Krystian Zimerman’s phone rings in mid-concerto

Krystian Zimerman’s phone rings in mid-concerto


norman lebrecht

October 12, 2020

From one of our Dutch moles:

Last week, the hyper-sensitive Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman played Beethoven’s five concertos with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, conducted by Gustavo Gimeno. I was present at two of the three concerts yesterdy. Shortly after the start of the third concerto, a mobile phone went off. Given his reputation, I was afraid that Zimerman was going to walk off, but he didn’t.

The reaon might have had something to do with what happened at Friday’s concert. This is from a review in ‘De Parool’:

Krystian Zimerman kwam op met een zwart mondkapje op en realiseerde zich bij het Pianoconcert nr. 4, dat met een pianoinzet begint, pas op het allerlaatste moment dat hij dat kapje nog op had toen hij wilde gaan spelen. Tamelijk hilarisch was ook dat daarna uit een telefoon een muziekje klonk – dat bleek zijn eigen mobieltje te zijn. (‘Sorry, that was me.’)
Krystian Zimerman came on stage wearing a black face mask and was about to play his first chord, when he realised at the very last moment that he was still wearing the face mask. Also quite hilarious was that shortly thereafter a mobile phone went off – it was his own (‘Sorry, that was me’). 
UPDATE: The online version of Het Parool has changed its story, presumably at the request of Zimerman’s people. It now reads:
Daarna ging ook nog een telefoontje af, een stukje klassieke muziek. Zimermans reactie was ad rem en superieur: ‘Sorry, it’s me that starts.’
After that, a mobile phone went off, a piece of classical music. Zimerman’s reply was sharp and superior: ‘Sorry, it’s me that starts.’


  • Andy says:

    He may be hyper-sensitive but he’s a wonderful pianist. I’d recommend going to hear him any chance that you get.

    • Maybe says:

      A wonderful pianist, indeed! It is sad to be hyper-sensitive, a great affliction, but it is also sad to disappoint an audience, each of whom made the effort to respect him enough to be there, for him, one gets the ticket and hopes for the best……….stay well.

      • SVM says:

        It is a depressing reflection on contemporary society that getting upset about a mobile telephone ringing in a concert (or someone making an illegal recording) is branded “hyper-sensitive”. Zimerman is the *sane* party here, and I am very grateful to him for defending our right to hear him undisturbed.

        It is the people who get offended by Zimerman’s reprimands that are “hyper-sensitive”.

    • Diane Noel says:

      Absolutely! But he doesn’t come to US anymore, to my infinite sorrow!

      • Larry D says:

        Having been present for one of his anti-USA rants before he condescended to play for us complicit bastards, my sorrow at his absence is something less than infinite.

    • paganono says:

      Being a wonderful pianist doesn’t give anyone the right to be an arrogant, pompous ass. Some humility could only contribute to his formidable artistry.

      • SVM says:

        It is the audience-members who cannot be bothered to ensure that their electronic gadgets are **off** (and *not* “on but in silent mode”) who are “arrogant” and “pompous”. I am very grateful that Zimerman is willing to confront such misbehaviour, rather than leave us all to suffer it.

    • Anon says:

      Andy, he’s a pain to work with. Inexcusable.

  • Roman says:

    I have tickets to this performance with LSO in London in December, but I guess given the current situation it is not going to happen. Too sad, I was expecting a lot from this performance.

    • Maybe says:

      Roman, I wish you many more opportunities. Happier days 🙂

    • Annnon says:

      Roman, fingers crossed it shall happen, for both the LSO and public!

    • The same situation for me! The problem is that Zimerman don’t give a lot of concerts.

    • SVM says:

      Re Roman: the Zimerman performances with the LSO *are* still going ahead, but with reduced audience capacity. All tickets are being cancelled and refunded, with ticket-holders invited to re-apply for tickets during a priority booking window, which opens on 26th October (source: I am also a ticket-holder, and received an electronic-mail message about it).

      • Roman says:

        Thank you for the information! All of the letters got into “Promotions” folder and I didn’t open it. I got refund today. Hopefully there will be seats for people in this thread.

  • mary says:

    Someone somewhere must have written a cell-phone concerto by now.

  • Maybe says:

    Had the review been written by Mr Lebrecht, he would have known that in this concerto, the pianist, does not enter on a chord 🙂 Alright, so sue me for being a pedant!

    I can, no longer, (not for twenty years) go to a concert, but Thanks to you Norman after you mention of his recordings, I can listen to the wonderful Jan Lisiecki. Some time ago I, wistfully looked at his rep list, thinking how much of it I would like to hear. So, Thanks to you, Norman, I am blessed and look forward to what he does with the fourth concerto! It is sad that when many of us want to walk onto a stage, there are those, who would walk off it!

    • Bruce says:

      The review he refers to says it was at the beginning of Concerto #4.

      “Krystian Zimerman kwam op met een zwart mondkapje op en realiseerde zich bij het Pianoconcert nr. 4…”

      • Bruce says:

        To clarify: it was NL’s “Dutch mole,” not NL himself, who says it was the 3rd concerto.

      • M2N2K says:

        Precisely – and the Fourth does indeed start with a chord. Too many people are quick to make “corrections” before learning how to read.

      • Maybe says:

        Thank you Bruce 🙂 After many years of this concerto, its opening still takes my bereath away. Also the opening of the Sixth symphony…….

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Maybe it was Gergiev phoning in a rehearsal??

  • Maria says:

    Why on earth do you need a phone on a concert platform? At least turn the thing off whoever you are!

    • Doc Martin says:

      He might have needed to call his stockbroker.

    • Mark Haanstra says:

      Well, it wasn’t his phone which rang off, but the one of an audience member, after which Mr Zimerman said something like ‘Sorry. I am the one who should start’
      The reviewer obviously misinterpreted the whole situation.

  • Bostin'Symph says:

    What was his ringtone? We need to know!

    My bet is on Für Elise

  • Anarhimik says:

    That’s not what actually happened – I was sitting in the balcony behind the pianist slightly to his right so I saw everything as clearly as could be. When the conductor and the soloist were already on stage and the orchestra finished its tuning, a phone in the parterre started to ring – first quietly and rather distantly and after a while much louder, and a man from the middle of the parterre rushed away from the hall holding a phone. At this point, Zimerman realized he was still wearing a face mask, took it off, and said “Sorry it was mine”, which was obviously a joke.

  • Doc Martin says:

    Alfred Brendel in his book The Veil of Order, tells the story of a janitor’s radio blaring away during a recital he gave in Argentina!

    He also mentioned when a rat wandered across the stage, which caused a deep intake of breath from the audience.

    I think the motto is: Be Prepared!

    • M McAlpine says:

      I believe that a phone went off during one of Brendel’s farewell concerts and hence the piece is not on the CD that was made.

    • Anon says:

      We have a stage door attendant who likes to wander and check out the concerts. He never turns off his radio (and it’s loud: you know when he’s around), and one time he came into the wings to watch and it went off.
      The the head technician, who was standing just in front of him, whirled around and hissed through his teeth to ‘get the f*uck off my stage’

      That was fun.

      • Jeff says:

        I recall a major release of flatulence from someone in the audience who had a Vindaloo washed down with Tiger beer during a Brendel recital. He carried oy regardless, I gather it sounded a B flat.

    • Norman Krieger says:

      They allow critics on stage??

  • Mark Haanstra says:

    By the way, the original article has been corrected. Logically, it should as well be corrected on Slippeddisc.

  • Brian from DC. says:

    Conductors too need to worry about their cell phones. Here’s Ivan Fischer’s story:

  • Mick the Knife says:

    His next mask should be an egg!

  • Rob van der Hilst says:

    All FIVE pianoconcertos??? What about LvB’s early pico in E-flat major and his own brilliant arrangment of the violinconcerto in D-major into that fantastic pico in D-major?Conclusion: LvB composed S E V E N pico’s.

    • Maurice says:

      But if the “unfinished” “No. 6” doesn’t count as a Beethoven piano concerto, should the “fragmentary” “No. 0” (the “early pico in E-flat major”)?

  • NotToneDeaf says:

    A fine pianist but an impossible person. He thinks even his warm-up scales are God’s gifts to us.

    • Paola says:

      How do You know it? I could not attend to Zimerman’s concert since years… I know he changed a lot, he used to be very gentle and simple, but not anymore. Have You attended at a rehearsal with him?