After phone filming controversy, violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter issues plea to ‘keep live moments sacrosanct’

21 October 2019, 13:28

"Someone was sitting in the first row holding a mobile phone up right into my face."

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

The German violinist has spoken passionately against the use of smartphones in the concert hall, saying ‘we need to keep these live moments sacrosanct’.

Last month, Anne-Sophie Mutter was in the middle of performing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto when the glare of a smartphone stopped her mid-movement.

The violin virtuoso was reported to have confronted the audience member and said: “Either I will leave, or you will put away your phone and recording device.”

After an exchange of a few minutes, the audience member was reportedly escorted out of the Cincinnati Music Hall, where Mutter was playing alongside the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO). The violinist was cheered – in person and later, on social media – for standing up to the use of mobile phones in the concert hall.

Now, Mutter has spoken at length about the incident in a new episode of Peter Hobbs’ video series, Living the Classical Life (watch the video above).

Read more: Anne-Sophie Mutter breaks silence on filming incident, saying ‘I felt violated’ >

Anne-Sophie Mutter was cheered for standing up to the use of smartphones in concerts
Anne-Sophie Mutter was cheered for standing up to the use of smartphones in concerts. Picture: Getty

Describing the interruption, she says: “Someone was sitting in the first row holding a mobile phone up right into my face. And I find that extremely disrespectful towards the orchestra, conductor and myself. Extremely disturbing for the music.

“The concert hall is the last place – maybe other than church – where we can just for once, without any tools at hand, let it penetrate, let it get through our skin. Absorb it with all you are. Not through a machine. Nothing is as beautiful as your memory. No mobile in the world, no photography, no recording in the world can reproduce that. And why do you want to reproduce it?

“Isn’t it the most beautiful the first time the man of your life is telling you ‘I love you’? How would that be if you had it on your iPhone? Would you listen to it every day? It’s just not the same thing.”

Read more: Audience members defend concertgoer who ‘immediately apologised’ for filming >

“Some things are so beautiful, like music is,” the violinist continues. “Yes, there are recordings, under perfect circumstance, where the sound comes close to what the artists want. But other than that, let’s really keep these live moments sacrosanct and let’s keep them personal – here [points to her head] and there [points to her heart].”

In the weeks following the concert, a debate was sparked online about the use of mobile phones in concerts and live events. Does Anne-Sophie Mutter’s experience indicate that our current ‘capture-the-moment’ madness has become a problem for performers, who want to maintain that unique artist-audience relationship?

During the same interview, Mutter is asked how aware she is of her audience.

“I do feel the audience and I need them to be there with me, because I’m playing for them,” she replies.

“One ear is on the instrument, I’m hearing what it does and adjusting. But my other ear is listening into the hall, not only for the acoustics but sensing the vibes. Are they with me? Can I do something? How can I persuade them? How can I bring them into the piece?

“It can be a very exciting relationship and most of the time it is very exciting to have this voyage together. This togetherness, no barriers.”