Wednesday, January 14, 2004


World-renowned cellist Stephen Isserlis tells an amusing audience story in The Guardian:

"[T]he incident took place in Prague, where I was playing a rarity, Dvorak's early cello concerto (not the famous one) with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Near the beginning of the work, I noticed a gentleman in the front row falling asleep.

"Normally, I have no objection to people falling asleep in concerts; of course, I'd much rather they would stay awake and listen, but I accept that it does occasionally happen. This man, however, was falling asleep in a way that rather caught the attention: his neck had seemingly taken on a life of its own, trying (understandably) to escape the company of his head, drooping down to impressively contorted angles before shooting up again to its accustomed position beneath his chin every 20 seconds or so.

"At first, I (and the audience members around him, and several members of the orchestra) found it funny; but I grew increasingly irritated as it started to affect my concentration on the music.

"Before the last movement, I moved the music stand so that it stood firmly between me and him (normally, this isn't a great idea because a music stand in front of the cello soaks up some of the sound, but I was getting desperate). However, his head kept appearing at horribly regular intervals beneath the stand, before being jerked back by his indefatigable neck.

"So by the end of the performance, I was in a foul mood and, when I was presented with flowers as I bowed, I threw them - in rather a petulant gesture, I admit - into the man's lap. He woke up briefly, smiled and went back to sleep (and departed after the concert, I was told, looking very contented with himself and with his flowers)."

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