‘The President of the USA is disrupting my concert’

‘The President of the USA is disrupting my concert’


norman lebrecht

March 26, 2014

The violinist Linus Roth is playing tonight in Brussels. Unluckily, the concert coincides with a visit by Barack Obama. Linus writes:

linus roth


The presence of a politician like President Obama can affect us artists.

In Brussels, where I am stepping in as a soloist with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen under Ivor Bolton in the Palais des Beaux Arts, the President has decided to hold his speech today in exactly this concert hall. Not only will our concert start 30 -45 minutes late, but our rehearsal time in the hall has been cut down to a few minutes.

It means that Nelson Goerner, pianist in the Mendelssohn Double concerto, has almost no time to get used to the piano, and the rest of us no time to adjust to the acoustics.

That not all: the city is in lock-down, so it took us 1.5 hours this morning to get to a different rehearsal venue by public transport, as no cars are allowed in the city. In the afternoon it got worse: even the entrance to the metro was closed – so we walked, again and again having to make detours, as all roads being blocked by security.

A big thank you to the team of Klara Festival, who are making the very best out of the situation and leading us through the choas. It is extremely frustrating to experience in such a direct way how a politician affects our work. It’s a shame, but only once Mr. President has left town will Mendelssohn’s music receive the attention again it deserves, winning the hearts of our audience. Mr Obama hs not won mine.

Linus Roth


  • Manu says:

    Maybe Mr Roth should blame the hall management.

    That is the overblown reaction of a musician when he is not completely spoiled with attentions for one single day…

  • Ohad says:

    Similar complaints are heard everywhere. every time an American president makes an appearance. Why a visit by the president of the US requires the heaviest security known to modern civilization, it is needless to explain. So, the artist’s frustration should be directed at the local authorities that failed to meet the terms of the contract, rather than ranting about how “politicians affect our work”. As far as I know, the largest patrons of classical music today are governments, which are consisted of, surprisingly, politicians. Additionally, complaints about force majeur do not make us classical musicians, already seen by some as elitists and unproductive members of society, look any better.

    • Why does the president of the USA need to give his speech in Bruxelles at all? Surely, there are other places that are more remote and that and be secured more easily than the centre of Bruxelles. Why should tens of thousands of people (because this was not exclusively a problem for the musicians who wrote about it here) have to reorganize their days for something that did not HAVE to take place in their city? Sadly, this is yet another reason for Europeans not to like the US-ians.

      • correction “…that can be secured…”

      • Anonbari says:

        The point of being in Brussels, if I’m not mistaken, is that NATO and the main EU institutions are based there. He’s appealing to Europe as a whole for its collective response to the Ukraine crisis. To move this anywhere else would defeat the entire purpose.

      • Dave T says:

        Why does Linus have to give a concert in Bruxelles? Or anywhere at all? There are not a hundred people who could care less about this guy. I can think of some places more remote where his forgettable tinkling would be more appreciated, for starters, where other people named Roth live.

      • David J Gill says:

        @ David Pickett

        NOW THAT IS A RIDICULOUS THING TO SAY! Brussels hosts the EU and NATO. I’m sure these honors were not imposed on Belgium against her will. Shall we move these institutions to some empty field in Moldova so your day is not spoiled?

        Do you think the White House insisted on the Palais des Beaux Arts as the venue? I’m sure they were largely unaware of it’s existence…it’s not exactly Carnegie Hall or the Royal Albert. New Yorkers make the same sort of petulant remarks about security for the UN. One really expects a better attitude from Europeans.

        And , I must say, the complaints of Linus Roth sound like those of a narcissist…..in his mind it is always about him.

  • Sonja Staron says:

    Dear Linus:

    I apologize profoundly that a visit to Bruxelles in regards to the

    petty concerns of the Ukraine had to inconvenience so profoundly.

    I will try to win back your heart and therefore promise to schedule

    my appearances having to do with matters of State, so as not to interfere

    with your concertizing.

    Please forgive my thoughtlessness.


    Barack Obama, Politician

  • Galen Johnson says:

    Insert ad lib. sarcasm here:_____________________________.

  • Dan P. says:

    While I can sympathize with Mr. Roth that his concert has been egregiously interfered with a visiting head of state (I’ve also had concerts and rehearsals underminded by bigger named stars and even a hurricane that left more people on stage than in the audience), I’m not sure that it’s reasonable to expect the president’s team to check the local concert calendar as part of the planning process of a state visit. (“I know, Putin’s may be readying to invade all of Ukraine, and god knows where else, but, we can’t do Wednesday at the Palais, Roth has a concert – and it’s the Mendelssohn Double and no one ever does that. Perhaps there’s a wedding reception hall somewhere we can do it.) If anyone bears the responsibility of Mr. Roth’s predicament, I would think it’s the hall, but then again, what do you say when a head of state says he or she wants to give a speech at your auditorium? You don’t say no no matter who it is.

    I would also think that world events occuring in Europe’s back yard right now would be ample enough reason to give preference to the US President over a very minor piece of Mendelssohnian juvenalia. Finally, a temporary transit lockdown is a reasonable precaution when you consider the possible consequences these days. After all, WW I was sparked by unauthorized access to a minor royal that no one even remembers anymore except for his name. Sometimes one just has to grin and bear it, do one’s best under the circumstances, and move on.

  • RW2013 says:

    I think that there are many worse things that we could blame BO for. At least now Mr. Roth, we all know who you are.

  • Malcolm James says:

    Concert cancelled due to outbreak of World War 3. Musicians outraged.

  • MacroV says:

    President Obama was in Brussels for the annual US-EU summit, and his participation in the event was announced two months ago (and probably expected much earlier than that).


    So given how these things work, this event has probably been on the calendar for several years and quite likely people have been working on its organization for as long as a year. Plenty of time, in other words, for the folks organizing Mr. Roth’s concert, to find a workaround. Frankly, I’m surprised the hall was even able to present the event today.

    As for Mr. Roth’s annoyance with President Obama, he can rest assured that the organization of a press conference and its location falls well short of the President’s “radar screen.” He should take up his frustrations with the good folks at the EU who put on the event. And then proceed to get over himself.

  • Marguerite Foxon says:

    This is post 9-11 world. Get over it. Ive been dreadfully inconvenienced because of the Pres flying out of (not into, ouf of) a US airport 90 mins before I was due to land. Missed international connections, arrived a day later, had domestic flights and hotels in that country screwed and no refund from insurance. Concert Hall may have had no more notice about the Pres itinerary than I did (ie its top secret). Its life – move on, make the best of it, the audience will forgive you for any less than perfect performance in the circumstances.

  • M.A. Steinberger says:

    The President, whoever it is at any given time, is one of the most important people in the world. Sorry that Mr. Roth’s ego is unable to cope with this fact. Also, it is possible that Brussels is not the only city in Europe that has concerts going on, that might be disrupted by international events.

    Mr. Roth has accomplished one thing here. I had never heard of him until his whine was posted, but now know his name. However, he has certainly not won my heart.

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    Funny comments here… Had it been Vladimir, the same posters would have found Mr. Roth’s complaint a timely stand for freedom of art blah, blah, blah…

    • Branimir says:

      Just my thought on this silly discussion and lashing of one fine musician’s “superego”.

      By the way, in attitude to the crowned heads I’ve always preferred Beethoven to Goethe.

    • M.A. Steinberger says:

      I cannot speak for anyone else posting, but in my case this is not true.

    • Julia says:

      I think not, Mr. Turchev. Mr. Roth is being a self-centered little whiner and should just get over himself. I lived in New Hampshire for years, and had to regularly find new routes to work because of visiting pols. That’s life. Move on.

  • V.Lind says:

    I think the burden of the comments above is right — in the great scheme of things, there is no doubt which is the more important event, and that security must be, in a word, secure for the President.

    Nonetheless, NO cars in the city? Metro stations closed? Obama’s presumably undisclosed flight path would be from Point A to Point B to Point C, etc. Any of us who have ever been anywhere near a US President have been exposed to the heavy-handedness of the Secret Service thugs and whatever other agencies support them. I would be astonished if his peregrinations could not have been carried out in perfect security with a great deal less inconvenience to thousands of the people of Brussels and those others who were in town to play the piano. While Mr. Roth’s whinge seems a bit naïve, I am not totally out of sympathy with his main point.

    • Allen says:

      The President’s entourage of over 900, and the number of planes and vehicles involved, has attracted unfavorable comment elsewhere.

      The fake signer at the Nelson Mandela memorial and its security implications suggest that maybe less is more.

    • David J Gill says:

      The security cocoon that the president exists is a sad fact. Is it needed or absurdly excessive? Lincoln often made his way around Washington alone, but for his driver. But that didn’t turn out well.

      Anyone at the last Inaugural parade saw an event that was mostly staged for the cameras only. The general public could not get near the President. And if you are not familiar with the features of the presidential limousine put in service a few years ago, look it up.

  • Clearly, an Obama (or GWB or Pope … ) visit makes any place a more dangerous place than before. Meaning: people living in or close to such places are put at higher risk of being killed or wounded WITHOUT BEING EVEN ASKED!!!. What do these endangered people gain in return? I mean, gain in real terms, not in words?

    No single person is more important than thousands of others, To assume otherwise violates most constitutions on this planet. Hence it does not matter whether an effected Mr Roth is a violinist or just visiting a future girlfriend. He is just one of many people treated unconstitutionally.

    Ridiculing Mr Roth for his standpoint is nothing less than support for breaking basic human rights. Is this what we want and ask for?

    • M.A. Steinberger says:

      Heads of state, like it (or them) or not, are not there as individuals, but as the representatives of millions of said individuals. There are too many people on earth to do Athenian-style democracy.

      (If you don’t remember what that was, go back to jr.-high.)

    • M.A. Steinberger says:

      Heads of state, like it (or them) or not, are there not as individuals, but as the representatives of millions of said individuals. There are too many people on earth to do Athenian-style democracy.

      (If you don’t remember what that was, go back to jr.-high.)

  • Monique says:

    The concert was fantastic !! Respect for Linus Roth , Nelson Goerner and the orchester.

  • RalphW says:

    A nobody fiddler thinks he is more important than the President of the United States. Ego has no boundaries.

  • Oh please! Get some perspective Mr Roth!

  • MacroV says:

    There is far too much emphasis placed here on President Obama. The same situation would have pertained for any big event and by any major head of state, including by Putin. And these big summits have lots of security even when the President of the U.S. is not there. Anyone remember various WTO meetings, which also locked down parts of cities and often drew large anti-globalization protests, etc?

    And I find it impossible that the Palais was “suddenly” used for this press conference and unexpectedly displaced Mr. Roth’s concert. These events are highly choreographed and planned well in advance. Thus I’m surprised it could even have been used for a concert the same day as for a summit-related event.

  • Stephen says:

    Oh My! Be careful what you ask for- you will get it. Every action has unintended consequences. (like this and the comments as an example).

    Those who wish to bash anyone for any reason will find a club to use.

    Those who wish to act impulsively will do so, including over-zealous ‘security people.”

    The arts have suffered mightily at the hands of “government”. So have artists. But there is a truth that artists know- What they do, how and where they do it will prevail and become the mark of civilization at its best. The only way we commemorate political machinations and wars is by monuments- and an artist designs them and crafts them.

    A musician plays well every time. Someone in the audience breathes in cadence with the phrasing every time. Someone’s life is changed because of a musical event – every time.

    the real culprits in this issue are the underling planners on both sides that have neither the interest or the patience to communicate with the other side. We are all lessened by that.

  • SVM says:

    Whilst I have never met Mr Roth (that said, I had heard of him before reading this article), I am confident that he is a person of greater merit, intelligence, and integrity than the Barracks O’proxy-war-bombers (who, in other news, recently visited the charming régime of Saudi Arabia to apologise for not attacking Syria).

    • M.A. Steinberger says:

      Do you not realize how juvenile and contemtible it is to mangle someone’s name to show dislike? I would think one would outgrow this by the 4th grade.