It can happen to the greatest musicians, but the show must go on.

Whether it’s David Garrett tripping and smashing his 300-year-old Stradivarius, or Jon Vickers breaking out of character in Tristan und Isolde to bark at an audience member, “Shut up with your damn coughing!” – even classical music has its inelegant moments. Instruments (or players) malfunction, divas trip on long evening gowns, strings (or tempers) snap, but at the end of the day the most gracious musicians are those that can laugh at themselves.

Once we stop chuckling, what’s pleasantly surprising to note about the “Classical Fail” clips that follow in these pages is how supportive the audiences are.

Viola Fail

We had to start with a viola fail – it’s a tradition. The bridge on Yuri Bashmet’s prized instrument gives way in this performance. It’s a 1758 viola crafted by the Milanese luthier Paolo Testore… Nothing lasts forever! Fortunately Bashmet has the good grace to shrug it off.

Conductor Fail

The podium can be rife with occupational hazards. This poor conductor in Ballarat acknowledges the audience’s applause with a deep bow, only to disappear of the side of the stage!

Orchestra Fail

Zarathustra didn’t speak too clearly in this performance. There are no words or pictures accompanying this video because such an epic fail needs no introduction. One YouTuber aptly describes the sound as an “elephant orgy”.


Trumpet Fail

Trumpet before a fall. It almost seems choreographed, but it seems this guy just didn’t have the lung capacity for that long, final note.

Organ Fail

A passable rendition of the Hallelujah chorus descends into chaos in the final chords, thanks to that pesky transpose button…

Music Teacher Fail

Whenever people say that music in schools is going down the toilet, they’re probably picturing an ogreish teacher like this. Fortunately, in this case, all ends well!


Timpani Fail

This is probably the kind of thing that happens all the time down the back of the percussion section without the audience noticing. But if you were a timpanist, you wouldn’t want your music to go flying during an exposed timpani solo in a challenging symphony by a contemporary Finnish composer. This fellow copes extremely well.

The Violin Snatch

You’ll have to watch very closely for this one. A violinist’s instrument is yanked out of his hands while he’s playing. Apparently, the violinist is Ruben Gonzalez in Puerto Rico, and the instrument didn’t fall out of his hands but got caught on the conductor’s cuff.

Midori Mishap

This performance is so incredible that it can’t be called a “Fail.” Watch a fourteen-year-old Midori expertly swap her violin twice in the face of broken strings sustained in this concert conducted by Bernstein.

Even the greatest conductors can have a silly moment in the heat of passion. Good thing it’s Leonard Bernstein – he wouldn’t need the music anyway.