Mahler Nine, cell phone nein!

This is painful to even read. Blogger Superconductor conveys a fascinating account of Tuesday night's New York Philharmonic performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 9, or, rather, of the cell phone accompaniment to Mahler's Symphony No. 9.

This wasn't just any cell phone outburst. Apparently it went on and on. Conductor Alan Gilbert stopped the performance and, in a firm manner, confronted the cell phone's owner.


Superconductor reports:

Mr. Gilbert asked the man, sitting in front of the concert-master: "Are you finished?" The man didn't respond. "Fine, we'll wait," Mr. Gilbert said. The Avery Fisher Hall audience, ripped in an untimely fashion from Mahler's complicated sound-world, reacted with "seething rage." Someone shouted "Thousand dollar fine." This was followed by cries of 'Get out!' and 'Kick him out!.' Some people started clapping rhythmically but the hall was quieted down. House security did not intervene or remove the offender.

Before resuming, Mr. Gilbert addressed the audience. He said: "I apologize. Usually, when there's a disturbance like this, it is best to ignore it, because addressing it is sometimes worse than the disturbance itself. But this was so egregious that I could not allow it. We'll start again." The audience cheered.

Other readers of the blog corroborate the evening's series of events, and chime in with some choice comments.

Until you've experienced this kind of disruption, it's hard to capture how jarring it is. It's like sitting in a darkened theater, your mind in another realm altogether, and just as the movie is reaching its dénouement, someone opens the door to the theater, flooding the screen with cold, harsh daylight. Reality intrudes.

As one of Tuesday night's Mahler fans said:

For me, I could not get back 'in the zone' and properly appreciate the final minutes of the piece, as the interruption completely destroyed the energy in the room.

To at least one audience member, though, Gilbert's handling of the matter made for a defining moment:

Gilbert has earned a whole new level of respect from his audience, whom tend to be on the younger side. Upon exiting the hall [a]fter it was over, all you could hear people saying was "Gilbert was awesome!"

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