Concert hall boss tells his audience how to behave

Repeated disruptions at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg – including one noisy walkout when Jonas Kaufmann sang – have prompted the hall’s artistic director, Christoph Lieben-Seutter, to give a pre-concert adresss to the audience on how to behave when the music plays.

Among his instructions: not to cough, not to walk out en masse and not to applaud between movements. The audience, he says, must be ‘calm and disciplined’.

Just so.

Read on here.

 

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  • finally he does this ! excellent. the situation in HH was noisy (or uneducated) from the very beginning. and this can help a lot, look at Munich and other concert halls.

  • It’s because the hall sells tickets more as a tourist attraction, rather than to music lovers.
    There are tales, that specialis contemporary progams have seen busloads of Asian tourists in the audience.

  • I was there, and never ever have i heard so much silence
    in this hall. Even silence for several seconds after the music stopped. Unbelievable !

  • This is how you kill classical music future! Lets also instruct everyone how to read great books, look at wonderful paintings and set the rules for when to breath in and out!

    • Depends how it’s done.

      Noisy crowds can also alienate genuine music lovers from specific venues. What audience is then left, when the novelty of a new concert hall wears off?

    • Reading and looking at paintings is seldom disruptive to the people near you. But I’m sure you’d find a way, if only to broadcast your superiority to those pesky RULES!

      • I was at the newly refurbished Rijksmuseum a few years ago; it was crowded. A woman was in a wheelchair and I was ordered to move away from the picture I was enjoying (as were others) so she could see. Afterwards I saw her outside with her family – she was walking and somebody else was pushing her empty wheelchair!!!

        Some people still need to be told what civilized behaviour looks like!!

        • What painting was she looking at? Clearly it performs miracles.

          Seriously though Sue, we all know you have zero compassion but you should know that people who are frail or ill sometimes use wheelchairs (museums are exhausting) but might be able to walk a few feet at other points in the day.

        • Recent illness and surgery left me quite weak, and just this morning, I was in a wheelchair. When I got up to walk to the car, someone who knew nothing of my circumstances might have same something similarly hostile.

          Judge not…

        • Just vacationed in DC last summer and my kids were pushing me in a wheelchair through the Smithsonian. I’m slow and it’s painful to walk. Yet I still walked outside as there aren’t a lot of good options otherwise. Don’t assume.

        • Sometimes people are able to walk short distances but not longer ones; or stand for only short periods of time. Going to a museum often involves long periods of walking and standing.

  • What is really needed is the radical reform in education from the earliest childhood years on: music, music, music. All the way through college. Together with any and all kinds of literature and fine arts. Only then one can hope – hope! – that performing arts will be appreciated and respected, not merely used as something one merely consumes. (I leave the problem of “connected isolation” [Tony Judt] in the wake of increasing addiction to smartphones aside.)

    Which, on an even more deeper and radical (as in radix, root) level means the reform of the present day real existing dehumanizing capitalism into a society and economy which puts the human being first, and not capital.

    What happens in Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie and elsewhere is nothing else but the mirror of what is happening to society and humanity today.

    “Ill fares the land,
    to hastening ills a prey,
    where wealth accumulates,
    and men decay.”

    [Oliver Goldsmith, 1770]

  • So we once had an AssCon (assistant conductor) who didn’t want the audience applauding between movements at an annual runout we used to do to a local church. (out in the suburbs, good way to reach a lot of people who didn’t normally come into town for concerts) The executive director, who had been an orchestra musician, suggested telling them something like this: that a symphony is like a novel, and the movements are chapters, and when you finish one you go to the next, and only when the book is finished do you say “that was a good book.”

    Well, the AssCon told the audience “Do not applaud until the piece is over. You will know when it’s OK to applaud when I turn around. Then you may applaud.” We were aghast but had to start the piece 5 seconds later, so… onward.

    The piece was Beethoven’s 5th. I think we tried to play really well (I mean even a little extra effort), to make up for that. Deathly silence between movements. So far, so good. Then we got to the end, and the conductor stood there panting and sweating for a moment, revelling in the triumphant journey we had all been on together (I guess), before noticing that there was no applause. He’d forgotten to turn around! So he turned around and bowed, and there was polite applause, and everybody left.

    The following year we went to the same church again. The audience was smaller than usual. I forgot to mention that every year the head pastor would give a little speech welcoming the orchestra and introducing the conductor. This year he added a semi-good-natured aside about how “us country bumpkins” need to be taught to behave properly in civilized society. Then he asked “How many of you were here last year?” About 4 hands went up. In other words, out of that whole audience the previous year, practically nobody had come back. As I recall, that was the last time we went out there (there may have been one more visit).

    Nice work, AssCon.

    My point is: yes, by all means educate the audience, but be careful how you do it. It can make a difference.

  • I also prefer it if the audience is silent until the whole whatever is finished. But then again, there are Glanzarien (don’t know the English word for it and couldn’t find it, either.) where the audience is supposed to applaud.

    But I hate coughing. And people whistling with their nose while breathing. If you’re ill, stay at home. That’s a good place to pre-unwrap those candies, too.

    My favorite interruption by far was in the second movement of some Furtwängler’s symphony, when the cleaning lady stomped into the concert hall, banged the door and dragged some huge blue trash bag along. Apparently she wanted to clean out the trash bins. She was then chased out by security. So amazing! It was this one time I felt entertained during the whole concert.

    Ah, memories.

    • My favorite interruption was during a Philadelphia Orchestra concert conducted by W. Sawallisch. In the front row of Academy of music, an older man started to cough and It’s made his denture fly away until it’s landed aside Sawalliach Shoes. The gentleman had tho wait almost the entire Simphonic Metamorphoses of Hindemith, before the maestro left and he could get it back. I could barely control myself, since I was about to laugh loud out. I cannot listen to this music even now 20 yrs later without reminding it.

    • Decidedly Glanzarien last night from Netrebko/Kaufmann (and others!) in “Forza”, but watching them trying to keep “in mode” whilst the audience shouted their appreciation (rightly) left me feeling disturbed even if I know the artists are used to it and would probably be worse affected if it didn’t happen.
      Similar cleaners story perhaps during Klemperer rehearsal- he turned and shouted up to them “Wives, wives! you care too much!” (Weiber, Weiber, Ihr kehrt zu viel!)

  • In the 19th century audiences routinely applauded between movements, and everyone — conductor, soloist, composer, orchestra — was happy. Today, when someone applauds between movements, it’s usually a sign that they haven’t been to a concert before. We should welcome them, not shame them.
    The polite response to applause, whether it’s in the right place or not, is to say “thank you”. This can be done by conductor and/or soloist simply by smiling, a nod of the head, and by making it obvious that “there’s more to come and if you’d like, we’ll finish the piece”.

    • Yes, I’ve seen Steven Hough do the polite (and, I assume, respectfully appreciative) nod with the head, and it makes a very good impression on the audience.

      There’s terrific applause after this first movement of the Brahms First by Rudolf Serkin from 1956 in Boston; obviously I don’t know how musically-educated this particular audience was, but with that fiery finish, it seems totally appropriate and I joined in.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJTgRiZBrb0

    • Also, there are plenty of pieces where the first movement is big enough, long enough, and has a spectacular enough ending that it sounds weird not to applaud. For instance, I can’t imagine what a performance of the Tchaikovsky 1st piano concerto would have to be like in order to not have an impromptu ovation at the end of the 1st movement.

      I remember a performance of Beethoven’s 9th we did years ago where, at the end of the rather monumental first movement, you could hear a child cry out, “Yay!” That brought a small ovation all by itself 🙂

      I do look forward to the time when audience members are comfortable enough to not only applaud at the end of a “big” movement, but also not to applaud at the end of a quiet one. (e.g. Bartok Concerto for Orchestra: end of the 1st movement — sure, go ahead. End of the 3rd movement — no need, just let the silence settle.)

  • We had a mobile phone ring during one of our concerts. The person answered, and told the caller that he couldn’t talk because he was in the middle of a concert.

  • This guy probably hasn’t been to a concert in NYC in recent times. It might adjust his thinking about audience noise.

    That said, a little applause between movements never hurts anyone. It shows there are newcomers in the hall, which is what everyone should be striving for.

  • Are we going to go down the “when it’s ok to applaud” road again? Easy advice: If you don’t know the etiquette, wait and see what everyone else does.

    As for the Elb, it’s perfectly reasonable to say turn off phones, don’t walk out en masse, and keep quiet. People didn’t pay good money to hear the audience. And there are plenty of other places – libraries, live theatre, even movie theatres – where people are expected to keep quiet, out of courtesy to other users.

  • Also, there are plenty of pieces where the first movement is big enough, long enough, and has a spectacular enough ending that it sounds weird not to applaud. For instance, I can’t imagine what a performance of the Tchaikovsky 1st piano concerto would have to be like in order to not have an impromptu ovation at the end of the 1st movement.

    I remember a performance of Beethoven’s 9th we did years ago where, at the end of the rather monumental first movement, you could hear a child cry out, “Yay!” That brought a small ovation all by itself 🙂

    I do look forward to the time when audience members are comfortable enough to not only applaud at the end of a “big” movement, but also not to applaud at the end of a quiet one. (e.g. Bartok Concerto for Orchestra: end of the 1st movement — sure, go ahead. End of the 3rd movement — no need, just let the silence settle.)

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