Saint-Saëns’ Music Dazzles at MSO
Plus: De Waart finds unusual remedy for coughing
Audience coughing is the
dreaded sound graffiti of the classical concert hall. In a packed cinema, or a
crowded church, or during the performance of a play, audience coughing is not a
factor. Yet somehow, in the studied quiet of a classical concert, human beings
have the urge to cough. Is it uncontrollable? I doubt it.
I do not believe it is
purely a matter of health. My theory is that some people cough as a nervous
psychological/physical reaction, a type of adult fidgeting. Going out on a
limb, a subconscious inner process might be: You ask me to sit in silence, but I canât handle that pressure: Cough!
Or: You want me to make this all about
you up on stage, but to register my discomfort at not being the center of any
Audience coughing is
psychologically contagious. Nearly every time one person begins coughing,
others join in. Audience coughing does not happen in all halls, which
reinforces the thought that it is a controllable phenomenon after all. In those
halls where the audience is enveloped by space and light as part of the
performance, coughing is minimal. But in the vast, anonymous dark of a theater
like Uihlein Hall, audience members obviously feel their coughs could not
possibly matter. They are wrong. Everyone hears every cough as invasive
percussion. And no one is more aware of it than those onstage.
This all-Saint-Saëns program featured terrific performances of Danse macabre and the aforementioned âOrgan Symphony.â Simon Trpceski was the dazzling piano soloist in the Concerto No. 2. But de Waartâs coughing speech will be the lasting memory.