Chaos last night at the Concertgebouw

Chaos last night at the Concertgebouw


norman lebrecht

March 01, 2023

We have an eyewitness report of intolerable disruptions to Mahler’s 6th symphony at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. Our correspondent writes:

Tonight’s Concertgebouw performance was Mahler’s sixth symphony by the Munich Philharmonic and Lorenzo Viotti (a replacement for Valery
Gergiev). Full-price tickets were €132.

Two persons sitting in the front row caused real disturbance throughout the entire concert. This included:

– Talking loudly throughout the concert
– Video recording the performance multiple minutes at a time – Taking videos of each other
– Waving their hands high in the air and in front of the faces of other concertgoers, pretending to conduct the orchestra
– Clapping along loudly when they felt like it
– Kissing each other
– Writing a love letter to Viotti on their phone (‘Dear mister dirigent’)
– Screaming (yes, actually screaming) after the first and second movements to show appreciation
– Clapping again after the third movement and after being asked by the first violins to stop
– Putting a large fur coat over the seat of another concertgoer and refusing to move it
– Vocally abusing an older lady sitting next to them who asked them to be quieter
– Vocally abusing other concertgoers at the end of the concert

Concertgebouw staff were aware of the situation and came in to speak to the men/women very quickly in the second or third movement. There was no change in behaviour and no other action by staff during the concert.

Viotti and the first violins were visibly annoyed by the entire situation, during and after the performance. The atmosphere in the
audience near the front was very tense.

We await a response from the Concertgebouw house management.


UPDATE: More intimate details


  • PS says:

    Would Gergiev have stopped until they were removed? If he stopped, woud the staff remove them or just let everyone go home disappointed?

    • Tom Phillips says:

      Muti certainly would have known how to respond to this. Not to mention how this would have been handled in earlier eras (Toscanini etc.)

  • Isaac de Mesquita says:

    Dutch courage by the Concertgebouw authorities perhaps. Normally the Dutch are very good at organising matters as when they provided the SS with details of where all the Dutch Jews were living in 1940.

  • Chretien Risley says:

    A little late. A response was awaited DURING the concert. Drag them out !

  • Ben G. says:

    This also happened in the same place à few years ago :

  • Unvaccinated says:

    Tragic? Perhaps they wanted wrist watch, clothing and perfume model Viotti to try on the fur coat…

  • BP says:

    Should have been sentenced to death by hammer.

  • Edna says:

    So this is the result when societies have become seemingly tolerant and open to minorities behaving outside the norm.

    In return, a small minority of queer people apparently still want to attract attention at all costs.

    This attitude reinforces mutual antipathy, and the ultimate goal of being accepted is never achieved.

    • JW says:

      being queer and being disrespectful at a concert may both be “behaving outside the norm”, but one does not have anything to do with the other, and one should be accepted while the other must not be.

      • Edna says:

        We certainly need more facts to be able to judge.

        As it stands, there were men/women wearing at least one large fur coat and kissing publicly.

        Maybe they were just spoiled brats with no manners – there are plenty of those. So many that I have become a misanthrope, wishing mankind a fatal future on this planet accompanied by vicious hammer blows.

    • Herr Doktor says:

      Edna, your twisted logic leads me to one question:

      Is there a reason why you’re parading your mental illness in front of the public? It should just be a matter discussed privately between you and your psychiatrist.

    • Tweettweet says:

      What an utter nonsense. What about all other disturbances created by straight people? Are we going to blame the straight people?

      I’m queer myself, but I absolutely would disapprove of such behaviour. Being queer has absolutely nothing to do with disbehaviour at a concert.

  • Alviano says:

    Sounds like too many drugs and too much alcohol.

  • Andrew Mildinhall says:

    Does seem a rather inadequate response from both management and the conductor. I’ve been present when the conductor stopped a performance because a mobile phone was ringing. These people should have been removed. It is curious that at a time when so many seem to seek being offended we also have a culture of over tolerance. For example I’ve been present at both concerts and church services involving a lot of music to which someone has brought a baby which proceeds to yell. They make to attempt to take the baby out. Bad manners in my view.

  • JW says:

    I was looking forward to this concert but found it hard to ignore these two and enjoy the music. They were obviously tripping and had no awareness of the disturbance they were causing, despite being explicitly told to be quiet. not cool

    • Bone says:

      My goodness, tripping to Mahler 6 sounds like a very, very bad trip indeed!
      Scriabin or Messiaen would be more appropriate; how about Berg or Webern?

    • English says:

      I sat two seats from the freaks. I felt so sorry for the poor conductor and violinists. I do not know whether the miscreants were drug-addled or just psychiatric patients with other problems. The concert should have been stopped and the loathesome fools removed. Utterly antisocial boors.

    • Gus says:


      I hope you and any others who felt their enjoyment of the Mahler was ruined demand a refund. Clearly the conductor should have stopped the playing and leave it to the house manager to have the two luvvies removed.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    I was at the smaller Brahms Saal at the Musikverein for a concert of the complete Brandenburg concerti and the people next to me talked through the entire proceedings. They moved to the vacant seats near me after intermission. Nothing was done.

  • Paul Dawson says:

    I can think of no reason why the conductor did not stop.

    SD commentators are never shy and always creative.

    Your suggestions would be most welcome.

    • Alan says:

      I’d have dragged them out myself. I’ve done it before on a bus! Removed a man shouting racist abuse at a couple of young lads. Downstairs. Driver opened door. Threw him off.

      Only way with neanderthals

      • Tom Phillips says:

        Easier to do when you don’t have to worry about the offender possibly having a firearm as they so often do in this bastion of civilization known as the United States.

        • SunnyEd says:

          Oy vey, in NYC your bags are inspected and you have to walk through a metal detector before you enter any theatre.

          • Tom Phillips says:

            I was responding to a comment about public buses so your points about theatres are completely irrelevant. Please try to keep up.

  • Gustavo says:

    What country did the troublemakers come from?

    I want to see my prejudices confirmed!

    • Tom Phillips says:

      Although I share what I assume to be your prejudices here, I also wouldn’t be surprised if they came from the UK. Would be shocked if they were German or Austrian or even Dutch despite where this took place.

  • Ben G. says:

    Here’s the same 2012 shocking video in the Concertgebouw that I just posted, but with English subtitles:

  • Concertgebouw79 says:

    At the end of Mahler 6th there’s the big hammer on stage… maybe they should have used it outside of the stage.

  • Euphonium Al says:

    The conductor should have stopped the concert, and security should have removed these miscreants immediately. Hopefully they will at least be forbidden from attending future concerts.

  • Concertgebouw attendee says:

    Having attended this concert in row Nr. 9, just behind this couple, the above description is too dramatic. They were obviously druged, but apart from clapping after every movement, they did not disturb the audience in general, besides maybe the ones directly next to them.
    As this symphony is so intense, the clapping was all the more regrettable, as the rest of the audience was totally silent and touched by the performance.
    At the very end at least, the couple remained as silent as the full hall did. The audience emained completly silent for quite a long time until starting standing ovations at once.

    • Tamino says:

      They were probably just some drug abusing weirdos, drawn to this concert by Lorenzo Viotti’s Instagram stardom. 🙂

      • Bill says:

        Exactly, this is the audience that you deserve as a conductor who thinks it’s bright, snappy and important to display his naked body and love for hip hop…

        • Wayne says:

          Billy boy, next time try to attend one of his concerts before you get your knickers in a twist about his Instagram. It was one of the most magnificent, mature Mahlers to be heard in the Concertgebouw. The disruption in the front row waas annoying, but did nothing to dimish the beauty of the performance.

    • Concertgebouw79 says:

      It should have been easyer if the RCO have played Berliner Luft

    • Joep says:

      Having attended the concert sitting behind the orchestra I only heard the enthusiastic shout-out after the first two movements. It seemed this ended after the intervention of the staff.

    • Simon Fordham says:

      I was on the stage playing and had them right in my line of site. It was extremely distracting and an absolute nuisance.

  • Curvy Honk Glove says:

    I thought you musician types were in love with this indulgent, libertine behavior, or is that only until it inconveniences you?

    • Bone says:

      Classical music performances haven’t always been the best places for indulgent libertine behavior – unless you count Paris at the turn of the 20th century.

    • Fenway says:

      You are an idiot curvy. Do you live in a trailer and chew tobacco?

      • Curvy Honk Glove says:

        Oooh… Name calling and stereotyping. How very sophisticated of you. You must win a TON of arguments with reasoning as solid as this. If this escalates, will you resort to flinging feces?

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      If you don’t like ‘musician types’, why would you bother to read and participate at S.D.?

      • Curvy Honk Glove says:

        I come to the comments for the child-like sense of entitlement that is simultaneously devoid of any sense of responsibility. I stay for the self-absorbed naval-gazing.

  • CA says:

    What the hell were the ushers and security doing? Heads need to roll if this is true.

  • mecky messer says:

    Clueless administrators unaware of the word “internet”: “WE NEED NEW AUDIENCES IN THE CONCERTHALLS! THE ARTS ARE GOING TO DIEEE”

    Same administrators, to the new audiences: “YOU MUST BEHAVE LIKE YOUR GRANDPARENTS AND TURN OFF YOUR PHONE”.

    You don’t like those people? Well, you don’t like 99.9% of your future audiences.

    Better start planning what should ghe city of amsterdam turn the Concertgebouw building into: Zoo ? Open coworking space? Brewery? Pop-Up taco truck stop?

    ANYTHING is more relevant to younger generations than “classical music”..

    • AD says:

      Assuming the people in question were youngsters, I don’t think they were forced to attend the concert.
      So, if you choose to attend an event with other people, at least be respectful and allow the others to enjoy it as well.
      This has nothing to do with age group, but simply education.

      • Simon Fordham says:

        They were in their thirties. I agree wholeheartedly with your appraisal of the situation. It was simply bad manners and very distracting for us on the stage.

    • Carlos says:

      ANYTHING is more relevant than your opinion.
      If you think new generations are necessarily miseducated, you are judging people by your own behavior.

    • Helen says:

      “You don’t like those people? Well, you don’t like 99.9% of your future audiences.”

      In that case I’ll take my chances with the 0.1%, thanks.

    • Steven Rogers says:

      What? All because it’s looked down upon to act like a turd?
      Get real

      • Bone says:

        I retired from public school teaching two years ago and i can assure: turd behavior is worshipped and encouraged by the upcoming generations.
        Best to stay home and enjoy your recordings

    • Tamino says:

      Why do you need a phone when listening to classical music during a concert?? Why do we need stupid new audiences in concert halls who don’t know how to behave in a socially competent manner?
      Why are you so desperate about including the uninterested and rude?

    • Wayne says:

      Plenty of young people visit the Concertgebouw. You should get out of your retirement home more.

  • Ronda says:

    Please, please tell me they weren’t Americans. I realize however that drunken behavior from any nationality mimics American audacity.

  • Jean-Luc says:

    This is the audience which Viotti, the savior of classical music, attracts.

  • Carl says:

    This story is hilarious. God bless the Dutch. It reminds me of a backstage tour I took at the Concertgebouw a few years ago. The tour guide was super-irreverent, making fun of past music directors (including Gotti, the serial abuser) and even mocking the hall itself. Good times!

    • trumpetherald says:

      Gotti???Didn´t know the boss of the Gambino crime family lead the Concertgebouw….Thanks for the information,carl!

  • SunnyEd says:

    Why didn’t the conductor stop the concert at an appropriate time and have the house staff escort the disruption out of the building?

  • Deborah Ullman says:

    Recognizing that while Gustav Mahler was an iconoclast in his composing, this behavior does nothing but promote crude disrespect for fellow listeners. The 6th is such a deeply profound symphony, disruptive behavior is unconscionable! Ouch!!

  • Alank says:

    A similar although not quite as outrageous situation occurred at a recent NSO performance of Mahler 9 conducted magnificently by Mark Elder. One of my neighbors is a principal string player and he told me the orchestra was furious. The KC staff did nothing. They should have been evicted after the first movement. I was told the evening was ruined for numerous patrons.
    Good thing we are situated very far away because for that couple in DC it would have been their unfinished symphony and I would likely be facing felony charges for assault and battery if not worse.

  • Fenway says:

    Probably French

  • Karden says:

    “…speak to the men/women…”

    Huh? Does that imply the attendees in question were a part of the political matrix of LGBTQ? If so, would that explain the increasingly odd permissiveness towards such types, a case of woke dealing with woke?

  • Snark Shark says:

    Bet you three hammer blows this was done in the name of Tiktok or the “gram”.

  • James English says:

    I sat two seats from the miscreants; I do not know whether they were just drug addled or had deeper psychiatric problems. I told them to be silent but left immediately after the concert as my instinct was to do something more physical which I might have regretted in the light of day.

  • Stuard Young says:

    How could the conductor continue forcing the orchestra to play through these disruptions? I have observed Charles Munch, Leopold Stokowski, Wolfgang Sawallisch, and Yannick Nezet-Seguin push the Pause button at concerts, for far less disruption than described here.

  • Enrique Inglesias says:

    You can kick Gatti out, but not a couple of annoying audience members.

  • Del-boy says:

    I had this at ROH Covent Garden once, sitting near the wheelchair section and an elderly lady clearly in great distress shouting “where am I , where am I?” in tears and I told the young winsome usher who directly proceeded to do……absolutely nothing.

    I complained to the house mananger and got moved to the Royal Box, but why have staff if they are impotent?

  • Andy says:

    I didn’t know Meagan and Harry were in Holland.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    I imagine they thought they were being hi-lariously ironic.

  • High-Note says:

    Viotti had an obligation to stop the concert and refuse to continue until these clowns were removed from the hall.

  • Tom Phillips says:

    Thankfully this type of behavior is still uncommon in Europe, sadly much less so in these here United States, even New York. Wonder if these were tourists?

  • John Donohue says:

    Just before the lockdown, Yuja Wang recital in Orange County, California, USA: Trophy-ticket audience, disruption from someone who bought her CD, crinkling shrink rap and then dropping it on the floor during Bach with a loud smack. Audience uber-coughing. During sequence of Brahms and Chopin contrasting rare short pieces, when one popular Mazurka ended, inappropriate clapping. Yuja, lonnnnng pause. I thought she was going to get up and stop the show. Restlessness in the audience continues. She, of the excessive encore ilk … performed no encores.

  • Merville says:

    J’ai vécu une expérience identique à l’opéra Bastille de Paris lors d’une représentation de Parsifal.J’étais au premier rang et mes voisins immédiats ont eu un comportement incohérent pendant le premier acte.Ils étaient à proximité immédiate du chef ( Simone Young).Le trouble fut moins grand car l’orchestre était dans la fosse et la scène était loin.Les perturbateurs furent évacués pendant l’entracte.J’ai protesté auprès de l’administration qui m’a offert une place pour une autre représentation.Il faut préciser que de tels incidents sont heureusement très rares.