LONDON (Reuters) - A comeback concert by renowned Korean violinist Kyung Wha Chung after more than a decade away due to a finger injury struck a sour note with the British press after she reportedly upbraided a child in the audience for coughing.
Chung, whose publicist said she was not available for comment on Thursday because she was traveling back to South Korea, took issue with coughing during the opening piece of her Tuesday night concert at London’s Royal Festival Hall.
Press reports said many adults in the audience took the opportunity in the pause between movements of a Mozart sonata to let out their December chill coughs, but the 66-year-old Chung fixed her attention on a child in one of the front rows.
“Maybe bring her back when she’s older,” she scolded the parents from the stage, according to media reports.
“I can’t remember the first half of a concert ever feeling this tense,” critic Erica Jeal wrote in The Guardian on Thursday, adding that after the reprimand, “the audience behaved impeccably” during a Prokofiev sonata that followed the Mozart.
The Times said the mood in the hall went from “tetchy” to “toxic” while the Evening Standard quoted a member of the audience, Ariane Todes, a violinist and writer, as saying the coughing was “quite loud and seemed quite aggressive”.
In October, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas halted a performance of a Dvorak symphony in Miami because, as he told a New York radio station afterwards, a child was so restless she had become a distraction.
Tilson Thomas said he had asked the mother to move with her child to some seats on the periphery, but instead she left the hall, to applause from other audience members.
“A performer should not respond to audience disruption, accidental or otherwise,” music critic Norman Lebrecht wrote on his website, Slipped Disc, about Chung’s and Tilson Thomas’s actions.
“A performer needs to be ‘in the zone’, in a separate space, to maintain an illusion of inspiration that is unaffected by the mundane. Interventions from the stage can wreck a potentially historic concert.”
Editing by Robin Pomeroy