Just the other day, pianist Krystian Zimerman was giving a recital at the Ruhr Piano Festival in Essen. He spotted someone in the audience filming his performance, stopped playing and left the stage. When he returned he continued but not before telling those attending that "the destruction of music because of YouTube is enormous." The Festival's director, Franz Xaver Ohnesorg, is reported as saying: "What happened is theft, pure and simple. It cuts particularly deeply when the artist is of a sensitive nature."
By contrast, Jasper Hope, Chief Operating Officer at the Royal Albert Hall in London, in talking to the BBC, indicates that such filming is “not a problem – as long as it did not disturb the artist or the audience. It's not hard to be discreet.”
One of the blights of concert-going today is audience disruption – continuous coughing, other noises, applause between movements, and the aural and visual distraction of mobile phones and similar devices. Although requests are usually made before concerts and opera presentations to switch phones off, and that photographs should not be taken, there’s always the miscreant that takes no notice.
The unauthorised filming of a performance and how that recording is subsequently used is a matter (in law, if necessary) for the artists concerned and their representatives. In the immediacy of the concert itself, the disrespect shown by some in the audience as they check their phones during the performance is very irritating for those trying to concentrate but having the misfortune to be sitting near these sad and selfish individuals.
Although this is a general problem, Mr Hope’s comments may be thought unfortunate in potentially encouraging inappropriate actions – not least because the Royal Albert Hall is soon to host several weeks of BBC Proms concerts, of particular interest to Classical Source given our regular complete coverage of the festival. Although those who frequent the Arena in the RAH are usually focussed in their ‘standing and listening’, other (seated) audience members can leave much to be desired in their inattentiveness. It is to be anticipated that the BBC will ensure that proper directions are made in the RAH to those attending who need such guidance, and that Mr Hope’s stewards will be keen of eye and swift of action to ensure that those maddening shafts of technological beams are extinguished so that right-minded folk who wish to engage with music can enjoy the evening uninterrupted.
Or, as Chief Warden Hodges used often to exclaim in Dad's Army: "Put that light out!".