Yannick stops Mahler twice for phone flash and snoring

Yannick stops Mahler twice for phone flash and snoring


norman lebrecht

April 29, 2022

Patrik Klein reports (in German) from Wednesday night’s Hamburg concert with the Rotterdam Philharmonic:

… A mobile phone rings and it takes the elderly couple at least 2 minutes to switch it off. This happens without hectic with a certain coziness and great innocence.

The maestro at the podium, none other than Yannick Nézet-Séguin , has long since laid down the baton at the beginning of “Ruhevoll (Poco Adagio)” in Mahler’s fourth symphony to wait for the jingle. …

The highlight of the evening, however, is a lady in the front stalls who must have fallen asleep. Her neck fell back, loud snoring could be heard before her tongue disappeared down her throat and she passed out. Maestro Nézet-Séguin broke off again and sat down with his musicians, waiting for the lady, who had now woken up, to be escorted outside….

Read on here.


  • Barry Guerrero says:

    I’ve ‘retired’ Mahler 9 from the concert hall, simply because the mostly Asian audience remained absolutely silent from start to finish of the work, when I saw it performed by Seiji Ozawa and his Saito Kinen Orchestra (of Tokyo) at Davies Hall in S.F. sometime in the late 1990’s (I think). That was true even in the quietest passages at the end of the first and last movements. You could have heard a pin drop. Fine performance too.

    Outside of the 9th symphony, I can think of any other music where I would zero audience interference, than at the start of the slow movement to Mahler’s fourth symphony. I’m glad I wasn’t there!

    • Piano Lover says:

      Listening to Richter’s live recitals I noticed that the Japanese audience is the quietest of all.
      The noisiest being the US audience…but I don’t mind these anyhow.
      On the other hand:snoring is like yawning and mobile phones….no words to describe how disruptive they can be.
      Uncivilized audience!

    • Willem Philips says:

      Where you would what zero audience interference?

    • NYMike says:

      I remember a Mahler 9th @ NY Phil, Alan Gilbert conducting when a cellphone rang in the first row. It belonged to an embarrassed board member who couldn’t figure out how to turn it off. Gilbert stopped the last movement until the phone was finally turned off.

    • Erik says:

      When I saw Mahler 3 in Chicago a few years ago there was a phone ding, coughing, and ruffling bags during the quiet trumpet moment near the end of the finale. Couldn’t have been a worse moment for noise! It was a matinée after all. Come on Chicago!

  • zayin says:

    If the phone rings during your performance, it’s the audience’s fault

    If the audience snores during your performance, it’s your fault

    ; )

    • Kathleen E King says:

      However, if the snorer then proceeds to swallow his or her tongue, it sounds more like a medical emergency.

  • Brian says:

    When that happens here in NYC (as it often does), there’s definitely no coziness and plenty of hectic.

    That said, I’ve never heard of YNS getting really angry with his audience, a la Lori Maazel or Kurt Masur back in the old days. Perhaps he just hasn’t entered his cantankerous old maestro phase just yet.

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      Maybe because he’s had longer to get used to this appalling behaviour. Maazel and Masur didn’t grow up with it.

    • Gary Allen says:

      YNS also has a hot husband to keep his temper sweet.

    • Daniel says:

      Actually, he snapped and lectured the admittedly unsophisticated Orange County audience a few years back. I thought the manner in which he did it was appalling, especially given the quality or lack thereof of their performance.

    • Mel Cadman says:

      What, admittedly little, I know of his personality suggests he is friendly, very personable and even-tempered. He has had an electrifying impact on audiences in Scotland (UK) in the sadly now distant past when conducting performances in Glasgow and at the Edinburgh International Festival, often without a score. The consummate musician.

  • Rob says:

    A jingle and a snore causing uproar in Mahler four. At least there was no Putin soprano waiting at the stage door.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    My personal experience with poor audience behavior is in large concert halls. Never in small venues. Never in more specialized programs, like early music. Never in Marlboro…

    I can’t help thinking that some of the audience in large concert halls and opera houses attends for reasons other than the music.

    Has anyone experienced cell phones at, say, Wigmore Hall?

    • Mark Cogley says:

      More than half of the attendees at large audience classical concerts are elderly people who just want an excuse to get out of the house for a few hours.

      • John Lunas says:

        Maybe after attending the concert, and seeing that it was really worthwhile,they might be encouraged to tell their children and grandchildren to come and listen to something besides elevator music etc

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        An excuse to get out of the house for a few hours? In Vienna that would entail high ticket prices and being dressed up and largely well-behaved.

        But I’m glad to read this because it’s been 6 years since I was in a concert hall and if this is the newer behaviour I won’t bother from now on. I abandoned the cinema several years ago for the same reason.

        • Richard Zencker says:

          I attended a Trifonov recital on Tuesday where this happened; no one (including the artist) paid any attention (the piano was out of timing anyway). At $60 for nosebleed seats I am done with concerts. I considered making this change as early as the 1990/ when watches that “chime” on the hour became inexplicably popular. I remember a Kissin/CSO Beethoven concerto cycle where I would cringe as the top of the hour approached.

      • John Borstlap says:

        According to a research project of the Texas Institute of Technology in 2002, it’s mostly elderly women attending classical concerts, to be relieved from the presence of their insufferable husbands.

      • Allen says:


    • Theo says:

      Hello. In answer to your question ‘yes’. At a performance by (I think, if I recall correctly) Pierre-Laurent Aimard at the Wigmore Hall, some 10 or so years ago, someone’s phone went off several times. The chime was The Ride of the Walkyries.

      • Sue Sonata Form says:

        Soon it will be people bringing their dogs, just like many airlines now. Stay at home, away from ferals!!

    • Gerry says:

      When I was working on-staff for The Pittsburgh Symphony, a patron’s cell phone rang at one of the quietest moments in Mahler’s Ninth Symphony – a deeply spiritual and ethereal piece. It doesn’t get much worse than that.

      • John Borstlap says:

        During a performance of Mahler IX in the nineties in the Barbican hall, an old man got a sneezing attack during the last movement; he was immediately caught by 5 ushers, bound on a stretcher – under loud protests – and carried-off under enthusiastic applause and jeers by the audience, after which the movement was started all over again. According to reports in the newspaper next day, many listeners found it a heartwarming experience.

    • SVM says:

      Unfortunately, even the Wigmore Hall is not completely free of disruption caused by mobile telephones, although it is relatively rare (the Barbican and the Southbank Centre are far worse). They do make an announcement at the start of a concert that electronic devices should be switched “firmly off”, although they do not remind people after the interval. Most people at the Wigmore seem to comply (personally, I always remove the battery from my mobile telephone before entering the auditorium, and leave it in a pocket I can pat to confirm that I have remembered to do so), but I have occasionally noticed a person switching only to so-called “silent” mode, or even texting between pieces (once, I saw a person texting during the music — although I could not see what was being written, the glare of the screen &c. was very distracting). And there is the occasional person who tries to take an illegal recording or photograph (usually, such an attempt is stopped promptly either by a nearby audience member or by a steward).

      • Allen says:

        “I always remove the battery from my mobile telephone”

        Must be very rare or very old then.

  • Fenway says:

    I saw MTT, during a performance of Mahler 9, stop and walk off stage because a woman was constantly coughing. He came back out with a handful of cough drops which he threw at her.

  • Gustavo says:

    I often feel relieved when I am surrounded by cultivated Japanese.

    They seem to be more interested in European music than the average European and are always well behaved.

    From my experience over the last decades, I would say that most Europeans (and Russians) are not going to concerts because of the music but for the non-musical prestigious aspects, booze, social benefits, courtship etc.

    These are the types who buy the most expensive tickets, go by car, ware ridiculously overpriced clothes and loud bracelets, constantly thumb through the programme notes and their “social” network, dash to the Champagne stand in the interval, stuff their faces with pre-order canapes, unwrap throat lozenges thereafter, forget to wash their dirty little fingers, cough just for the sake of coughing, and then rush to the parking garage to be the first in the cue…after the concert.

    I would be prepared to pay double the amount for a ticket if this decadent scum would just stay at home.

    • john Kelly says:

      Bravo. I am with you 100%. Stokowski said once that the cheap seats are the best “because you meet a better class of person.” (Noel Coward probably would have said something similar……)

      • Jon Stubbings says:

        The cheap seats are the best seats in the house at the Royal Festival Hall in my opinion – in the choir looking over the shoulder of the trombones or the double basses (seat A-1 to be precise)

        • John Kelly says:

          Agreed and used to sit there myself!!

        • Antwerp Smerle says:

          The Choir seats at the RFH are indeed great, but they were even better before the hall was renovated. Then, they were much lower, and audience members in the front row could easily converse with orchestra members. In the 70s and 80s, the seats immediately behind the handsome and superb timpanist of one of London’s leading orchestras were regularly occupied by very attractive women….

      • Arthur Solomon says:

        My wife and I sit second row enough to left to see soloist and conductor (for five years)
        Baltimore Symphony-Myerhoff

    • Henry williams says:

      Years ago the ladies would be wearing expensive mink coats. Even though it is very
      Hot in the hall.

    • A violinist says:

      “From my experience over the last decades, I would say that most Europeans (and Russians) are not going to concerts because of the music but for the non-musical prestigious aspects, booze, social benefits, courtship etc.”

      This is not a new phenomenon. People, at least wealthy elites, have been going to public concerts and opera for these reasons for centuries.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      I feel the opposite about the Japanese. An usher at the Wiener Konzerthaus once said to me, ‘the Japanese must have two lives – one to take pictures and the other to look at them’. Also, during a recital Japanese audience members went onto the stage during the interval and touched the piano. As I recall it was the “Barenboim” Steinway.

    • Allen says:

      “buy the most expensive tickets, go by car, ware ridiculously overpriced clothes and loud bracelets …..” etc

      Most? Types? I don’t recognise this audience. Do you actually go to concerts or have you deduced this from Hollywood’s depiction of concert audiences? Your cynical obsession with other people, which is worse than the people you claim to dislike, clearly leaves little time for actually enjoying a performance.

  • Felix says:

    A trapdoor under each seat is the answer. Ringing phones, snoring or talking audience members – press a button and down they drop into the basement. Problem solved.

    • Albert Dock says:

      Hope they suffer the same fate as Don Giovanni!

    • CRogers says:

      And make them in pies with the help pf Mrs Lovett….

    • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

      Part of the new design at Geffen Hall in NYC.

      The band in the basement of the hall consists of accordions and bagpipes.

      More effective than waterboarding.

    • Gustavo says:

      In the digital age, one could also imagine seat-related fines being debited automatically.

      Audiences should be fully chipped.

    • Henry williams says:

      Better still if they are wearing a real fur coat
      Do not let them in the concert hall.

      • Alex Oz says:

        I guess you will be extremely pleased to live in those times when people discriminate you for your cheap clothing or non-aristocratic ancestry. People wear whatever they want as long as they legally purchased it. Keep your fashion-nazi behavior away from Orchestra Halls.

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      What an excellent solution that would be.

    • John Borstlap says:

      This system has been installed, by way of experiment, in the Philharmonic Hall in [redacted], but the outcome was rather disappointing: of the 85% occupied seats at the beginning of a concert, only some 20% survived the program, the rest had tumbled into the cotton-walled cellar where they had a good time on their own accord.

  • J Barcelo says:

    In Beijing, China’s fabulous concert halls phones are not a problem: they take them from you, very courteously, like a hat check. You have no choice. In other parts of the country they hire people and arm them with laser points and position them high above and point them at audience members who are misbehaving. Things like talking, using your cell phone, etc.

  • john Kelly says:

    Having been to numerous performances since the pandemic where audiences are all wearing masks, the amount of audience noise (coughing, sneezing, talking) has been dramatically reduced. Why?

    It’s uncomfortable, but it’s a better listening experience. Not that I’m suggesting we all mask forever!

    • Gary Allen says:

      There was a season in the past where the SFO tried lowering the temperature in the auditorium by 3-4°F. Amazingly, coughing in the audience dropped by about half. After a couple of months, the AC went back up and the coughing returned. Apparently, some singers claimed to be unable to sing at the lower temperature.

  • Robert Hairgrove says:

    There was a wonderful Nichols and May skit (on an LP record we used to have) concerning Pablo Casals when invited to perform at the White House when JFK was president … it went something like this:

    Casals begins with a solo suite by J.S. Bach, when after a few moments the music stops, and one hears only snoring. After a few seconds, Jackie turns to JFK and says: “Jack, you must do something … this is so embarrassing!” Then JFK says, “Mr. Casals, please … wake up.”

    This was on the same record where John-John (age 2 at the time?) answers the hot line to Russia, and Krushchev is on the other end. As a result, the Cuban missile crisis was solved.

    Hilarious stuff! 🙂

    • Robert Hairgrove says:

      OK … I don’t have this recording any more, but from what I have read about Nichols and May, these skits cannot have been from any of their albums since they basically disbanded in 1960 or 1961, well before the events discussed here.

      Of course, they did reunite on numerous occasions, according to the Wikipedia site about them (including one time at JFK’s famous birthday party where Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday”). But there was no LP issued after that time as far as i can tell.

      Does anyone else have a clue on which LP I might have heard these skits??


  • MuddyBoots says:

    Stanford’s Bing Concert Hall was built with a “cone of silence”. Your cell phone doesn’t work there, period. No cell signals get through. If you want to check your phone you must exit the hall. Brilliant. Wonder if there is a way to retrofit older halls?

  • Fred Funk says:

    It’s okay to feel sorry for the viola player that was dating this woman.

  • Player says:

    I blame the fat slob couch potatoes from lockdown crawling back to the concert halls but not knowing how to behave.

    • Dicop says:

      Comments like this are why I no longer attend concerts. Why support someone who looks down on me as a “fat slob couch potato”?

      It’s a common attitude I’ve seen here. Few businesses have the luxury of being contemptuous of their customers. Classical music isn’t one of them.

      • Alex Oz says:

        If timeless music and precious art is one of business for you, than you will do everyone a great service by never attending classic music performances again. Please continue to support businesses who serving “fat slob couch potatoes”.

  • Monsoon says:

    I’ve attended concerts all over the world; no nation gets to claim its audience members more respectful than anyone else’s.

    The more famous the concert hall, ensemble/soloist, or composer is, the more likely there are first-time concertgoers in attendance who are less mindful about talking, their cell phones going off, etc.

    The only national difference is that in the United States, it seems like there’s a competition among audience members for who screams “bravo” first, even when the music has a quiet or mournful ending.

    • Willem Philips says:

      In recital concerts the Japanese are far faster to respond and with bravo claims even for a mediocre concert —1976 with Horowitz cones to mind.

    • fflambeau says:

      I totally disagree and I too have attended concerts worldwide. The Japanese and Singaporeans are in a different world.

  • Willem Philips says:

    I’ve never seen the word hectic used as a noun. Please clarify.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Probably it was merely a crapulous contrafibularity, so: of no real spasmodic consequence.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    “…escorted outside…”

    There are some concerts where, if you fall asleep, you get embarrassing things drawn on your forehead with a Sharpie.

    • John Borstlap says:

      I know! Once an uncle of mine woke-up after a Mahler concert with three eyes and a latino moustache.


  • Karl says:

    He stopped a Bruckner 4th in Montreal during the slow movement because too many people were coughing. Carolyn Kuan stopped the Hartford Symphony during the slow movement of Mahler’s 5th when someone walked into the hall and sat down in the front row. Then she refused to start again until the audience was quiet. She turned to them and said ” I’m waiting on you.”

  • CA Edington says:

    The concert hall in which I’ve performed the most is in Sapporo, Japan (the same city in which Leonard Bernstein founded the Pacific Music Festival). Even if people take cell phone into the large or small hall, the WiFi is caught off, so no cell phone ringing interrupts a concert. Can’t this be done everywhere?

    • SVM says:

      This is a great idea, on the understanding that it is unlikely to be foolproof. You can extinguish the WiFi, but mobile signals are not controlled by the hall, so there is a risk that a mobile telephone could still ring. To block them, you would need some kind of Faraday cage, which may ruin the acoustics. And even if you managed that, a mobile telephone could still ping with an alarm or alert even in the absence of a signal.

      We need “belt and braces”: mobile telephones completely off (preferably with batteries removed); and WiFi signals off.

  • Paul Johnson says:

    A friend and I were at a concert in Cardiff last Thursday evening.
    At the end, many rose to acclaim (deservedly) a superb performance of A London Symphony by Vaughan Williams given by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Vasily Petrenko.
    My friend and I joined in. We were prodded in the back and our shirts were grabbed by a rude, obnoxious woman who complained that she could not see.
    So much for audience etiquette!

  • Musiclover says:

    What’s more annoying is when the people in the audience start video recording on their phones holding them high with the maximum brightness of a phone screen. Everyone around was so annoyed but wouldn’t say a thing. This happened just a few days ago in the Philharmonie Berlin (it wasn’t the Berliner Philharmoniker concert).

    • SVM says:

      If you are sitting just behind or next to the offender, grab the offending device from above and push hard in a downward direction. That normally makes the point abundantly clear, and the offender will be very unlikely to try again (because he/she will be worried that his/her precious device will get damaged). I have done this several times over the years, and it always works.

  • AllesMahler says:

    I attended this concert in the spectacular Elbphilharmonie (and I am medically trained). Here is my version:
    – Great performance!
    – Some left-over tickets were given to Ukranian refugee families, which explains the restless audience and clapping between movements.
    – There was only 1 interruption. The mobile phone rang between movements. The elderly lady gasped and briefly lost conciousness (the medical term for this is ‘syncope’). The RPO and YNS reacted brilliantly … and played even better after the seamless interruption of the Ruhevoll movement …
    – Christine Lagarde was in the audience. Good to know that she likes Mahler …

  • grabenassel says:

    From a recent instagram post: “I am in the Elbphilharmonie” – “Wow, how is it?” – “It’s really cool….actually the concert didn’t bother to much….”. Any questions?

  • MB says:

    I certainly do not defend cell phones and snores in the concert hall. But, the general tone of the comments here is that a classical concert should be some sort of ritual for the educated elite. Audiences pay salaries of musicians, and they should be respected.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      It is a ritual for those who enjoy the music, regardless of level of understanding. The more one listens, carefully, the more one gets out of it.

      The more cell phones and coughing, the less one listens. Good luck with creating new interested audiences under these circumstances.

    • Alex Oz says:

      If it’s ritual for musicians, why audiences cannot teach themselves to have less animal behavior. Orchestras around the world are funded not exclusively on ticket fares, but also on donations from sponsors who spend thousands and millions of dollars to help high civilization survive.

    • Anonymous says:

      The other paying audience members should be respected as well.

  • Kareol-resident says:

    Where’s Jon Vickers when we need him? ‘Shut up with your damned coughing!’ (‘Tristan’ Act 3 cor-anglais solo). As far as I know at the Wigmore Hall you are publicly decapitated if your mobile goes off….

  • Eric says:

    Last night, Houston Symphony played the second. A woman had a sneeze attack (5 sneezes in 2 min). There was snoring. The person behind me dropped her phone. Phones went off at least 3 times. Audiences are the worst!

  • Tim Walton says:

    Install a system that blocks any signals entering the hall. That will stop the ignorant morons.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Mahler is soporific at the best of times!!

  • Laurance Davis says:

    I agree that there should be cell phone blocking for these types of concerts. Every audience member should also be given rules of conduct in bold face type on colorful paper. Also, the conductor/presenter (this goes for chamber ensembles and soloists, obviously) should inform the audience to study those rules and please comply, otherwise the performance might be halted and attention might be focused on that/those person/people.

  • Angelika says:

    At music and theater performances I attended in Austria, the ushers walk up and down the aisles at the beginning and hold their loudly ringing cell phones up high. A witty and effective reminder to silence phones!

  • MBJ says:

    I tend to think concert hall noises may add to the zest of Mahler symphonies. Cow bells and army bugles are already present. Why not cell phone rings?

  • Nutcracker says:

    Please,no need to bi so serious about classical music.Things hapen,you deal with them(blocking signals works perfect…),but as a musician you should bi prepared for almost everything.And,no,this is not a holy shrine.It should be a place of pure joy and happines.I,as a prof.musician confess sleeping through numerous “Sleeping beauties”when my daughter/princess/ballerina was 5 years old.
    So,relax and enjoy

    • SVM says:

      The opportunity to hear live music without distraction is absolutely fundamental to the concert experience on which I spend good time and money as an audience member (not to mention spending a lot of time and money on associated travel — for those of us who do not live in the centre of a big city, the time and cost of travel could well exceed the time and cost of the concert itself). So yes, I am “serious about classical music”, and yes, I feel that going to a really good concert is akin to a pilgrimage to “a holy shrine”. When other audience members fail in their obligation to be as silent as is humanly possible, it ruins the experience and *prevents* one from being able to “relax and enjoy”.

  • John Borstlap says:

    As long as women don’t giving birth during a concert it’s allright to me. Get used to it! It’s just life.