The commonly held belief that classical music has a calming effect on people doesn’t always ring true, as demonstrated by an incident on Thursday night in Malmö, involving a noisy gum wrapper during a performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, that escalated into a violent fist fight. Andris Nelsons was conducting the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in the Swedish city when the noise of an audience member rustling a chewing gum wrapper on the second balcony intruded on the fourth movement’s Adagietto, The Local Sweden reported.
Conductor Andris Nelsons. Photo © Marco Borggreve
According to the report, originally from the local Sydsvenskan newspaper, a young man incensed by the noise snatched the chewing gum from the hand of the woman sitting next to him and threw it on the floor. While the woman was silent for the remainder of the symphony, an audience member sitting in the row behind described how events took a turn for the worse once the music stopped.
“When the applause broke out, the woman turned towards the man and said something,” Britt Aspenlind said. “The woman gave the younger man a slap right in his face. He became angry and started fighting back.”
The slap, according to another witness, was hard enough to knock the young man’s glasses off. But the incident didn’t stop there, with the woman’s companion grabbing the man by his shirt and throwing punches.
“It was very unpleasant actually. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said another audience member, Olof Jönsson, who described the actions as “a violent attack.”
Other audience members eventually managed to calm the warring factions down and they left the concert hall.
This isn’t the first time sound from the audience has made people’s blood run hot. Earlier in the year Riccardo Muti stopped the Chicago Symphony Orchestra mid-piece when noise from the audience disturbed a quiet moment in the music – though that occasion didn’t end in violence.