Just in: The mother evicted by a maestro speaks her mind

Just in: The mother evicted by a maestro speaks her mind


norman lebrecht

October 27, 2014

The concertgoer who was asked to leave her seat at a New World Symphony concert by conductor Michael Tilson Thomas has given her version of events to Larry Johnson, who first reported the incident in South Florida Classical Review.

Her perspective, needless to say, differs markedly from the maestro’s. She’s unhappy that he has not contacted her since to apologise.

Speaking under condition of anonymity, she recalled: ‘He actually said, ‘You’re disturbing me. Can you move to the side?’  But we weren’t doing anything…. My child was not fidgeting… No iPad. No phone out.

There’s more here. Much more. This incident has not been handled well.

mtt sfso


  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    More milking of this non story and free editorializing to boot? She was with her daughter sitting alone on first row. The row behind her was empty. He asked her politely to move to the sides. If anything, ushers and front desk dropped the ball here sitting these two there not the conductor. Move on because it’s starting to look like a SD grudge against MTT…

  • squirrel says:

    mm, actually, it’s starting to look like a “Olauch Turchev works for the NWS” moment.

    • Olaugh Turchev says:

      Missing some nuts?
      And just for the record, nope I don’t work for the NWS and I am not even a fan of MTT.

  • Doug says:

    Sounds like someone seriously needs to burst the maestra’s bubble. But as long as she is surrounded by leeches and sycophants…

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    Tsk, tsk, my dear ones. I hate to play the school mistress here, but you ask for it. Both mother and daughter have gotten over it, with no grudges. Your turn now to be quiet and move on.

  • Max Grimm says:

    Who knows, the woman’s theory of her and her daughter possibly distracting MTT because they were the only people seated immediately behind the orchestra might be right. MTT wouldn’t be the first conductor who doesn’t like audiences watching or even scrutinizing from that angle. One is reminded of Hans Knappertsbusch cancelling a concert at the Philharmonie in Berlin because he didn’t want people staring him in the face while he conducted and George Szell referred to the concert hall as a “Missgeburt” (a misconceived freak or monstrosity) because he didn’t like audience members seated behind the orchestra. Given the level of concentration and focus that is demanded of these musicians on stage, one shouldn’t be surprised when they develop strange quirks or eccentricities.

  • Lloyd Arriola says:

    This has surely got out of hand. I am not sure this requires further reportage. Next!

  • Mark says:

    In terms of disturbing concentration, what about the soloist ? He had to be distracted between the movements of a complex piece by this nonsense. It showed a lack of respect to him, I think.

  • Stephen Owades says:

    The New World Center in Miami Beach, which includes seating on all sides, was designed specifically for Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony. If he doesn’t like audience members in his field of view, he wouldn’t have asked Frank Gehry to create a space where the audience is arranged that way. This is not akin to a guest conductor feeling disconcerted by the surround seating in the Philharmonie—this is MTT’s own dream hall!

  • Boring Fileclerk says:

    The obvious solution is to stream concerts and stop playing to live audiences in a hall. In the age of the internet, the concert hall is dead.

    • John says:

      Virtual concerts and performances are a solution for me when I want to hear performances by the Metropolitan opera but I don’t have either the means or time to travel to New York to hear them, but for me the electricity of the experience in the hall cannot be beat. When I go to hear MetLive in my local cineplex, I am amazed at the clarity of the images and sound, but I’m very aware of being several steps removed from what the audience is experiencing in the hall. I found that true even for symphony performances when I went to a couple of LA Phil broadcasts. So for me, at least, having a concert piped into the small (but actually quite large) screen in my living room would represent a very large diminution of the overall experience.

  • stopthemusic says:

    Enough of this nonsense already! MTT got his latest 5 minutes of fame, but now he’s back to square one, as music director of the New World Symphony and San Francisco Symphony. He’s had these 2 jobs for many years now, and no doubt he’ll finish out his career in those 2 positions – whether or not he dismisses mothers & children, or throws cough drops at his audiences. Not to worry – he’s simply not going anywhere.

  • SVM says:

    One cannot reproach the audience-members in question for sitting in their allocated places (assuming the child was occupying their own seat). However, if MTT felt that the distraction of an isolated pair in the front row really detracted from his concentration, his request is reasonable, if badly timed (was the distraction so bad that he had to interrupt a performance between movements, as opposed to between whole works?). That said, had I been in his position (then again, my conducting ability is mediocre), I think would have waited until the interval and asked a steward to have a quiet word just before the second half.

    I should make clear that I do not consider the feelings of the two audience-members in question to be of any relevance. The greater good of the performance must take precedence (even over an audience-member’s contractual entitlement to occupy his/her designated seat), so the only offence committed by MTT was to interrupt the flow between movements, an action which may have been the lesser of two evils.

  • Novagerio says:

    Either way, it all sounds crazy. Karajan would always be thrilled about the fact that there would be more audience in front of him than behind him. When explaining the “beauties” of the Scharoun-Philharmonie, his only concern was that tickets would sell first behind the orchestra! Well, it was easy done, he just shut his eyes through the entire concert! Maybe MTT should revalue his rostrum-behaviour….