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Distressed Quartet

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 a Vice-Governor.

Basil Ramsey, February 25th 1999