That’s no way to treat a page turner at the Wigmore Hall

That’s no way to treat a page turner at the Wigmore Hall


norman lebrecht

February 27, 2017

It is reported that the pianist Markus Hinterhäuser lost his cool with a page-turner during a Wigmore Hall recital with the baritone Matthias Goerne.

According to Jenna Douglas on Schmopera:

Hinterhäuser stopped playing in the middle of the first song (Mahler’s “Der Tamboursg’sell”), visibly frustrated with his page-turner… Not only did Hinterhäuser make for an uneasy start to a recital, but he behaved in poor, selfish taste. Goerne seemed prepared to continue singing, even if Hinterhäuser needed to scramble to save the missed page-turn; yet this pianist decided to stop the whole thing entirely, draw attention to the human error that may have happened beside him, and force Goerne to restart.

These things happen, and Jenna’s right: artists need to get over it. Read on here.

(Hinterhäuser is, aside from his pianistic career, artistic director of the Salzburg Festival.)


  • The Cross-Eyed Pianist says:

    Such behaviour on the part of the pianist strikes me as rather unprofessional – to stop the performance in order to reprimand the turner. Such a conversation could have taken place in the green room in private during the interval. I suspect the poor turner felt mortified. Page-turning is not “easy” (as asserted by the editor of a well-known music magazine in response to the Twitter thread about this incident). It requires great concentration and skill to turn on time and discreetly. It’s not simply about being able to read music well…..

    • Andrew says:

      Oh dear, I have gone off him even before hearing him play a single note..
      He should have tried to save the situation before resorting to being selfish,
      people were there to hear the singer and might have forgiven the page turner anyway as the singer was evidently in full swing he should have tried to recover the situation first..
      If he was good enough, they might even not have noticed! But he obviously isn’t//
      for an example on how he should have tried to recover first….

      • SC says:

        No. There was no “full swing” from the singer: Goerne had in fact not yet started to sing, as there was a long piano introduction. So it was not too awful to start again from the beginning. What was awful was the sight of the two of them apparently ganging up on the page turner.

  • Jewelyard says:

    He should chill out firstly, and use an iPad/airturn so he doesn’t have to have a page turner

  • L.F. says:

    It is not quite correct to speak of a pianistic career of Mr. Hinterhäuser. He mainly directs festivals, Wiener Festwochen and now Salzburg. Occasionally he is kind enough to lend his considerable pianistic abilities to carefully chosen partners or projects, e.g.playing the works of Ustwolskaja. I attended several of his concerts and there was never a page turner problem. If he interrupted this time the most probable hypothesis would be that for some reason the problem could not just be resolved by turning the page himself but was of a more fundamental nature.

  • David Osborne says:

    Eisler’s songs are wonderful. It sounds like a great program all up. I wonder what the problem really was?

  • Brian B says:

    Of it were Goerne I would have been miffed. Not at the page Turner, for sure. If it were a solo recital the accompanist could make that choice, but not with a colleague. Even starting again takes the audience out if the spell. Did Hinterhauser nod for the turn? Even at home following a score it’s so easy to turn an extra page and get lost.

  • Dan P. says:

    Of course, the simplest way to approach the problem is to do what I do – and that’s just learn the music so you don’t need it in front of you. This may sound cheeky, but it isn’t meant to be. I’m sure if I can memorize something that I’m collaborating on and all my students can too. then he could do it as well. The thing is – you listen to your partners better without any visual distraction and anyone who doubts this can just try it to discover that it’s true. My attitude is, you either know the music or you don’t. And, if you have it in front of it, you don’t know it completely.

    • L.F. says:

      Dan P, – thats what Furtwängler said. BUT if you know the music, you know it in a certain way and play it like a CD-player. There are musicians who can get a fresh look at the score if it is before them, but they need the score because otherwise it becomes to risky to try new things on the spot.

      • Anon says:

        And there are plenty of areas in-between, of course. If one knows it inside-out, one ought to be able to play on for some time (preferably the whole thing) if pages go awry, while one’s page-turner sorts it out; and having the score in front allows plenty of reference for interpretative reasons.

        But it’s not as though this was one in a run of concerts on a tour, so I suspect Mr. Hinterhauser was rather more pragmatic, and learnt it sufficiently to play them, without committing anything to mind. The next concert of this rep isn’t until June 20, and I’m willing to bet he felt he had more pressing matters on his time than to learn these inside out.

      • Dan P. says:

        That’s interesting, L.F. Maybe my experience isn’t universal. It seems risky, I know, but actually I feel more secure playing or conducting if I’ve absorbed something completely and just respond to the music in my head. It’s different than reading off a page because in that case the amount you focus your attention on looking, reading, and responding to the written page takes away by that amount the amount you focus on listening to responding to what you hear from your chamber music partners. From just a practical standpoint, playing in an ensemble from memory really forces you to listen. So does rehearsing and conducting without a score.

        In the end, though, it’s a matter of sustaining a level of an inner communication with everyone. You become much more sensitive to your place in the total ensemble and it truly does start to become a conversation if you’re “with” them totally. I know it sounds mystical (and I’m not a very mystical guy), but I firmly believe that as a player, you can feel the difference and as a listener you hear the difference loud and clear.

        Of course, if you’re a professional accompanist and have to learn two hours of new music a week, then this isn’t possible. That’s a different situation. But if you’re performing in order to make a difference to your listeners, than it’s something to take seriously.

        • Andy says:

          Richter always played from the score in later life. I suspect if it was good enough for him it’s good enough for everyone else.

          • L.F. says:

            Besides Richter the two probably most interesting violinists today mostly play from the score: Kremer and Kopatchinskaja.

          • Dan P. says:

            Late in life Richter said (at least this is what I’ve read) that he was worried about his memory. This is perfectly understandable. And if people need the music in front of them – that’s fine. Clara Schumann played with music in front of her too. All I’m saying is that, especially in chamber music, the experience – at least MY experience – of playing in direct contact with the ensemble without music in the way can be a much richer experience and result in a more intense performance because it emanates from an inner impulse.

  • Damien says:

    These kinds of people contribute to giving a very uncool image to classical music and classical music recitals and it’s no wonder that so many young people feel alienated. Imagine that a young student, interested in voice, came to this recital as their very first classical concert. They booked the tickets months in advance, paid out of their limited savings, were excited to attend the concert and get their first introduction to the world of live classical music performance. Then they witness this. The impression would be unpleasant and would probably remind them of some awful exam at school. They would leave, probably having enjoyed the music, but hesitant about buying another ticket to attend a concert with possibly similar uptight and miserable performers.
    These sort of things are not so infrequent as one is lead to think. In just the past few years there have been several cases of stressed out, uptight classical musicians turning on their public for doing some human infraction, like coughing. In 2014 we had Kyung-wha Chung stop her performance at the Royal Festival Hall because a child coughed, with her upbraiding the mother, telling her, in front of the entire audience, to bring her daughter back when she was older. So, Mr. Hinterhäuser is from the same school. His partner at this Wigmore Hall performance Matthias Goerne is no stranger to being extremely rude to his public, having told a man who was taking photographs to “GET OUT!”
    Classical music is full of these sorts of people. Arrogant, full of themselves and believing that they are part of some intellectual and cultural elite. Sure, people have to behave and taking photographs during a classical concert is wrong, but this “classical” arrogance is what is making classical music more of a museum for the initiated and keeping any future audiences at home.
    I myself love classical music, but hate the majority of the community that frequents classical concerts. I try to ignore the often heavy, oppressive, arrogant and condescending atmosphere when I attend, but often go home disgusted by the sorts of people that I see at these events. It is often a majority of uptight, frustrated snobs, who seem to be there more to convince themselves that they are a part of some decadent elite than actually there to enjoy the music and accept the occasional human faults and disturbances that may happen.

  • Plush says:

    Should not take it upon himself to stop the program. Very fussy and non pro.

  • SC says:

    I was sitting closer to MH than anyone except the page turner, and speak German, so am in a position to report on the sequence of events.

    It was the first song of some two dozen in this no-interval lieder evening. After the opening of the song, MH nodded and the page was turned. MH shortly after stopped playing, MG (naturally enough) then stopped singing. MH (in German) complained that the page turner had turned to the wrong page, by way of explanation to MG, who was clearly unsettled by what had just happened. This led MG to translate what MH had said, addressing the page turner in English and saying something like “You have to turn to the right page. They have numbers, you know”. The page turner said “I thought I had turned to the right page”.

    The recital started again from the beginning. Watching carefully it seemed to me that MH was exceptionally dependent on the notes. I cannot for certain, however, say whether the wrong page had been turned to or not.

    • John Sacs says:

      Yeah, I heard it also and concur. But would add that in both cases the tone of language used was derogatory and inappropriate for professionals on stage. Neither of the performers came out of the unfortunate situation with their halos intact.

    • Sixtus Beckmesser says:

      This is every page-turner’s nightmare. Turning two pages at once is surprisingly easy to do. Herr Hinterhäuser should try turning pages some time and really needs to be a little less self-important.

  • Robert Hairgrove says:

    Here’s how page turning should be done (…not!):

    (another classic clip of Victor Borge)

  • Andrew Condon says:

    My very first experience of page turning for a pianist was when I was still at school – Daphne Ibbott and colleagues came to play for the schools Music Club, ending with the Schubert Trout Quintet. Daphne could not have been kinder in making sure that I was fully aware of the many repeats in the variation movement and the all important Da Capo at the end of the Scherzo/Trio – a treacherous moment for any page turner!

  • Bruce says:

    If the page turner turns two pages, you just reach up and turn the page back. If you want to be tactful, you can do it unobtrusively; if you want to be snippy about it, you can slap it back so it makes a noise. Either way, the page-turner will be mortified. I’m not a big proponent of expecting collaborative pianists to memorize their music; but if you’re so unprepared that you can’t manage one or two measures of “boom-chuck” in the right key while you take care of it, that isn’t the page-turner’s fault.

  • John says:

    I stepped in at the last minute to be a page turner for the Schonberg Phantasy, Op. 47. I didn’t know the music to be sure, and I didn’t know the accompanist. It was completely nerve wracking. I’ll never do that again.

  • Robert Hairgrove says:

    Turning pages for one of the pianists in a performance of Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion can be a nightmare. Since the pianists normally play from the full score, you have both piano parts and several accolades for the percussion on the same page. That means that in the faster bits, especially with a lot of percussion instruments playing, you sometimes have only two or three bars per page, which doesn’t give the page turner time to sit down!

    • Robert Hairgrove says:

      accolade = staff

      • Harold Lewis says:

        staff = stave

      • Theodore McGuiver says:

        More a system than a staff (or stave). Piano music, for example, is written in accolades. Here’s Mirriam-Webster’s explanation:

        Accolade was borrowed into English in the 17th century from French. The French noun in turn derives from the verb accoler, which means “to embrace,” and ultimately from the Latin term collum, meaning “neck.” (Collum is also an ancestor of the English word collar.) When it was first borrowed from French, accolade referred to a ceremonial embrace that once marked the conferring of knighthood. The term was later extended to any ceremony conferring knighthood (such as the more familiar tapping on the shoulders with the flat part of a sword’s blade), and eventually extended to honors or awards in general.

        Thanks, Robert; I’ve learned something today.

        • Theodore McGuiver says:

          I know this is a bit off-topic and that we should be slagging off Hinterhäuser and Goerne for their petulant and patronising behaviour, but concerning the etymology of ‘accolade’, are we not, in fact, embracing the part of the body that enables the thought to pass into the trunk and, thus, be turned into deed?

        • Saxon Broken says:

          What did Goerne do that he shouldn’t have?

  • Islander says:

    I’ve done some page turning too in big concerts and it’s a really horrible job. I found I was concentrating so hard to try and do it correctly that it was impossible to enjoy the music at all.

  • Robert Hairgrove says:

    I’ll never forget one incident concerning page turning which happened to me at a trio concert more than 20 years ago:

    After rehearsal in the afternoon, which was also attended by one of my students whom I had asked to turn for me, I remarked that I would go pick up some things in town. The violinist in the trio requested that I buy a kind of energy drink which he liked, which I did. This came in a plastic bottle and consisted of all natural ingredients: mostly apple juice and honey, I think. Unfortunately, I had put it into the same bag where I was carrying the score of the Smetana piano trio in G minor, which we would be performing later that evening.

    Well, you can probably imagine what happened: the content of the bottle had leaked onto that score, but only on the upper right-hand corner of the pages! Fortunately, I had arrived early enough before the performance so that I could meticulously wash off each page’s upper-right corner before the performance started.

    I warned my page turner about “sticky pages”, and all went well because she made a special effort to make sure that she only turned one page at once.

  • Michel Noiray says:

    Another problem is that Mahler’s writing for the piano is rather unidiomatic and that it takes a great pianist to bring it to life. Mr Hinterhäuser was fine in Eisler but completely dead in Mahler — I feared, during “Der Abschied”, that the piano would never “take leave”. I don’t know which version came first, but any pianist who cannot give an idea of the colours in the orchestral version ought to abstain. I would not have written this if Mr Hinterhäuser had behaved properly towards his page turner, to whom I extend my sympathy.

  • Assistant at MKAM says:

    Pianist Markus Hinterhäuser (new artistic director of the Salzburg Festival) will be accompanying Matthias Goerne again on 7 March 2017 at the Vienna State Opera, performing Schubert’s ‘Winterreise’. On 12, 15, and 19 March, Matthias Goerne can be heard in the role of Kurwenal in Wagner’s ‘Tristan and Isolde’ at Vienna’s famous opera house. ( – No page turner required then – promised! 😉