Just in: Woman ‘drops dead’ at New York Philharmonic concert

Just in: Woman ‘drops dead’ at New York Philharmonic concert


norman lebrecht

June 06, 2015

The critic Paul Pelkonen informs us that an elderly woman suffered apparent cardiac arrest at the start of the second half of a New York Philharmonic matinee concert on Friday. There has been no external corroboration of the death. UPDATE: The New York Philhamonic says it cannot comment ‘out of respect for the person’s family’.

Here is Paul’s eyewitness account:

When she collapsed, the orchestra was already seated to play the second half of the program, awaiting the arrival of the concertmaster and Mr. Kahane. She was on the west side (house left) of Avery Fisher Hall in the Orchestra seating, when she fell to the floor at the end of the row. An usher was quick to summon the house manager and a little later, Lincoln Center Security.

An unidentified party administered CPR, helped and relieved by two strong men who aided with the gruelling task of heart massage. They administered chest compressions and rescue breaths, working steadily until EMTs arrived with a wheeled stretcher. The young men helped the woman onto the stretcher, and continued compressions as she was wheeled out. She was pale and from my point of view across the auditorium, unresponsive. The lights then lowered and the concert proceeded as planned.


avery fisher hall


  • Brian says:

    I see it was a matinee. Those bring out *really* old crowds, even by orchestra standards. I was at one recently and the average age must have been 90 or better.

    Hopefully she was partaking in something she enjoyed at least for her final moments, if indeed these were.

    • GONZALEZ says:

      And when you read the comment you just posted, what paragraph you find the most relevant, interesting or even related to what the published note says?

      • Philip Amos says:

        I rather think Brian’s point is that this sort of incident is more likely to occur at matinees. What I’m wondering is in what way this extended tweet is newsworthy. When Britain’s most beloved comedian died taking an ovation at the end of a televised London Palladium show, he in only middle-age, it was newsworthy, especially as the audience thought it part of his act. So too was Simon Barere’s death in the middle of his performance of the Grieg Concerto. But I cannot think it was when a middle-aged friend of mine so died in his garden while talking to his landscapers. This item seems to me akin to that last, tragic for family and friends, meaningless to all others, except perhaps the morbidly inclined.

  • Mikey says:

    Just a quick comment: the expression “drops dead” is a bit disrespectful. It’s slang and doesn’t really belong in an article like this.

    • Olassus says:

      Not slang. Perfectly good, plain English!

      Better to drop dead than to “pass” — for those who won’t properly use phrasal verbs.

      • V.Lind says:

        Oh, SO agreed. “Drop dead” is only offensive when said in the imperative mood. “Pass” is ghastly any time.

        I sometimes thing headlines here are misleading, but in this instance the headline reflects the content of the report precisely.

    • Kathleen McCarthy says:

      There’s nothing in the article stating that the woman died. Therefore there would not or could not be any “external corroboration” of such. The headline is pure sensationalism.

  • Andrew Condon says:

    Years ago when attending a concert at the Royal Festival Hall I overheard an interval conversation between 2 of the musicians, which has forever remained in my memory. A conductor, who shall remain nameless, well known to the musicians but in no way world-renowned, was in the audience and had had a collapse during the first half performance of Grieg’s piano concerto – thankfully not fatal but they did not known that at the time. “Apparently ………died during the Grieg” to which his colleague replied “I didn’t play that out of tune, did I?

  • David Boxwell says:

    This wouldn’t happen at a Rolling Stones event. Well, maybe it would . . .

  • Janet Fiorella says:

    Since there was no confirmed death, the headline “drops dead” is sensationalistic, irresponsible, offensive, and also, of course, unproven, and therefore factually erroneous. Imagine if she were your mother, wife or sister and she didn’t die but someone posted that she had “dropped dead.” Sheesh!

  • marguerite foxon says:

    For the life of me I fail to see what news is being reported on this blog that is of any interest to the readers. A very sad event for family and friends which happened to occur at a concert but which is not something the rest of the musical world needs or wants to know.

  • Ramo The says:

    I hope that poor person recovered

  • John says:

    Was it that bad ?

  • Paul Pelkonen says:

    As the originator of this post, I wrestled with whether or not to include this incident in the review of the concert. However, I found that mortal thoughts kept coming to mind as I listened to the Mozart D Minor Concerto, to the point where what happened HAD to be written about. I ultimately concluded that while this post might be decried as sensationalism, it would be irresponsible not to share what I saw that day
    That said, I only reported that which I witnessed happen, and nowhere in my copy did I use the words “Drops dead” or “dropped dead” even though that may very well be an accurate description of the events. Sometimes things happen at concerts that take us beyond the small world of chords and arpeggios.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Paul, you did the right thing. My headline described accurately what you reported. Those who cry it as sensational need to examine their vocabularies and their myopia. We are past the age of euphemisms.

      • Stephen Owades says:

        I do t see any indication in Mr. Pelkonen’s post that he believed the woman in question had died. Saying that she appeared “pale” and “unresponsive” from across the hall is hardly clear evidence of death. Yet your headline put the words “drops dead” in quotes, making it seem that you’re repeating someone else’s words. How can you claim that “my headline described accurately what you reported” when it clearly did not? This isn’t a matter of euphemisms versus plain language, but a clear divergence in what is being reported.