About a week ago the Juilliard Quartet played a chamber concert in the
Chinese city of Guangzhou which they will probably remember for the wrong
reasons. Maybe they were warned beforehand, although nothing can be assumed
in China. We are told (were the Juilliards?) that the previous three chamber
concerts erupted in 'chaos', and one of those presented the Borodin Quartet.
According to the Yangchen Evening News the other two were given by pianists
Fu Cong and Kong Xiangdong. Could it be that the pianists were able to predict
audience behaviour and take suitable precautions?
The Juilliards first hint of trouble came as latecomers forced their
way in and hopped over seats in search of the best. The concert properly
started, at the end of the first work the audience walked out, assuming
this to be the intermission. The players were not pleased and argued amongst
themselves about abandoning the concert. They continued. The second half
was Smetana's 'From my Life' Quartet. This time the disruption was a bleeper.
Not until order was restored would the Quartet continue.
Quite a fuss ensued next day in local papers, expressing a variety of
reasons and conclusions. Even the attention of the local Vice-Governor was
drawn to the matter. He suggested that programmes should print the names
of the movements for each work. That sounds like good advice worthy of
Basil Ramsey, February 25th 1999