Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Ringing in My Ears

Sure, we all hate the cell phone that goes off right in the middle of a performance – except when it offers a perfect obbligato counterpoint to the music at hand.

Last night's duo recital by Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax, part of Ax's "Brahms and Beyond" project, included the best cell-phone ring evah. It came near the end of Brett Dean's new piano solo Hommage à Brahms, and it fit so beautifully among the delicate, high-pitched keyboard filigree of the last movement that I wasn't sure at first whether I was hearing a phone or part of the piece. That's how smooth the blend was.

And Ax, god love him, handled the situation perfectly: He came out afterward, assured the audience that it wasn't part of the piece but should've been, and even said a few reassuring words to the kid with the onstage seat whose phone it was — and who must have been dying of embarrassment.

A composer I know once had the premiere of an orchestral piece interrupted by a big squawk from a clarinetist who'd lost count of his rests; he liked the sound of it so much he added it to the score for later performances. I'd love to see Brett Dean do likewise.