Comeback soloist ‘picks on coughing child’

Comeback soloist ‘picks on coughing child’


norman lebrecht

December 03, 2014

We’ve received distressing reports from the long-awaited London comeback recital of the Korean violinist Kyung-Wha Chung.

kyung wha chung rfh 2014

The Royal Festival Hall was sold out and there was high anticipation. Kyung-wha opened with a Mozart sonata.

At the first movement break, everyone in the Royal festival – this is London in December – burst out coughing.

The soloist was not pleased. She turned on a child, sitting about ten rows back to the left of the stage and said to her parents: ‘don’t you think you should bring her when she’s a bit older?’

The remark cast a pall on the rest of the concert. An audience member told us they felt she was picking on the child and continued staring at her for the rest of the first half. One said: ‘I’ve never heard a Mozart sonata take so long.’

The incident recalls another disruption, six weeks ago, when the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas asked the mother of a child to remove her from the front rows.

Such conduct is, in our view, unacceptable.

A performer should not respond to audience disruption, accidental or otherwise. A performer needs to be ‘in the zone’, in a separate space, to maintain an illusion of inspiration that is unaffected by the mundane. Interventions from the stage can wreck a potentially historic concert.

UPDATE: First review here.

2nd UPDATE: Erica Jeal in the Guardian here.

3rd UPDATE: The damage here.


  • Hilary Davan Wetton says:

    Dead right. I don’t imagine the child will buy many concert tickets in 20 years time – what a pity. Live performances ARE imperfect – both for the audience and the performers. That is what makes them uniquely human and more real than recordings, however perfect. Kyung=Wha Chung should stick to the studio if she can’t deal with the real world.

  • Mark Mortimer says:

    Totally agree with Hilary. Kyung Wha Chung was a brilliant violinist in her prime. But reports would suggest that both her recent performances and behaviour are somewhat erratic.

  • Erik says:

    That’s such pure arrogance and childish behavior from the artist. Probably just afraid, that a child doesn’t understand that this is the greatest comeback in history. Messiah is nothing compared to that. Sarcasm aside, it shows that this artists attention is probably more on the reaction of public then on the music itself.

  • Brian says:

    Anyone who experienced the magical two-minute silence after Abbado’s Mahler 9 in Lucerne will disagree, particularly with the last paragraph.

    Total audience silence during a concert has become a luxury nowadays. It almost never happens, and that is a pity.

    People – both adults and children – are no longer able to sit still for even five minutes, let alone two hours.

    Coughing and any other extraneous noise (mobile phones, nose-blowing, chatting, dropping programmes, taking pills two bars into the piece or just before the end, etc.) is a severe and unnecessary disruption during a performance, even between movements.

    Why should artists who have prepared meticulously for their performance not be allowed to voice their anger at whichever form of disrespectful behaviour? I actually believe they should do it more often.

    The article does not state what the child did. If “everyone” was being disruptive, it’s obviously very unfair to pick on the kid alone.

    But it only takes a few people to ruin a concert. Why should the artist be expected to get on with it (yeah, c’mon, just play, after all I’ve paid for the pleasure) and ignore disruption?

    After some idiot’s mobile had gone off for the third time at a concert in Cologne last February, András Schiff stopped playing (incidentally, a Mozart sonata), shook his head in disbelief, gave a brief speech and began again from the top. (I can’t remember if he left the stage in protest, only to return later.)

    • Brian says:

      PS: OK, the child was coughing. Sorry for initially writing it wasn’t mentioned in the article what the child did; I missed the headline. Still: very unfair and unwise to single it out if others were doing it, too.

    • Erik says:

      Disagree..because if a artist gets the public’s attention just from the presence on stage, whole music making or specially when there is no sound, the public will be quite because they feel something is happening.

      If one thinks, the public should have “respect” towards the artists, it doesn’t work. One can’t have respect through authority, only trough kindness and real will to be the music itself.
      The public should have respect towards the piece and also towards the other people in the public. I strongly believe, and experienced often enough, that when a artist with a high caliber and high concentration comes on stage, even a child will feel that it gets quite in the hall and feel the focused tension. In a good way of course.
      But if somebody comes in and thinks, now I am the center of the world, the opposite happens.

      The music, the whole public is at that moment the center of all. But not the artists just himself. That’s selfish childish thinking. And some halls are just to big for intimate music making.
      Just a few caliber, like Sokolov, manage to have total silence, and if one old person has to make a noise, so what, or a child says something, so what. A really focused artists wouldn’t be disturbed by that.
      It is pure arrogance to react as an artists like that.
      Cell phone is a different story. Some are just stupid and forget it. But there is no deeper meaning like “disrespect”
      This behavior of Chung is the real disrespect towards a mother, who taught, it is nice to bring her child to a concert, and for sure also taught, it might be not a great idea, but everybody would understand. Most people certainly does. But people who think, on some places they have a authority, feel disturbed by that. Very low.

      • Anne Hendrix says:

        Learn to spell! “Quiet”, not “quite”.

        • NYMike says:

          Better grammar and syntax would also help….I’m not sure I understand what Erik’s stating.

          • Erik says:

            Sorry, not my native language! Hope you can still understand some of it! And if not, no problem! Try to use some imagination…
            Or better don’t, also with wright grammar and syntax, you wouldn’t understand most likely.
            Bye Mike

        • Erik says:

          Hmmm…have to learn put autocorrect off…
          “Auto-correct is a type of software program that identifies misspelled words, uses algorithms to identify the words most likely to have been intended, and edits the text accordingly. Auto-correct is commonly a feature included in word processors and messaging platforms of various types. Apple, Google and Microsoft products all have their own versions of auto-correct programs. “

  • Douglas Nasrawi says:

    This reminds me of singing concerts with William Christie where he acted like a spoilt child because audience members coughed.

  • Erich says:

    Whilst I agree in principle with the comments above, I think one should perhaps make allowances in this case. Chung has not been before the public for a considerable time and she was obviously extremely nervous last night, particularly in the first part of the concert. I suspect she herself probably regrets her over-reaction – but artists are not machines and must also be allowed on occasions to behave unreasonably ( as Long as they don’t make a habit of it!).

  • Erik says:

    All understandable, it’s called, not professional in that sense. How can one pick on one person on the public.. If doing it right, you make a speech to all public and not focusing all people on a certain person, who made that wrong sound at the wrong moment…

    Did she play well?

  • Prix d'excellence says:

    I attended, and whilst it was an unwise comment to make on the back of the Tilson Thomas debacle, and was obviously going to draw the wrong sort of publicity, I never the less feel that it is long overdue that someone spoke up against the thoughtless behaviour that seems now to be fashionable in London concert venues. For some reason London venues seem now to be no more than glorified Ear, nose and throat clinics where between every movement of a work the public may cough en mass. Maybe the resonant voice before RFH concerts telling us to switch off mobile phones and alarms, might add that if you have been affected by the London Smog, are a chain smoker, you are possibly in the wrong venue. The coughing between the first and second movements of the Mozart was over and above the norm, December or no December, and this is just bad mannered and not the way to welcome back a great musician from the past.

  • Hank Drake says:

    On October 19, 1986, I attended Vladimir Horowitz’s recital at Boston’s Symphony Hall – his last appearance in that city. During intermission, I observed two small children, who couldn’t possibly have been more then ten years old, playing slaps – aka Red Hands. During the performance, there wasn’t a peep to be heard from them and they appeared to pay close attention to the concert. Those kids are in their 30s by now and among the youngest people to have experienced Horowitz in the flesh.

    When you’re in a hall filled with 2,000+ people, there will be those who cough and clear their throats – which is often a biological necessity. To the extent they can, considerate members will reserve such things for moments in-between movements.

    If Kyung-Wha Chung cannot accept these facts of life, perhaps she should reserve her activities to the recording studio

    • Branimir says:

      “To the extent they can, considerate members will reserve such things for moments in-between movements”.

      Totally disagree! Considerate members will do their coughing as silenced as possible (a paper tissue on the mouth will do the job!) while the music is being played, especially louder sections. At least in some pieces the silence between the movements is very important part of music itself.

  • Erik says:

    Bravo Hank Drake!

    I am still a big fan of her…her Brahms concerto on YouTube is one of the best ever…that solo entry…wow!

  • mark stratford says:

    I remember the great Henryk Szeryng (at the same hall) successfully hushing a load of throaty coughers by putting his fingers to his lips between movements. Of course he was quite literally an ambassador (Polish ambassador to Mexico, I think) so had more advanced diplomatic skills that KWC.

    By the way, did you see the practically lifesize posters on the London underground “Return of a legend” for last night’s concert ?

  • mark stratford says:

    There was an interesting story in the Korea Herald from a concert she did there last year. It seems that Ms Chung is inconsistent about the things which annoy her :

    ==Referring to an incident the previous night in which a light on the stage ceiling went out with a loud “pop,” showering large chunks of broken glass on stage ― an incident that could have been very dangerous for the performers ― she says, “Of course it affected my playing but I took it in stride. I saw the large piece of glass near my foot and just pushed it away.”In her younger days, such an incident would have irritated her greatly, but on Tuesday she just brushed it off. “It was not humiliating for me. I had tried my best. Old age is convenient that way.”

  • BDL2 says:

    If an artist wants absolute silence, they need to stay in their practice space. I’ve never been to a completely silent concert space.

  • Prix d'excellence says:

    We have to stop condoning this type of behaviour. Whilst I accept that some people through necessity will need to clear their throat, that must surely be a minority, and not the majority who decided last night to release a barrage of sound, and worse than that germs ! It was excessive last night yet strangely after KWC’s reaction the majority of cough merchants became less as the Prokoviev commenced, and even less throughout the Cesar Franck. Doesn’t this just tell you something !!??

  • Herrera says:

    As an artist, I prefer total silence, that’s why I play cemeteries. Getting the audience to pay is another matter, they’re quite a deadbeat (no pun intended).

  • Simon S. says:

    I agree that it shouldn’t be up to the performer to discipline the audience. But as an auidence member I reserve the right to to so with ill-mannered fellow audience members.

    BTW: I usually attend symphony concerts and opera performances (thumb rule: the more “popular” the opera, the more talkative the audience – maybe this is why I so much enjoy 20th century opera, Puccini excluded). But the most impressing experience I ever had was a concert organised by some society for the promotion of sacred music in a medium-sized church. It was Germany in December, the concert was sold out and lasted for two and a half hours, my wife and me apparently being the only audience members under 75 – and no one coughed for the entire concert! Seems to be a question of education and will.

  • William Ledbetter says:

    To those who claim we are in a time of audio-heretics who can’t sit still/stay respectfully quiet during a concert: I believe you may be seeing the past through rose-coloured glasses. I can recall many a concert at Tanglewood, and in concert halls, when there was a group-twitch in the audience. For whatever reason. The past is not all it was cracked up to be, and the present isn’t in the gross state of decline we oldsters like to image.

    What is threatened, however, is the presence of said audience. Young, old, sedate, raucous…the state of live music – particuarly of the Classical tradition – is threatened more by disinterest than by a coughing child.

    Sad that great musicians cannot see what seems obvious to me: that it is encumbant upon the entire Classical community to take several steps back and embrace a broader audience; make them feel welcome, invite them to develop a love for the silence at the end of a movement,share with them the deep communication that occurs when sounds in sweet harmony are exchanged between timbres. And through this welcome to slowly build up again an audience that feels more satisfied by challenging sonic displays than by infantile strophes.

  • Prix d'excellence says:

    Exactly, it is a question of education and will. To quote a currently seasonal piece, this problem does seem a little bit, “For we like sheep”. One innocently begins and then others not so innocently join in. Come on London, you’re meant to be a cultural centre, how can you condone this sort of behaviour. For every performer and listener’s sake isn’t it time to call a halt on this.

  • ML says:

    Parents themselves should know when their children are mature enough to get exposure to live classical music-making. Bringing children who make noises, could not sit still, or could not refrain from making other distractions is disrespectful not only to the musicians but also to other paying audience. It is also a waste of these parents’ money if their children could not properly appreciate the emotional and intellectual contents of music, let alone being disruptive.

  • Sasha Valeri Millwood says:

    The vituperation towards Chung manifested in many of the comments above accounts for why more performers, stewards, and audience-members do not stand up to noisy and disruptive people. If a star soloist is to be lambasted for trying to protect the sanctity of the musical experience, what chance does the rest of the music profession stand?

    I would like to publicly express my gratitude to Chang for drawing attention to this issue — poor audience behaviour has ruined a great many concerts in my experience, both on occasions where I was on stage and on occasions where I was in the audience.

    • SVM says:

      I have just realised that I made a spelling mistake in my second paragraph, which should have commenced:

      ‘I would like to publicly express my gratitude to Chung…’

    • Marg Jenkinson says:

      Your comment is only valid if the child was deliberately coughing to disrupt the concert. Heaven forbid someone gets a tickle in their throat. Are you perfect-never coughed at the theater during a movie?

    • Paul Cooke says:

      A child coughing is “poor behaviour”! Did your parents punish you for involuntary human spasms? I once coughed in the presence of the Dalai Lama and he didn’t mind. But of course classical musician, well they are so far superior to him.

  • Zsolt Bognar says:

    One never wishes to alienate audiences or especially to scare off future audience members by making them feel unwelcome, but there are also certain audience behaviors which indeed become detrimental to the performer’s concentration and do not belong in the concert hall–it has happened to me most often in the form of children swinging their legs back and forth in peripheral vision, without their parents necessarily realizing. This creates a conflicting rhythm! I have seen Aimard stop and lecture an audience in Lucerne for unusual amounts of coughing (after which it all stopped, proving it is not necessary)–unfortunately, he also lost his zone as a performer and seemed very nervous afterwards. I also saw the same with Zimerman lecturing an audience for not stopping the man with a video camera. Afterwards, he lost his concentration, but the audience behavior was indeed unacceptable. Also there was an incident in which an audience member brought a bowl of noodles and loudly consumed it in the front row of a Trifonov recital–I would be curious the full context of what Ms. Chung experienced.

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    Who the heck are these arrogant musicians who are disturbing coughing children? Don’t they know we paid top quids to hear that child?

  • Anon says:

    Some of these comments are truly sickening. That child did not fidget or misbehave or even cough while she was playing. The child coughed between movements. Seriously people need to get a grip. Unbelievable and unacceptable. Why are the particularly anti-child/anti-human comments so particularly Slavic, by the way?

    • norman lebrecht says:

      This comment is from a person who was present at the concert and observed the incident at first hand.

      • YWL says:

        Amazing you got that much information from ‘ANON’. I don’t believe you. And if you have any couragr post this comment.

  • John says:

    The citation to this post indicates that almost everyone was coughing at the first movement break. Why she chose to upbraid a child and the child’s parents is perplexing. In the concerts I’ve attended, most of the audience are adults and most of the coughing sounds to me like it’s coming from adults. This isn’t a child-specific thing.

    I had a problem with protracted coughing once and as soon as it started, I knew it would go on, so I gave up my rather expensive ticket and went home. I think it’s a matter of proportion and people on both sides of the footlights exercising a bit of flexibility. I can guarantee anyone that a concert here in Denver at this time of the year will have a good deal of coughing, and most of it will be coming from some serious concert-goers. Sometimes the climate and time of year that come into play.

  • NYMike says:

    For those of us who must cough or sneeze during the playing, there are ways of stifling the sound by putting both hands over nose and mouth, thereby omitting the vocal/sound component. It’s extremely disrespectful to the music, musicians and other audience members to cough or sneeze at fortissimo levels.

    While attending a Bayerische Rundfunk Orch. Easter Monday TV concert conducted by the late Lorin Maazel years ago, I noticed that Munich audiences were extremely reticent about coughing, sneezing and generally disturbing the concert. This is obviously learned audience behavior.

  • Matthew C says:

    Are you out of your mind?

    I sat 6 seats from the child, and everyone sitting in the area was both distracted and annoyed.

    Coughing was the least of it by the way…and it’s laughable a 4year old would know to wait until the end of movement to cough, clap, giggle, talk, fart…..

    It was with great pleasure (upon complaining to an usher after the Mozart) to see the offenders removed from the hall.

    Ms Chung has nothing to apologise for.

    • Matthew C says:

      My comment was in response to Anon (who was also there….apparently)

    • Caroline says:

      Coughing is extremely irritating and should be kept to an absolute minimum. Most of the time those who do it are not even aware they are doing it, believe me, I have sat next to some of them! A polite admonishing is quite acceptable and if that doesn’t work, then they should be asked to leave, with a refund. If you can’t keep quiet and must fidget, then you shouldn’t be there.

  • Sebastian Petit says:

    While picking on a child is obviously regrettable I have nothing but sympathy with artists having to put up with the constant rudeness of London audiences (Not that US ones are any better). The unbelievable barrage of coughing, crashing of dropped objects and talking beggars belief. For those who don’t believe artists deserve respectful attention I don’t understand why you are going to concerts at all! Best response to endless hacking was Jon Vickers “Ah stop your damn coughing!!” Respect, Jon!!

    • Brian says:

      Beecham wheeled around to the audience at Covent Garden during a barrage of coughing and shouted “SHUT UP, YOU!” It did indeed shut them up. What he’d have done in the era of cell phones I can’t imagine.
      Not even firecrackers going off in the quietest part of the Brahms 4th could disrupt Toscanini’s concentration.
      If coughing is so necessary, why is it you virtually never see or hear of the performers doing it during a concert, even with massed choruses onstage? Though it was rather unkind of KWC to lash out at the kid.

  • Kristen Seikaly says:

    I certainly agree with the premise of this article; the artist certainly mishandled the situation. Yet there’s an alternate issue here that hasn’t quite been touched upon. Many audiences do seem to exhibit disruptive behavior such as an increase in coughing, dropping phones, and so on. It seems possible to me, however, that modern audiences experience a discomfort in the silence expected at classical performances. Furthermore, they probably lack the understanding as to why this silence is expected and use coughing and what-not as a way to break the tension. I bet if you asked non-musician audience members why they are expected to remain silent, they would say something like, “That’s what you’re supposed to do,” or alternatively, “Out of respect for the performance.” Very few would probably say, “To help the performer concentrate,” or “To listen more intently.” Therefore, I propose that besides her rudeness, the performer made her audience uncomfortable because it was a reminder of their discomfort.

    Now, this is not to say that I condone disruptive behavior during a performance. I believe classical musicians should instead help their audience feel comfortable and guide them to appropriate behavior. For example, it could be more valuable for a performer to clearly set their individual expectation for audience behavior beforehand, either in the program or by a statement, and why they request that. Furthermore, if possible, it would be helpful for performers to relax themselves a bit and recognize that they do not perform in a vacuum; on the contrary, they perform for live people that create their fan base, and ultimately their income.

  • Sullivan says:

    I know two kinds of audiences only, one coughing, and one not coughing. Artur Schnabel

  • Gerald Elias says:

    If Mozart had a hissy fit every time someone made noise during one of his concerts, his career would have ended when he was seven years old.

  • Robert says:

    I stopped going to concerts when the audience behaviour started to deteriorate. It is now acceptable to cough, chat, text, and generally be annoying during concerts.
    Strange than we accept this as the norm and turn on musicians who ask for the behaviour andd quiet we should expect.

  • Erik says:

    Sorry, not my native language! Hope you can still understand some of it! And if not, no problem! Try to use some imagination…what’s that? Will explain you later!!!!

  • ennasus says:

    Self indulgent and immature behavior, probably loosing audiences who would like to breathe!

  • ennasus says:

    I do not think the artist should ever berate anyone!!! The artist’s focus needs to be what he or she is doing. If there is true and continued disturbance then someone from the organization should under certain circumstances perhaps find a way of helping someone find a place to recover from a persistent cough.
    Anyhow, never ever should the artist act so unkind, self important, and tasteless!

  • Alexander Brown says:

    I have always found it strange that audiences feel the need to burst out coughing, talking, fidgeting, etc. the very moment when a movement ends. I have spent most of my working life on stage (as a performer) and the noise in those between-movements periods is sometimes utterly shocking! As a frequent concert and opera goer (as an audience member), I can honestly say (hand on my heart) that I have NEVER, EVER coughed once during a performance in nearly 60 years of theatre-going (I also go to plays). As one of you said, it is perfectly possible to cough quietly IF you HAVE to. It is certainly NOT necessary to talk and make other forms of noise!
    And pooh pooh to those of you who think artists should be more “focussed” and ignore the barrage. Easy to do if you are in a brass band (PERHAPS), but if you are a solo violinist trying to elicit exquisite phrases from your Stradivari with delicately poised diminuendos, why the hell should you have to put up with it? People can pay lots for their tickets, but does that entitle them to behave so brutishly? Apparently it does, according to some people…..

  • Young says:

    We can NOT make an absolute silence during a whole concert. But we CAN give artists a perfect moment, which does not need to be long, maybe just seconds, so they can start and let themselves slip into their music. I guess this is what Ms. Chung asked(and deserved) last night. If we(audience) cannot make that moment, it is us(audience) to apologize to artists for it.

  • Maestrojec says:

    We have heard both sides of the story and hopefully, we can all work on human aspect side of music making that will build future music appreciative audience and at the same time find happy medium that we can continue to work on concert etiquette that many people seem to not have these days. We have new generation that need to be taught these basic concert attendance and what to do or what not to do in different situations at a live concert.

  • Mike Halford says:

    I remember a person coughing at a Motorhead concert, it ruined the whole thing.

  • Larry says:

    There are a few different questions here. Is it acceptable for an artist to expect a reasonable level of quiet, and express their frustration to the audience if they don’t get it?

    Yes it is, I reckon, if the situation is bad enough. As mentioned in several comments above, concerts can be spoiled by a few thoughtless people.

    But there are different ways of achieving this. One way is to address the audience en masse: “Folks, I’m sorry to raise this, but I’m feeling a little distracted by all this noise and coughing. Do you think could you tone it down, or leave?” Delivered with a smile, people will understand and hopefully learn something.

    Another way is to have a tantrum on stage, and angrily single out an individual for public humiliation. Is that acceptable? Generally not, I would say. But if they’re behaving truly outrageously – say talking on their phones – then yes.

    And when the individual in question is a child…? Absolutely not. It’s a dreadful thing to do.

  • Ed says:

    You wonder why classical music is perceived as elitist and the concert halls are more and more empty. Snobbish comments and arrogance from the stage and audience is killing the music. Artist and composers should be ecstatic that young children are being encouraged and should shout out “cough all you like”!

    • Mark Segal says:

      Agree – music is elitist for such behaviour of the performer. Most performances go ahead with minmum coughing etc. BBC merely reporting such trivia is silly – what do you expect from Civil Servants!!!!

  • Luigi Vampa says:

    Professionalism not required then?

  • Peter says:

    I recall conducting a performance of Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine in 1975. It was almost unknown at the time and I performed it using the standard orchestration of choir, strings, oboe, harp and fire engine. The fire engine wasn’t planned – but the concert hall was close to a fire station, so the emergency klaxon addition wasn’t entirely unexpected. Far louder than a coughing child and it totally wrecked the serene pianissimo the choir and orchestra had created.
    As to general noise in auditoria – yes, it can be extremely frustrating to hear it from the podium – but I’d rather play to full houses than empty ones.

  • Neil says:

    I attended a performance of the “Messiah” in London in 2006(?) that was being recorded.
    There were NO incidents of coughing AT ALL, not something I had ever experienced before or have experienced since, such is the general lack of discipline and politeness during concerts.

    • Alexander Brown says:

      Interesting to read your comment! As I remarked in my comment above, I have never coughed in all the years I have been going to the theatre. Unless you are ill with pneumonia or tuberculosis, there really should be no need to cough between EVERY movement!

  • ANDREW says:

    It is a few years since I have been able to get to a concert at the South Bank Centre. When I did there was always a note in the programme saying a cough equated to a note played mf on the horn. This note appeared in all programmes for the RFH, QEH & Purcell Room. Do they no longer put this in programmes?
    I would also suggest that a lot of audience coughing is purely psycological and totally unnecessary. I was at a Prom at the RAH and a woman had one of the worst “smokers” cough you could imaging that resonated around the hall but not during the music being played. Audiences could also try swallowing to clear their throats which is just as effective.

  • Mike says:

    I think performers could alleviate this situation by offering a late afternoon ‘matinee’ performance especially for parents with children. Children need to be exposed to classical music in its natural form if they are to appreciate it but I agree most adults and especially performers don’t want interuptions from children during the main event.

  • Luca says:

    If a coughing child is enough to remove a performer from “the zone” then perhaps they’re in the wrong career.



      December 4, 2014 at 11:12 am
      I remember a person coughing at a Motorhead concert, it ruined the whole thing.

      ….doesn’t add much to the debate, but it’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen on Slipped Disc.

  • My Ron says:

    I think it unacceptable that any artist berates a member of the audience; the only exception is probably the mobile ring tone, but really a cough! I would challenge any supporter of Ms Chung’s remarks to say that they have never coughed at any recital or concert (or even a movie). What her attitude does highlight is two things: 1) a personal insecurity about her skills post-injury and 2) a disdain for her fee-paying audience. Yes, that’s right- ‘fee paying’. If the perception is that artists take their audience for granted and are rude, the audience will generally strike back by not going to concerts anymore or even more worrying for the artist, not buying their discs. There are plenty of arguably more talented and adventurous violinists out there, that perhaps Ms Chung cannot afford to berate her audience.

  • David Luckhurst says:

    In ten years time when there are no children attending concerts due to incidents like this and the money stops flowing maybe then she will realise she needs to encourage not berate. I bet she coughed during her childhood watching a performance and was not told off. Lets hope this child and others that witnessed it still have an interest in attending concerts.

    For those musicians who agree with her – you are being purely sycophantic. She already has a hyped up opinion of herself please don’t inflate her ego (or yours) any more. She obviously believed the press that surrounded her before the event.

    Children are to be encouraged not berated.

  • Bonnie says:

    I wasn’t there, did people really explode into a fit of noise at the break? How embarrassing. It tells me that those people must have found it torturous to sit quietly during the music. The poor musicians must have been inclined to think their music was quite sufferable to sit through. If the spectators are in that much agony, are they even enjoying the show? Why bother attending if you find it that difficult to breathe quietly, only to feel indignant and defiant when people don’t appreciate your disruptions? If I was suffering from an uncontrollable cough that magically only manifested during this concert, not only would I be embarrassed and leave out of respect, I would also be really worried about the sudden deterioration in my health, and head straight to the doctor to have my cough attack assessed. It seems a highly inopportune moment for crowds of people to be stricken suddenly with bronchitis. Healthy people don’t cough in that manner, you should know how to clear your throat without bringing the house down.
    Children can learn about classical music at home, or at one of the many free open air concerts. Saying they are being deprived of something by not going to this particular indoor concert is just silly. I don’t see how bringing my child to an indoor concert where quiet is essential would be enjoyable for anyone, parent included, unless I was delusional. Why do that to yourselves.
    I’m glad the musician said something, she was in her rights to say a lot more, sounds like the many other noise makers got lucky.

  • Harry Kirschner says:

    All that fake piety must have worn her down. Here in Los Angeles, concert halls can sound like TB wards.

    Per the NYT:
    “Then [Chung] settled, with a vengeance, into charitable activities: raising money for young musicians in her native South Korea, supporting orphans in Rwanda and doing good works for her Baptist church.”

  • Adriano says:

    Frankly, some people use to cough during concerts as they never do on other occasions. This must be a psychological thing. An old lady told me once that, being compelled to sit in a narrow place with all kind of horrible cologne odors and other less agreeable body scents, she gets nervous and has to cough. Sometimes I get nervous too, sitting in the midst of people, whose aura I feel as negative, or people behaving arrogantly, or some other who fall asleep. This could provoke coughing too. Some concert-hall’s air conditioning is another cause for throat reactions. I agree with Chung, but only regarding the fact that some parents drag their children to concerts, not realizing that the poor darling would prefer staying at home. – I once had an old live tape of “Tristan and Isolde”, in which Jon Vickers suddenly interrupted his singing, shouting into the audience: “would you please stop with that g…d… coughing?” Unfortunately, that tape destroyed itself…

  • Ed says:

    Those of you supporting the action in anyway or making suggestions about the audience suppressing the cough just do not get it!
    Yes, decorum is important. Yes, mobiles should be switched off but if you want classical music to be the preserve of the intellectual elite then carry on. I went to see Shostakovitch’s 5th at a 2/3 full Barbican. A good 50% of the audience were not British by birth so were tourists, students, or working in London. Hardly any teenagers or below. Where is the future!

  • Susan Meyer says:

    As a concertgoer for over 30 years, I sympathize entirely with the performer. My concert companion pf over 20 years and I have always chosen to remove ourselves from the concert venue if we fall victim to an uncontrollable coughing jag. We have done this not only as a courtesy to the performer but as a courtesy to those around us. If I were sitting in a seat near that girl I would have gone to the ticket office to request another seat or a refund of my ticket price. For the uninitiated, here are some other concert etiquette tips:

  • Andrew says:

    The Russian audience of Khachaturian’s violin concerto by Haik Kazazyan which is on You Tube were so well behaved that there was not a single cough in the entire piece! (They did clap in between the first and second movement, though!) Yes, coughing is the single most irritating thing. It is also the one acoustic thing that a performer has absolutely no control over at all. I remember Tortelier “losing it” in a concert…”Your cough… it must stop ‘ere..” pointing at his throat! – . but that was to an adult. I can only imaging that Ms Chung does not like children and would prefer them not to be at her concerts. Her comment is of no consequence, as she does not control who actually buys the tickets. She might, of course, simply refuse to play in London owing to the audience not being to her liking… In that case, well, I am sure that nice fellow Itzhak Perlman would not react to a child in the same way and I would be just as happy to pay to see him.