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Top Ten Classical Music Mishaps

A page-turn gone wrong
A page-turn gone wrong

Performing on stage is not for the faint of heart. There are the hours of practice and the agony of performance nerves. When things go well, of course, it is one of the most rewarding and exhilarating activities. When things go wrong, however, they can go very wrong indeed. And there are plenty of people to witness your discomfort!

Here is our collection of some of the most notorious classical music mishaps. Though they are funny, spare a thought for the musicians involved who, more often than not, handle them with professionalism and a wry smile.

1. The Bow Snap

One of the most recent mishaps was in Stefan Jackie’s performance of Reinhold Gliere’s Concerto for Violin. Two thirds through the concerto his $30,000 bow snapped in two. Watch the video to see how he managed to continue:

2. The String Snap

Bow snapping is relatively rare. String snaps are much more common. Listen out for the characteristic ‘popping’ sound in Ray Chen’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto:

3. The Page Turn

Page turns can be a nightmare. It’s important not to be too enthusiastic about them!

4. The Show Must Go On

But this timpanist certainly shows how, sheet music or no sheet music, the show must go on:

5. The Grimace

When conducting, the important thing to remember is that, when a mistake happens, don’t let it show on your face. Karl Böhm’s reaction to a horn entry in Beethoven’s Symphony No.7 is not exactly a masterclass:

6. The Bad Entry

Still, conductors don’t always get it right either. Beethoven Symphony No.5 is notoriously difficult to get going. This conductor gives the signal and, for a heart-stopping moment, nothing happens…

7. The Wrong Piece

Imagine siting down to play a concerto but the orchestra starts playing an entirely different piece to what you were expecting. This is exactly what happened to pianist Maria Joao Pires, who hadn’t expected to play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.20. Conductor Riccardo Chailly tells this incredible story, the resolution of which illustrates the immense talent of Joao Pires.

8. The Squeak

Musical instruments can be pretty unreliable at times. Listen out for the dreadful clarinet squeak at the end of this orchestral performance:

9. The Badly Time Sneeze

And it’s definitely best not to sneeze into a trombone, especially in the middle of something this lyrical:

10. The Mobile Phone

Mobile phones have become a blight in concerts in recent years. Violist Lukáš Kmiť deals with the distraction in style, the sound of that famous Nokia ringtone leading to some genius improvising…