Mutter machine turns concert mishap into PR coup

Mutter machine turns concert mishap into PR coup


norman lebrecht

October 07, 2019

Slipped Disc was the first to report the incident in Cincinnati a week ago when Anne-Sophie Mutter broke off in the middle of the second movement of the Beethoven concerto to berate a female front-row audience member who was filming her.

Opinion divided over her conduct. Many of our respondents felt she had crossed a line.

The Mutter machine roared into action with a response via the New York Times:

“The first movement is over, and I’m trying to concentrate and stay calm,” Ms. Mutter recalled. “Then she takes out a second phone, and a power bank. I continued the second movement, but it’s already boiling in me. I’m totally out of the flow.”

“I feel violated in my rights, of my artistic property,” she said, noting that unauthorized filming is illegal. “As an artist you take such care when doing a recording — that you have your own sound engineer, that the mics are hung in the right spots. The sound is a part of you, you want your voice replicated in a way that really represents what you have worked on for an entire life.”

The audience expressed its approval of her stance, she said, and “erupted in long, powerful applause.”

The NY Times contentualises the event among several other recent concert phone incidents.

Read here.


  • sam says:

    Wasn’t she bemoaning her lack of recording opportunities recently?

    • Florestan83 says:

      What happened to her rights as an artists and having control over the product she gives to the public. Save your snide, cynical indifference for somewhere else.

  • SVM says:

    The original article can be found at:

    The comments seem overwhelmingly in favour of Mutter.

    • John Kelly says:

      ….as they should be. It’s an outrage. I saw something similar at La Fenice where a woman on the front row filmed most of the first act of Butterfly. ….just ridiculously rude.

  • Jack says:

    Sorry but she’s right. She’s trying to give 100% to her audience and one person is distracting her. Maybe put the blame where it belongs.

    • The View from America says:

      Right. As I mentioned in an earlier thread about this occurrence, in case audience members are clueless about the regulations against the use of recording devices, those stipulations are clearly spelled out in the program booklets that are given out for each concert, and sometimes mentioned in pre-concert announcements.

      That the audience member in question failed to read them — or can’t understand, read or speak English — is no excuse whatsoever.

  • personal rights, pirate recordery says:

    she s absolutely right .. no question that this behaviour is against law and against personal rights .. and first of all against a certain respect .. towards the arts in general .. come to listen, maybe to see .. maybe to be seen as well .. but not to take pics od even videos .. or do it better than the lady 🙂 .. i mean, nothing against priate recordings, they can be very helpful ..

  • Paul Dawson says:

    I’m backing her. The stress during a live performance is high enough already. Seeing this going on probably pushed her over the edge. Nobody breaks off a performance like that lightly.

  • mary says:

    I don’t blame her, you start out your career recording with the Berlin Philharmonic and you end it with recording with the Cinncinnati Symphony.

    Enough to send chills down anyone’s spine.

    • Jack says:

      I’m guessing that unlike Mutter, you are unfettered by the slavery of talent.

    • MacroV says:

      You need to get out more; the Cincinnati SO is a great orchestra. It would in no way be slumming if in fact she were making a recording with them. The point was, in this instance, she wasn’t; it was live performance, and not for capture by iPhone.

    • Bruce says:

      Is this the end of her career? Do tell.

  • She was correct in stopping the recording, but better ways of dealing with the situation need to be found. Those really trying to steal a performance recording find ways not to be caught. (It’s not difficult.) Those doing it openly are, by contrast, naive and misinformed. Creating such a harsh public spectacle, public denunciation, and disruption isn’t the best response–even if to Mutter’s mind it might seem so.

    A standard practice should be put in place, something along the lines of the performer stopping and signaling to the stage manager than someone is recording. The person could then be quietly escorted out of the hall by the ushers, and the performance continued. It would help avoid the false appearance of sadistic, self-righteousness, which if it became a pattern and got out of hand, could harm the image of classical music. In short, we should constrain our malice toward those merely naive and misinformed.

    • Paul Dawson says:

      A very sensible suggestion. I’m not sure, though, how workable it would be. She’s got a couple of thousand people, having paid serious money to see a performer with a stellar reputation present one of the greatest works in the repertory. I think one has to cut her some slack if she loses it when she is distracted from her task.

      • Rgiarola says:

        Other soloist less know can be playing the same concert outstandingly, but will be called a “bitchy” if he/she stop orchestra, conductor, disturb the rest of the audience just because one person is cracking the soloist out. While as Osbourne said, this soloist could avoid it, doing other less disruptive and more accurate solution.
        At the end, Mutter got in an argument with a person that could barely understand her, as it was describe. Pointless, she isn’t there to take care of this kind of issues, nor has any trainning for that. There are many other more careful ways, such getting out of the stage without a word and telling to the administration of the concert hall, she wouldn’t’ return until the offender was withdraw. Beethoven’s second movement would remain intact, the offender got a lesson and I believe no one would criticize the soloist for doing it.

    • Jack says:

      ‘Sadistic self-righteousness’?? On Mutter’s part? Were you there to be in a position to make that kind of judgment?

      As much as you would like to have ‘a standard practice’ to handle all such matters, none was in place at the time of the incident and the soloist did what she thought was in the best interests of the piece and of the 2000 people who paid to come and hear her.

    • Nick2 says:

      “The person could then be quietly escorted out of the hall by the ushers, and the performance continued.” Quietly? That might sometimes work, but equally it could cause the most tremendous argument with the patron insisting he/she has paid for a ticket whilst the usher ripostes about breaking rules etc. Forcibly removing a patron could certainly cause a great deal more disturbance.

      I was once at a concert with Krystian Zimerman who is very much against any form of recording. This was not a major international concert hall and there are usually a few making video recordings and getting away with it. But prior to the concert there was the usual recorded announcement about there being there being no recordings. Then both before and after the overture, one of the management staff twice came on stage again to stress that Mr. Zimerman had specially requested everyone to switch off phones and tablets. Overkill, perhaps. But it worked.

      • Don Fatale says:

        I agree that recorded voices mean nothing at all. Somebody needs to come on stage and read the riot act… every performance.

    • Rgiarola says:

      Osborne is Right. Especially since aggressive interruptions during a movement doesn’t help the rest of the audience, nor the composer music (She made it clear, she was aware since the first movement). Actually it’s wreck the whole experience, and as Osbourne is saying, could be totally avoid if reacted in a curbed way, along a real treatment/punishment of the perpetrator .In this case, even been conducted out of the hall between movements by a usher.

      Besides of all, it is supposed to be the concert hall administration including the usher’s services to inform about the prohibition, plus identify anyone misconducting during a concert in order to take necessary measures. If they don’t, we can say it is a huge institutional issue of this company.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      The problem is that all those live or recorded announcements or printed warnings about cell phones, beeping watches, no photography/no recording, have become wallpaper, as pro forma as the tutorial about how to fasten a seat belt on an airplane (but at least the airlines DO insist that you fasten your seatbelt). Concert halls and performing organizations do NOTHING about violators. If it takes public shaming by a star performer to make clear this is a serious subject for them, then perhaps the “damage” done to this particular performance will have been worth it.

      And was it damaged? The slow movement of the Beethoven Concerto is not heard at its best when played while the soloist is angry or distracted. My hunch is that the Cincinnati audience heard a better interpretation once the irritant was removed. Heifetz once interrupted a concert to complain about a spotlight (in violation of specific terms in his contract) being aimed at him. That too made news at the time, and not due to any Heifetz PR machine. He knew what he wanted and needed to play at his best, and he knew he was expected to be “perfect.” (It made international news when he once suffered a memory slip and stopped playing.)

      The absolute worst case of audience misbehavior on this topic in my experience: the first work on the program was Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture. Some goof was recording it (why? the total dearth of available recordings?). The second work was Honegger’s Symphony No. 4 “Deliciae Basillenses.” Mr. Goof hit “play” rather than “record” so for several minutes we were treated to an overlay of Mendelssohn on top of Honegger. Evidently he was oblivious. The performers heard it and most of us in the audience heard it. Nothing was done. Eventually the bizarre mixtape stopped.

      The conductor, who clearly heard it, should have stopped the performance, done exactly what Mutter did, and started over. In my case and I suspect for many others, this was likely our only opportunity to hear the work in concert and it deserved to be heard undefiled.

      Postscript: at intermission a man in the audience stood up and immediately dropped dead. If the ushers had intended to escort the recording miscreant out of the hall, they were distracted by other and sadder duties.

  • John Rook says:

    She was right. Full stop.

  • Bruce says:

    The technology I mentioned in a previous thread, where you can keep your phone with you in a locked pouch, is called Yondr. It’s been around a few years, and is referenced in the NY Times article.

  • nimitta says:

    SD: “The Mutter machine roared into action with a response via the New York Times.”

    A bit much – I’m going to go out on a limb to say:

    1) the authors of the NY Times piece, Michaels Paulson & Cooper, were the ones who ‘roared into action’ by contacting ASM about this highly publicized event

    2) both will be rather surprised to learn they’ve become part of the ‘Mutter machine’

    As for her response in the very particular situation that arose in Cincinnati: I believe it was justified and appropriate. The fact that it was warmly applauded by so many in the audience highlights the fact that any rules around these kinds of artistic performances must serve to protect the experience of the most people involved: artists, venue, and audience. There will always be some who want something different, be it recording or simply texting about the show, but their rights stop at the point when they begin to distract performers and fellow audience members.

    I guarantee that once ASM and orchestra resumed the Beethoven, she and they played much better than they would have had she done differently.

  • Karl says:

    The real culprits are the ushers at the hall. They should have stopped the woman before Mutter did. In Montreal they are very diligent about stopping people with their phones.

  • Alan O'Connor says:

    Mutter absolutely correct. There is no argument. If anything the people sitting beside this egomaniac should have taken her to task the minute it became apparent what she was doing. I would have.

    • Paul Dawson says:

      Remember the fight in the ROH stalls at Siegfried last year. Attempting to do the ushers’ job for them is fraught with danger.

  • fierywoman says:

    As any performer will tell you, it is one thing to perform in front of an audience and it is quite another beast to perform in front of a microphone.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    ==Remember the fight in the ROH stalls at Siegfried last year.

    No, sounds interesting. Please do tell….

  • MacroV says:

    I do enjoy all these comments about how it was ok to not tolerate the recording, but that ASM should have done it differently.

    Well, the best approach I’ve heard about was from Adele, who seeing someone filming her in concert, said (presumably between songs) something to the effect of “No need to film, I’m actually HERE.”

  • Patrick Gillot says:

    It does not seem that many respondants feel that “she crossed the line” . This stupid woman filming is outrageous . She is stealing property and disturbing not only Mutter but all audience around her.

  • cym says:

    Watching the delightful movie ‘Diva’ will clarify the Mutter incident !

  • Nijinsky says:

    Sorry but…


    This is staring to make me laugh and bother me at the same time, given the amount of different dynamics going on that all rub against each other the wrong way. Perhaps I feel most sorry for the audience member.

    Anne Sophie was of course trying to concentrate playing the Beethoven concerto, albeit for the who knows how many-eth time. And it’s illegal to make recordings of performances, and it’s written all over the place. She thought that it was over with, and that after giving her a few stern looks the woman had stopped, but then she took out another cell phone and a power bar or more and that was enough. Anne was already, as she said, at the boiling point.

    But the audience member was a stout fan of Anne’s, and probably this was a date in heaven for her, and she wanted to take it home with her. We don’t know if she was even aware of whether it was illegal, and if one looks on youtube, it doesn’t appear that way, or that it’s as illegal as jay walking, as if no one does that. And so when Anne told her to stop she actually wanted to express how much she respected Anne, and probably also wanted to express that if she had known she was disruptive she wouldn’t have started with it, but that again seems to have been misunderstood. All Anne maybe had to say at that point was that she appreciated it that she was esteemed so highly by the audience member, but making cell phone recordings is illegal and very disruptive to a performer trying to concentrate, and that would have been that, but instead Anne said that either the woman turn off her recording device or she would leave, and it seems the audience member was still trying to plead her case, and for all we know she was only happy and willing to delete the recording, possibly didn’t know it was illegal, and wasn’t at all intending to be disrespectful or disruptive. Instead, after buying tickets and having the dream of hearing Anne, she ends up being escorted out of the hall in tears.

    And what bothers me the most, is that the way Anne is advertised is exactly that kind of one in a lifetime experience: the best, the Queen of the violin etc., that makes a person WANT TO have it for themselves afterwards. In fact most of her clout advertise themselves that way, while playing mostly romantic concertos of dead composers not maintaining any kind of lively hood from all of their recent success, in fact I question whether donating money to the Catholic Church or any religious institution would help them currently. Neither does Anne advertising she bought a Porsche before she could drive adding to the good life Beethoven is supposed to be part of. And we don’t know at all whether the audience member would have done anything but keep it for herself. In fact to take the argument to an extreme, there are even recordings, say of Dinu Lipatti that are pirated, of Bach’s D minor piano concerto, that wouldn’t exist to this day, otherwise. It’s of course a completely different age but….. And how many times has Anne seen wonderful footage of wildlife that didn’t get anything from all of the money made from the footage, wildlife that might be going extinct. She also says that they have special recording equipment to take in what they have practiced a lifetime for, but that’s also the point, a cell phone is never going to replace that, and the audience member, would there be a recent DVD available of Anne playing the Beethoven concerto probably or possibly would buy it, and we don’t know how many recordings of Anne she already has, let alone that Anne makes more of a living from her performances alone than just about any of the romantic composers her clout tout.

    And I’m not condoning cell phone recordings. People shouldn’t be doing that, and here we see someone that probably just followed the fashion being targeted because of others that DON’T really have a respect for the performer.

    And there’s a video available online of Anne and John Williams where during a performance of his, when there’s a TV monitor backstage of him conductor: that she’s pointing HER cell phone at the monitor taking either an image or a brief video recording, which looks to me more like a video because she’s holding the cell phone for a length of time.

    I don’t own a cell phone, by the way, never have. And have used one probably less than 20 times in my life, when it was someone else’s and that was the only way. Probably have used one less than 12 times.

    • Paul Carlile says:

      1) Her name is Anne-Sophie.
      2) The person filming has no love for music or any regard for people in the vicinity whose enjoyment is destroyed by this obtrusive, selfish act, just a need to be at an “event” and film it to post on basefook or similar.

      This fobile-moaner shd be banned forever from any classical “event” and flung into a dank, dark dungeon
      if ever caught re-offending.

  • Nijinsky says:

    I do want to add actually that I really respect Anne Sophie Mutter, and love her talent. I think she really does have the ability to bring out the deeper resonance in music, and what the emotional content was of someone that really had perhaps only that, rather than the world understood them, or whether they even could speak their mind in a medium less subtle than music.

    I think she wasn’t thinking and there are other ways of handling the situation. And sorry but this life style of the rich and famous really can rub me the wrong way. And current trends in corporate media that’s exploiting the “great masters” they way it uses marketing and image gives less room for them to express themselves, were they alive now. I also think, for example, that when Von Karajan says to her she looks like a German Shepard (that she needed to go to a fashion designer and have her hair done), that he’s disrespectful towards nature, because I really don’t see the human ideals of beauty ever creating anything as amazing as such a product of nature (NOT of a fashion designer) as a German Shepard. In fact, I don’t even really admire Von Karajan. I’ve heard his conducting of Mozart’s mass in C minor, and it sounded like a military drill. And not that a fashion designer might have some value, but….