What the maestro said when a phone went off in Brahms

What the maestro said when a phone went off in Brahms


norman lebrecht

February 12, 2017

At the end of the opening movement of Brahms’s first symphony, a cellphone went off at Charlotte, NC, on Friday night.

At the third ring, Charlotte’s British music director Christopher Warren-Green turned round to the audience and said: ‘Answer it. It might be Brahms.’



  • Ungeheuer says:


  • Mike Schachter says:


  • JBB says:

    This puts me in mind of Leonard Slatkin during his tenure with the NSO. After about three rings in the middle of a piece (I don’t remember what), he half-turned and snapped, “Answer it!” whilst continuing to conduct.

  • John Birge says:

    Among the best was Jac Van Steen at the Halle Orch. As a ringtone rang and rang, piercing the slow mvt of Brahms 4th. Van Steen put down his baton, turned to the audience and said: “If that’s my wife, tell her I’m not here.”

  • John Doe the Umpteenth says:

    And how about Alan Gilbert stopping the orchestra to tell an attendee with a constantly ringing Marimba ringtone to turn off their cell phone at a very important part in Mahler 9.

  • Tim Walton says:

    An early concert at Symphony Hall Birmingham, on a Sunday afternoon, a mobile went off and the conductor, William Boughton, turned round and said – Tell them I’m busy!

  • Melisande says:

    In February 2010 mezzo Joyce DiDonato and pianist David Zobel toured with a recital called Three Centuries of Italian Love Songs, a.o. Rossini’s Willow song from Otello with the beautiful obbligato harp. Just when she drew breath, a mobile phone interrupted the proceedings.
    “It’s Otello”, she “quipped, “Tell him it’s not true”, and continued unfazed and undisturbed!
    I attended the recital in Brussels in January 2010 and guess: the same happened!
    Such a clever and playful way to correct audiences and make them aware of their incorrect behaviour. Diva, performer, teacher, communicator.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    My favorite cell phone story is with Wynton Marsalis, who, after repeating the ringtone a couple times, imaginatively improvised on it for a few minutes and skillfully transitioned back where he was before the cell went off.

  • Bruce says:

    And there’s this one. It has been around for awhile and has a little over 9 million views, so some of you may have seen it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uub0z8wJfhU

  • Alexandra Ivanoff says:

    When soprano Deborah Voigt was completing a pianissimo final phrase in a lieder recital in San Francisco many years ago, a cell phone went off in the first row. Without destroying the mood, she managed to say in a sweetly affected tone: “Is it for me?”

    It sounds like there are hundreds, if not thousands, of funny stories about cell phones in concerts (or weddings, funerals, religious services, or other events where attendees are ostensibly supposed to listen). A good book could be produced…Norman…

  • Koen says:

    The chief organist of the Skt Florian monastery in Austria reported that during a performance of a Bruckner symphony during the Bruckner Festival, which is held annualy in that monastery, the telephone on the organ balcony rang.
    The conductor let it ring until it finished by itself.
    The composer is buried directly under the organ. All those in attendance assumed it was old Anton himself, who called in to say he was pleased with the performance.

  • Sue says:

    It’s staggering to me that audience members continue to be pig rude by allowing their phones to ring. They really need to get a life rather than regarding their phones as another physical appendage.