Just in: Barenboim stops playing after flash goes off

Just in: Barenboim stops playing after flash goes off


norman lebrecht

December 23, 2014

AFP reports from La Scala, quoting the Italian news agency, that Monday night’s Schubert recital was disrupted by a photo flash in the audience. Daniel Barenboim stopped playing, turned to the audience and said ‘whoever is taking photos has been badly brought up.’

He went on to say: ‘Madam, I am trying to give of my best, but you don’t respect it.’

Report follows in French.

barenboim piano

«Ceux qui font des photos sont mal éduqués»: le maestro Daniel Barenboim n’a pas supporté lundi soir à la Scala de Milan les flashes qui le déconcentraient de sa sonate de Schubert et a interrompu le récital pour réprimander une auditrice, rapportent mardi les médias. Dans le cadre prestigieux de la plus fameuse salle de concert d’Italie, à la droite de la scène, des éclairs répétés de flashes striaient l’obscurité. Le célèbre pianiste entamait alors les premières notes de la sonate D845.

Barenboim s’interrompt alors, se lève et se dirige vers la perturbatrice, qui apparemment n’en est pas à sa première tentative et a déjà été réprimandée par lui :«Madame, j’essaie de vous donner le meilleur, mais vous ne le respectez pas! Je vous l’ai dit à chaque concert, la première fois sur le ton de la plaisanterie, mais maintenant c’est sérieux», a-t-il dit, selon l’agence italienne AGI. «Ceux qui font des photos pendant les concerts sont mal éduqués», lance alors le maestro, sous les applaudissements du public, avant de reprendre la sonate.

(c) AFP


  • Zenaida says:

    Bravo Maestro! Indeed, this photo-taking mania is OTT!

  • Boring Fileclerk says:

    Bravo! We need more brave artists like this. The concert going public needs to be educated. Save your flash for Brittney Spears instead.

    • SVM says:

      It would be great if more artists could stand up to poor audience behaviour, but it is unlikely to happen whilst most instances (which get renamed “incidents”) continue to elicit immense vituperation and antipathy towards the artist, thus risking adverse impact on a performing career (unless you had the renown of Barenboim, Chung, Zimerman, or Jarrett). We can all help embolden artists by ensuring that the influential marketing hacks and promoters are not permitted to assume that nobody cared for basic courtesy and respect.

      • Halldor says:

        Big, big difference between coughing and actually taking an unauthorised photograph. And between an artist who handles it with courtesy and tact and one who is openly rude to their public.

  • Mark Stratford says:

    Seems like the woman has done it before in the past

  • Brian says:

    Good for Mr Barenboim! And how dreadfully disrespectful on the part of the audience member.

    I am waiting for the comments saying that it’s perfectly ok to behave as she did…

    More artists should interrupt their concerts if they feel in any way disturbed by audience members. I have witnessed Krystian Zimerman and András Schiff address audiences on several occasions, mid-recital, for various reasons (coughing, filming, mobile phone use). And we all know what the likes of Keith Jarrett think of flash photography during concerts…

    Let us not forget – let us hope, rather – that it is still only a few people who annoy us at concerts, and that most people still know how (not) to behave in a concert hall. However, I still believe that airport-style checks before entering concert halls, theatres etc. would be the best solution, so as to prevent everyone from bringing their phones and iWhatevers with them.

    Has anyone else ever seen people checking their Facebook accounts between movements?

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    What a shame for the future of classical music! She won’t return and with her many more will desert concert hall because that guy can’t take a flash. Hubris, who does he think he is!
    /sarc off

    • Nick says:

      In a reasonably darkened concert hall, I cannot think of anything more distracting for an artist than a camera flash. “What a shame for the future of classical music!” What a fatuous observation!

      • Ray Richardson says:

        Indeed what a fatuous observation yours is. If you’ve not got the wit to detect irony dont make comments. And he’s even added “/sarc off” at the end for those with a challenged sense of humour!

        • Olaugh Turchev says:

          Thank you Ray!

        • Nick says:

          I have never come across the term /sarc off before and had no idea what it meant. Now I know. Clearly another poster also failed to pick up on the sarcasm which would suggest it was not as clear as it might have been. However, mea culpa!

    • AnOrdinaryMusician says:

      He is maestro Daniel Barenboim, one of the greatest musicians on the planet

  • john humphreys says:

    Dear Olaugh Turchev,

    Please alert me if you intend coming to one of my recitals…I’ll be off in a flash. Of course it is the height of irresponsibility to take photos with, or without flash…distracting for those sitting next to you not to mention the artist.

    John H

  • James of Thames says:

    From a performer’s standpoint, the flash from a camera is extremely annoying. It disrupts concentration, and if one is playing from music, the resulting afterimage on the retina can obscure a portion of the page for up to half a minute. For a ballet dancer it can be positively dangerous, for the flash can temporarily blind them.

  • Olaugh Turchev says:

    Double standard indeed. When Barenboim does it, everyone agrees. When anyone else does it, articles scold them. In the end Barenboim said it best: “I am trying to give my best” thus perhaps the “sainter than thou-save the classical music by allowing everything and anything during concert” will give us and performers a break!

    • Boring Fileclerk says:

      Far from a double standard, I applauded when I hear artists like Chung and Jarrett respond in the same manner.

      • Hilary says:

        Case by case basis I think.
        Jarret’s scolding of an audience seemed out of hand and typically egomaniacal. I’m less sure about Chung from the contradictory reports but a camera flash in a darkened room is reprehensible. Barenboim gets my sympathy.

        • SVM says:

          Who gets to judge on your proposed “Case by case” basis?

          Surely, the most important thing here is the music itself, not whether some rulebreakers decided to take offence at being told off for disrupting the artist’s (and other audience-members’) concentration.

    • Nick says:

      Is this more sarcasm?

  • Patrick says:

    Besides….in a large space the flash makes NO difference. Most digital cameras take great indoor photos without any flash. I’m not advocating for photos in concerts, just saying that if you use a flash for a concert photo (amateur, that is) you don’t know anything about concert etiquette OR photography.

  • Hank Drake says:

    What part of “no photography, no recording, no cell phones” didn’t she understand?

    Last summer, while Stephen Hough played at Blossom Music Center, I spotted what I thought was a flash bulb, and turned to send an icy glare to the offender – when suddenly there was a deafening crash. Turned out the “flash” was lightning.

  • Brian says:

    Tommy Beecham did that in his very first Seattle concert when new reporters started taking flash pictures (and in those days the city had three dailies). Danny and Tommy were both right.

  • Derek Castle says:

    Bravo, Mr Barenboim! By the way, the ‘it’s my right to cough in the winter’ gang were out in full force at the ROH Tristan on Sunday. I wonder if I, as a ‘saviour of classical music’, will in ten years’ time behave so thoughtlessly.

  • Richard Schneider says:

    I was a musician in the pit during a performance by Rudolf Nureyev, when he suddenly froze in place, a piercing glare to an audience member with camera raised aloft, and shouted “YOU – STOP!” I have no problem with artists having none of this.

  • herrera says:

    Pure hypocrisy. I have never seen a musician on stage, when s/he is being filmed for a live telecast, to tell the camera man to stop moving so much and to stop shoving the camera right under his/her nose, or to tell the lighting guy to stop shining the spot light on him/her. “Oh, I am just a modest servant to the composer, please turn the spot light on another musician, I just HATE people seeing me!”

    • Richard Schneider says:

      Pure stupidity. Live telecasts are done by crews of professional technicians. The artist(s) have agreed to terms in advance. The technology for live video has advanced to the point were lighting is not a distraction. Cameras are suspended from above and operated by remote control – close-ups are accomplished through zooming, and not moving in under the artists’ nose while they are performing. What artists don’t like are amateur paparazzi who distract them as well as paying concert-goers.

      • NYMike says:

        Absolutely, Richard!

      • SVM says:

        Mr Schneider makes the point perfectly. It is also worth mentioning that when an artist is being filmed professionally, he/she is getting paid (considerably) extra in synchronisation/broadcast rights.

      • Herrera says:

        Pure ignorance.

        “close-ups are accomplished through zooming, and not moving in under the artists’ nose while they are performing.”

        You’ve obviously never been to Salle Pleyel when they film for a telecast. There is literally a camera man pivoting right under your nose. Once, with Gergiev conducting his Mrinski, the horn was so taken aback by the camera in his face, he flubbed his entrance. Did Gergiev storm out? Nyet.

        You should get out more, visit Paris, it’d do you good.

        • M2N2K says:

          So what’s your point? In the situation as described by you, Gergiev would have been justified if he objected – and so is Barenboim in this present story. There is no “hypocrisy” here at all.

        • Richard Schneider says:

          Then Salle Pleyel are practicing concert videography on an amateurish level. Even in earlier times, when bright hot lighting was the main problem, TV cameras kept a discrete distance, at extreme ends of the stage and out front. Besides, they were too large to move between rows of musicians in an orchestra. One has only to watch vintage video of the NBC, Chicago, Boston, or the Bernstein/NYP productions to know that musicians did not have cameras shoved under their noses.

        • Max Grimm says:

          All of that is beside the point. Mr. Barenboim apparently kindly and off-stage asked this very lady to please not take pictures during the concert at several previous concerts. Yet, she persisted.
          It’s irritating and rude if simply for the fact that after politely and repeatedly being asked not to do something, the individual in question still doesn’t give a toss.

        • Brian says:

          To all Salle Pleyel goers, have you noticed the staff sometimes checking their mobiles and texting during the concerts? Very annoying to watch from the cheap seats at the back (orchestre). And one wonders why they let latecomers in whenever it suits the patrons…

    • Martin says:

      Those cameras are controlled, without sudden, unplanned movements or lights.

      A sudden flash is disrespectful at the very least and can even be very dangerous in certain circumstances. Unacceptable.

      If you plan to take a pic – which I can understand – make sure you do it in an acceptable moment (i.e. encore) and make sure the flash is off.

      • SVM says:

        How can you “understand” a “plan to take a pic” from anybody other than the official and authorised photographer/filming crew? Taking photographs is prohibited in most concert-halls *throughout* the concert (as is usually made very clear in the terms and conditions printed on the reverse of the ticket, as well as in announcements), although some venues make an exception for curtain-calls at the end of the concert (and that does *not* include during the encore).

  • Petros Linardos says:

    The more musicians of stature stand up to bad audiences, the better. I am grateful to Daniel Barenboim, Kyung-Wha Chung, Michael Tilson Thomas for speaking up. Even if some of them did not meet the highest standards of politeness, they had a point. I’ve been attending concerts for about 40 years, and believe that bad incidents have increased.

  • coolbird says:

    Is that the photo that was taken by the disgraced audience member? Ha

  • Conor says:

    I would ask, however, whether it is really fair for all the other audience members who has paid a good amount of money to see the concert to be punished altogether because of one person.

    • SVM says:

      If you are sitting near a noisy or disruptive audience-member, that is *far* greater punishment, to the extent that an artist intervention would be a welcome relief. Stopping the performance is a very crude tool, but, when more subtle methods fail (such as reminding people at the beginning of the concert through announcements which a persistent minority of people seem to think do not apply to them), there may be no alternative — the performer is best placed to judge this. Besides, Barenboim started again from the top, so everyone got the complete performance for which they were paying, only that it would have finished later than planned.