Tilson Thomas throws out the first lozenge at bronchial CSO concert

Mon Nov 25, 2013 at 3:22 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Michael Tilson Thomas
Michael Tilson Thomas

Michael Tilson Thomas found a novel way to deal with bronchial Chicago audiences last weekend.

Last Thursday night’s opening performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 with Tilson Thomas leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was plagued by audience coughs, which proved especially distracting in the hushed pages of the final movement.

On Saturday night, there was even more coughing throughout the first movement. The conductor went offstage and emerged with two large handfuls of loose cough lozenges, which he tossed underhanded into the main floor audience seats. He said he hoped that would solve the problem and encouraged audience members to pass them on to those that need them.

Celeste Wroblewski, the orchestra’s vice-president of public relations, confirmed the details Monday, adding, in an email, that “the audience responded in the same good-natured spirit, with laughter and applause.”

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30 Responses to “Tilson Thomas throws out the first lozenge at bronchial CSO concert”

  1. Posted Nov 25, 2013 at 4:24 pm by Lillian

    About time, I say! I was there, and think it was done (and received) in good humor! Laughter and applause ensued before they went into the scherzo. And you know, there was minimal coughing from then on.

  2. Posted Nov 25, 2013 at 4:45 pm by Nick Durrant

    Brilliantly executed Maestro Tilson Thomas

  3. Posted Nov 25, 2013 at 4:59 pm by Brian

    Must have been a TchaiCoughsky Concert.

  4. Posted Nov 25, 2013 at 5:03 pm by princetrumpet

    Lawsuits pending from the Dept. of Putting Somebody’s Eye Out! in 3…2…1….

  5. Posted Nov 25, 2013 at 5:11 pm by Brad

    Yet another reason to admire MTT. I hope he returns to Chicago soon!

  6. Posted Nov 25, 2013 at 7:55 pm by Greg Clemons

    Chicago audiences simply need to learn how suppress a cough and sit quietly in their seat until there is an appropriate pause in the music. It’s simple, but evidently an elusive concept.

  7. Posted Nov 25, 2013 at 9:43 pm by Gretchen Saathoff

    Well done!

  8. Posted Nov 25, 2013 at 10:50 pm by Cori

    I think it was a Mahleria outbreak.

  9. Posted Nov 25, 2013 at 10:54 pm by MWnyc

    Doesn’t the CSO have free cough drops available by the auditorium doors?

    I know the Philadelphia Orchestra and Carnegie Hall both do.

  10. Posted Nov 26, 2013 at 4:08 am by Janet T Strausbaugh

    Philadelphia Orchestra USED to have cough drops outside the door, no more, not for several years. This time of year, if one has a cough, one should bring one’s own cough drops AND use them at the concert if necessary!

  11. Posted Nov 26, 2013 at 10:01 am by Steve Soroka

    What would John Cage say! There goes the soundscape!!!!!!

  12. Posted Nov 26, 2013 at 10:03 am by Karl

    The encore was by Elliott Catarrh.

  13. Posted Nov 26, 2013 at 11:29 am by Stephen P Brown

    Ah yes. Although, in the past, some Conductors have been berated for such behavior. But I guess MTT’s cheeky smile lets him get away with it?! LOL…

  14. Posted Nov 26, 2013 at 11:53 am by Michael Leonard Novia

    May I suggest that coughing is purposeful. Even if unconscious, it is still ostensibly a revolt against aesthetics by boors. Can’t fight them, though. M.T.Thomas should build coughing into the concert and say to the crowd, “Whenever I turn toward you, that’s your signal to cough, clear your throat, relieve your flatulence, stand up and block the view, kick the seat in front of you, walk in late, slam the door, unwrap candy or talk over the music.” Did I miss anything? Yes,I know, I’m too up-tight!

  15. Posted Nov 26, 2013 at 12:07 pm by George

    Heard about it on my local station today. I think that was a great move! Also like the musical puns, so here’s mine (order subject to change)

    An appropriate concert programme for such cases is:

    Btahms: A-cough-phlegmic Festival Overture
    Glazunov: The Sneezers
    Doppler: Concerto in D minor for two Flus and Orchestra
    Stravinsky: The Feverbird (suite)

    And as encores, in order:
    Busoni: Intermezzo from Doktor Faust
    Berlioz: Symphonie Pharmacique – IV

  16. Posted Nov 26, 2013 at 1:00 pm by Edward

    Coughing at a classical concert is almost always a voluntary action. A cry for attention by people that abhor not being the center of attention crying out “I’m here”! Involuntary coughs happen at inopportune moments but are rare, voluntary coughs happen like clockwork- between movements or whenever anyone else coughs. Everyone else is coughing I might as well just in case. I think it is caused by the flame retardants in furniture diminishing our capacity to sit still and pay attention.

  17. Posted Nov 26, 2013 at 1:27 pm by Patrici02248095

    Elizabeth Schwarzkopf once invited her audience to have a good cough and get it over with! Good for your Maestro.

  18. Posted Nov 26, 2013 at 4:52 pm by HBoyle

    It’s a mystery – one never hears this kind of coughing at a movie or a play.

  19. Posted Nov 26, 2013 at 10:02 pm by Max

    Have the usher just kick them out. If you can’t talk excessively, you certainly can’t cough excessively. A disruption is a disruption.

  20. Posted Nov 26, 2013 at 10:19 pm by clay

    a very cool way of dealing with symphonic disruption.

  21. Posted Nov 27, 2013 at 4:16 am by Tony Tuba

    Maybe some of the posters here have never been in the situation of attempting to stifle that throat tickle, a battle you can never win. I know I have, but from the other side of the stage. During a long career in the brass section I remember well those moments – which always seemed to be in the slow movements of certain symphonies for me. A cry for attention it certainly was not. I as a result have some sympathy for some sufferers. I admire MTT style though, as I have heard countless concerts ruined by winter coughing.

  22. Posted Nov 27, 2013 at 11:19 am by Mr. Symphony

    MTT should have simply asked the audience to ‘please turn your head and cough’.

  23. Posted Nov 27, 2013 at 12:40 pm by Richard F Bailey

    At LaScala they would kill you. But that’s Opera, Doc.

  24. Posted Nov 27, 2013 at 9:34 pm by Michael Friedlander

    Coughee can’t=tata ?

    and, of course, the ubiquitous cell phone:

    Concerto in A (T & T)

  25. Posted Nov 28, 2013 at 2:25 am by Kirk Smith

    I was there. If there is one grown up on stage, it should be the conductor. When he screws up should the players stand up and offer conducting lessons? He lost his cool and almost fell off the podium. What was worse, some coughing or interrupting Mahler to do an obviously planned stunt?

  26. Posted Dec 02, 2013 at 2:05 pm by Bud Johns

    MTT’s home orchestra, San Francisco Symphony,
    always has baskets of cough drops in the lobby whether he or a guest conductor is on the podium.

  27. Posted Dec 03, 2013 at 12:39 pm by Jackie Greenberg

    MTT smiling and gently tossing cough lozenges is indeed good behavior for him.
    Years ago at our home orchestra, New World Symphony in Miami Beach, MTT flung his baton to the ground after a patron not only let his phone ring, but took the call and chatted while he(the patron) walked up the aisle to the lobby!

  28. Posted Dec 03, 2013 at 1:14 pm by Rick Dawson

    We were at a performance of Scheherazade by the Oregon Symphony a while back when a woman with a truly obscene cough ruined the last beautiful violin solo at the end. The worst part of the whole thing was that she was seated no more than five feet from a hallway leading to an exit from the balcony. Had I been seated closer to her I would have liked to pitch her over the side of the balcony.

    For those who call MTT’s actions rude or boorish, please let me remind you that music is performance art, and when the moment passes, that particular piece of art is gone forever. If one has that type of cough that can’t be stifled, please exit. If you have a cough that bad, you likely know you have it prior to the concert, so just don’t attend!

  29. Posted Dec 03, 2013 at 8:48 pm by Maggi Parker

    Bravo MTT. I attended a concert of Alfred Brendel’s many years ago and when the coughing started he raised his hands from the keyboard and announced that “when you are finished, I will begin again”. I suggest that those who attend concerts carry lozenges and those who bathe in perfumes refrain.

  30. Posted Jan 07, 2014 at 5:29 pm by David

    What a douchebag

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