FRANKFURT, March 3, (Agencies): One of Germany’s leading concert halls has expressed shock after a performance by an Iranian harpsichord virtuoso ended in a tumult with disgruntled concertgoers shouting at him to “speak in German”.
“I was shocked and flabbergasted,” the head of Cologne’s prestigious Philharmonic Hall, Louwrens Langevoort, told AFP via telephone on Wednesday.
“These were elderly concertgoers who showed no respect for the performer, or the music or their fellow audience members and noisily prevented the concert from going ahead,” he said.
“If it had been young people disrupting the event, they would have been the first to complain that young people today have no manners. But it’s the older people who displayed a lack of education here. We’ve experienced nothing like this before in the 30 years since the Philharmonic Hall was built.”
The incident occurred during the hall’s normally rather sedate afternoon series, “Sunday at Four”, popular among Cologne’s older classical music lovers.
In this particular concert Cologne’s own period-instrument band, Concerto Koeln, had teamed up with a rising harpsichord star, Tehran-born and London-based Mahan Esfahani.
The programme featured works by baroque composers Johann Sebastian Bach and Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach as well as modern composers Fred Frith, Henryk Gorecki and Steve Reich.
Langevoort said that the hall was nearly full with around 1,800 people in the audience.
But things turned nasty when Esfahani began playing Steve Reich’s 1967 piece “Piano Phase”, originally written for two pianos, but in a special arrangement for harpsichord and tape recorder.
Esfahani gave a short introductory talk in English, during which one audience member shouted at him to “speak in German”.
And then only minutes into the 16-minute piece, some audience members started slow-clapping, whistling and shouting to express their displeasure at the music.
Others stood up noisily and walked out in protest, eventually forcing Esfahani to stop, Langevoort said.
The harpsichordist, who subsequently posted on Twitter that he was “pretty sure that was the first time complete pandemonium and hostility broke out in a harpsichord concert,” turned to the audience to ask them “What are you afraid of?”
Eventually calm was restored and Esfahani and the orchestra were able to wrap up with a concerto by CPE Bach.
But the ugly incident has made waves in Germany’s classical music world. Langevoort said he has invited Esfahani to come back next year to perform the Reich piece in full, “hopefully this time without the tumult”.
The western city of Cologne, which prides itself on its tolerance and multi-culturalism, was the scene of mob violence at the New Year, when hundreds of women reported being sexually assaulted or robbed by men of North African appearance.
That incident has inflamed tensions in Germany, which took in nearly 1.1 million asylum seekers in 2015, and put pressure on Chancellor Angela Merkel for her welcoming stance toward refugees fleeing war.
HEBRON, West Bank: Palestinian students at an elementary school for the blind in the West Bank are learning English through song.
For the youngsters, it’s a welcome departure from the usual braille textbooks and memorising the rules of grammar.
“In specific subjects, I like to motivate them (to learn) so I teach them grammar or vocabulary by creating a song, because they feel better and they keep repeating it,” said Hind Al-Tamimi.
“We are dealing with students with special needs, they are blind or visually impaired, so we urge them to depend on their hearing sense more than their sense of touch that they use in braille.”
But while students said they were delighted with the new curriculum, some parents in the religiously conservative town of Hebron are concerned the use of music in the classroom is not in harmony with Islamic tradition.
Rashid Rashid, English-language studies supervisor at the Palestinian Ministry of Education, said he has been assuring families that music can be a positive learning tool.
“The people think that the musical methods and singing may lead to dancing, so they may not accept it,” he said. “Before we adopted this method at all of the schools, we chose 25 schools and made it clear to the headmasters that the musical method is not taboo and not shameful.”
Scientific studies have shown that musical sounds enhance neuroplasiticity, or the brain’s ability to adapt and change as a result of training and experience, making learning easier.