’s what music should teach us. That doesn’t make me supine and servile and without opinion.

  • Jolly Olly says:

    I am dearly looking forward to being conducted by Mr Verney Elliot one day. He seems to know so much about both music and conducting that he must surely be a consummate maestro.
    I wonder how he’ll stand up to the criticism of a full symphony orchestra of professionals in front of him. And while we’re at it if his performance reaches the concert platform some professional hecklers must be invited to the audience. Can’t wait…..!

  • A Waddicor says:

    I was considering making comment on the several delusions this person seems to be living with, but realised that in fact, I couldn’t be bothered wasting my breath on what is just an attention-seeking nobody. He is welcome to his own opinions, but presumably nobody at that concert asked for his opinions, he just rammed them down the paying audience’s throat – which is why he will get not one jot of support for shouting his mouth off during a concert. As for his ignorant, pretentious, and formaldahyde opinions written above (what he calls “facts”, which in itself is deluded) on how music MUST be performed in his presence to avoid further such critical outbursts at performances, Samuel Johnson said it much better than I ever could…

    The Idler – Samuel Johnson

    …”Criticism is a study by which men grow important and formidable at a very small expence. The power of invention has been conferred by Nature upon few, and the labour of learning those sciences which may, by mere labour, be obtained, is too great to be willingly endured; but every man can exert such judgment as he has upon the works of others; and he whom Nature has made weak, and Idleness keeps ignorant, may yet support his vanity by the name of a Critic”…

  • Ann Onymous says:

    To all those on this forum cheering for the return of booing and interrupting a performance when it’s displeasing: I would love to see all of you perform on stage on the highest level and stand the pressure. If one feels he has the right to show this kind of behaviour because of a conductor (which is subjective), the next step will be to criticise the orchestra and the soloist publically. I am a professional musician myself, and every single performing musician I know has worked incredibly hard throughout his/her life to make it as a performing artist.
    To perform on stage requires an incredible amount of courage, skill and stamina and is every time again an enormous challenge one needs to face. It requires the artist to open up and show his vulnerability to an extent an audience has idea of; many talented musicians didn’t make a career just because they weren’t able to stand up to this kind of pressure. There is no such thing as routine in music.

    By claming the audience should have the right to interrupt the performance and ventilate its opinion in such an agressive manner hurts me, being a musician, more than I can say. The vast majority of us is sincerely concerned with giving the audience a nice concert experience – that’s in fact why we devoted whole our life to musicianship. When it occasionally goes wrong or we are not able to deliver the required standard, I don’t think there is a need to let us know; you can be sure of the fact we know it before you do…

    The best steersman are ashore…

  • You’re so right Ann. And this is impossible would everyone that dislikes a performance be given the freedom to destroy an other’s ability to hear it and possibly enjoy it. Or what’s left!? It’s like saying it’s OK to go to a museum with a can of spray paint, just in case you don’t like a painting, and want the freedom of expressing your dislike by ruining the painting, spraying paint all over it. That someone doesn’t like such and such a performance is more important than whether anyone else can even hear the performance, and anyone who even likes the performance is crazy, and anyone that doesn’t take part in ruining a performance that so-and-so doesn’t like by taking part in disrupting it with him has no right to even hear the performance lest he might decide for himself what he likes and doesn’t like. The whole audience or world is there to be indoctrinated by the fury of whoever doesn’t like what’s going on? What kind of tyranny is this? This has anything to do with expression!? And unfortunately the place where this behavior is MOST common is not in the concert hall but at a music lesson where a teacher starts acting like his student is committing murder when he does things in a way that is not to the liking of the teacher; then the student is assaulted with mocking, demoralizing epitaphs and other hysteria which for some inexplicable reason fall short of the teacher doing personal injury to himself to show his dismay. In many ways the critic and the teacher can come from the same school in this regard, and need a great personal store and repertoire of taunts, platitudes, polemics, affronts, sarcasms fabricated moralisms and politically correct ways of emotionally bruising already wounded victims who might otherwise actually be able to allow the music to do what it really does and heal rather than to herald superior aesthetics. It seems that occasionally in history such a scene has irrupted where the audience all start taking part in this rioting. Here’s an eye witness account at the end of this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diDvXYr7yIE What’s the problem actually? Is there no virgin to sacrifice!? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4coES_ei4PU See if you can cause a riot, if you can…