Worst ever page-turn disasters

Worst ever page-turn disasters


norman lebrecht

August 10, 2019

My fave is #2.


  • MusicBear88 says:

    #1 has happened to me, fortunately it was during a operatic duet and the singer who wasn’t singing at the time walked around the piano and picked it up.

  • Martinu says:

    Seen worse (though not documented).
    Pianist Yefim Bronfman hitting a page turner on his hands, repeatedly, when the poor guy insisted on turning the page in the wrong place.
    Pianist Revital Hahamov stopping in mid work, saying that the page turner is incompetent and the concert organizer, Dr. Raz Binyamini, meekly taking her place.
    Violist Gerrard Causse trying to play a modern Viola work (Berio Sequenza?), with music spread over 6 stands, and all papers fly with the wind (AC, that is) on the floor.
    I’m sure that every concert goer has her/his favorite disaster moments.

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    The remarkable thing is how well these musicians recover…what resilience!

  • John Borstlap says:

    These mishaps seem to be related to bad binding and too much physical enthusiasm.

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    Do there exist any page-turning competitions in the world? The Asians would win them all, as they are formidable page-turners. Are there rehab centres for drug-addicted page-turners that would like to turn over a new leaf?

  • Esther Cavett says:

    Re: #2 the clip didn’t show how the page turner was given equal billing in the applause 🙂

    All three of them clasped hands. Think the girl was concertmaster of some German orch

  • Petros LInardos says:

    No 2 has is fantastic in many ways: music, performance, reflexes, comedy…

  • Kurt Anderson says:

    #4 is at Morse Recital Hall in Sprague Hall at Yale School of Music

  • christopher storey says:

    It brings a whole new dimension to the FAE, or is it AEF, or EAF Sonata ?

  • Jonathan says:

    I wouldn’t call them disasters – all recovered quite nicely!

  • Chris says:

    These are all great! They show we are, all of us, human.

  • How will we keep this drama after everything is read off tablets?

    • Ruben Greenberg says:

      Robert: there will be different sorts of mishaps: electronic IT ones.

    • brian says:

      Oh you can be very confident of future e-dramas. I’ve worked in IT for 30+ yrs. and have often reassured colleagues thus: “if hardware and software always worked perfectly as designed, most of us wouldn’t have jobs.”

  • During a big recital once I’d instructed the page turner that we would NOT be doing the first movement repeat. We came to the da capo and he got up to turn back to the beginning. I whispered “no, no”…he turned back and we had to play from the beginning again adding five or so minutes to the closely timed programme. Questioned afterwards he said he thought that I was whispering “NOW!”

  • Emil says:

    Having seen Lars Vogt break off the piano pedals in a Dvorak Piano Quintet and continue (impeccably) – after a short break – without pedalling for the rest of the trio, I believe that nothing will stop that guy.

  • Stratosphere says:

    #1 is perfect. He was like frustrated before the turn. I thought he’s going to rip off this page while turning: “go the duck out!”

  • Bruce says:

    I once pulled the score right off the stand during a recital where I was turning pages. The music fell onto the pianist’s hands. He kept playing from memory long enough (a couple seconds probably) for me to put the music back up. I don’t think he missed a note.

    Another time, the sleeve of my jacket got caught on something — the curved edge of the fall board, I think — as I was reaching to turn the page, stopping me in my tracks. The pianist had to turn that page himself.

    Another time, I watched the pianist fighting off the page turner as she kept trying to turn the page even though it was the end of the piece. She finally figured it out about 4 bars from the end, and sat there aghast with her hands over her mouth. It was funny, but I’m glad it wasn’t me.

    That’s what I’ve got.

    • mathias broucek says:

      I feel your pain, brother. I had my share of mishaps when I did it regularly. It’s a horrible job that only gets notices when it goes wrong

    • John Borstlap says:

      That’s musical life. In my dog days, I once was – entirely unexpectedly – forced to turn pages for the soloist at a premiere of my own piece for piano and strings because the page turner had cancelled at the last minute, and there was nobody present who could substitute. Since I knew the piece, the turning went perfectly well. But after the piece ended, both conductor and pianist brought me to the fore to thank for the applause which was ridiculous since it looked as if the page turner was taking credit for his contribution. It was also otherwise a rather frustrating experience since there was not enough rehearsel time planned, resulting in the conductor instructing the players to play mezzoforte everywhere, instead of following the dynamics as written. And also… but I will stop here.

  • Andrew T says:

    These refresh us and relieve us from the too often staid, the predictable the lock step of the classical music world. Which at times can of course be sublime, galvanizing and utterly wonderful too.

  • JohnB says:

    Tetzlaff is throwing down his music very often, especially when he’s playing badly (what happens even more often).

    He’s using quite a couple of tricks to disguise his limited skills (watch his last movement of Sibelius…).

  • Nijinsky says:

    I don’t usually like to advertise Amazon, but for various prices (even used) you can turn all you want, and never get it wrong. You can even leave the music at home, and turn something else, or ask the audience for something to turn. A MAJOR change in the history of: What’s art?


  • Karl says:

    Mechanical page turners have been invented. I’ve never seen anyone use one though.

    • John Borstlap says:

      There has been a famous pianist in the early years of the 20th century, forgot who it was, who had a mechanical page turning contraption constructed by a clever engineer, consisting of a collection of discrete metal squeezers connected to the pages, and being operated with a foot pedal. His recitals were very popular especially because of the mysteriously turned pages without any hand in sight.

      (I’m not making this up.)

  • Sara E. says:

    Professionalism not clown school.

  • Edgar Self says:

    We’ve got to have the classic page-turning story at least once. Rubinstein told it. ;One of Enescu’s students was to play a recital in Paris. His rich father persuaded Enescu, a good pianist, to accompany him, much against his will.

    On the night, Enescu balked and said he couldn’t play because there was no page-turner. A helpful person saw Alfred Cortot in the audience and asked him to oblige. “Of course,” Cortot said, “My old friend Georges … I will manage the pages,” and he did.

    A review next day read: “A strange recital took place yesterday in the Salle Gaveau. The man who should have played the violin was playing the piano. The man who should have played the piano turned the pages. And the man who should have turned the pages was the soloist of the evening.”

  • Edgar Self says:

    Not a disaster, but a new manuver: Jennifer Gunn played a recent work for flute and orchestra with Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the Chicago SO on an all-Latin American program.

    As she stood in front of and to stage right of the podium with her score on a tall stand before her. There came awkward page-turn in a rapid passage. The onductor reached quickly his left hand behind him and flicked her page over.

    It was so unexpected I asked him about it later, saying I’d never seen it done before. He laughed. “I’ve never done it before,”

    He is Peruvian, like her husband, and conducts the Ft.Worth SO and Norwegian Radio Orchestra.

  • Edgar Self says:

    In one of Karajan’s early Berlin Philharmonic concerts, he conducted without a score from memory as usual. †here was a breakdown and brief interruption until the orchestra could re-start and go on. This resulted in an edict that in future Karajan must use a score, which he did at his next concert, dutifully turning the pages.

    After the end, a curious attendee looked at the score. It was the music for a different work not played, and it was upside down. No more, I promise.