Friday night, in Davies Hall, Vladimir Ashkenazy did something not even
the fearsome MTT has done in response to cell phones going off during
a San Francisco Symphony performance. MTT turns and glares, but keeps
going. Ashkenazy stopped the music. It was certainly a first for me,
but cannot say with certainty that this was a Symphony premiere.
The orchestra was in the middle of the Rachmaninov "Rhapsody on a Theme
of Paganini" and at a momentary pause in the music when the cell phone
rang - in the silence - once, and then again. Ashkenazy motioned the
orchestra to stop, said - quietly, but with authority - "Please turn off
the phone," waited for a few seconds, and picked up where he left off.
There were no more rings.
Of course, there will be, many more, in the future - it's unavoidable
when a couple of thousand people get together, each toting a cell phone.
The pre-performance announcement is such an old hat by now that not
everybody pays attention. What to do? I'm not sure which theater did
it so "theatrically" and effectively (A.C.T.?): ringing came through the
loudspeakers in a crescendo, conversations ceased, and everybody started
looking for the source of the sound, the announcement was made about
turning off the phones. There was no "accident" that evening.
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