December 3, 2013
Just noticed in Davies Symphony Hall last week how few (if still bothersome) coughs were heard during the infrequent quiet passages of Strauss' mostly fortissimo Alpine Symphony. That's late November, usually the time for all kinds of colds, sneezes, and hacking — but not now. Instead, we had an incredible fall-winter of sunny days virtually without stop.
In Chicago, of course, or anywhere other than Hawaii, there is no such permanent Indian summer as ours. Also, Mahler's Ninth Symphony is not all like Strauss' mountainous blustery work. And now, these seemingly disparate elements cohere in the story of MTT throwing cough drops at the audience. Underhanded, to be sure, which is less likely to prompt an injury law suit.
And so, we yield to Chicago Classical Review's Lawrence A. Johnson:
Michael Tilson Thomas found a novel way to deal with bronchial Chicago audiences last weekend.
Last Thursday night’s opening performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 with Tilson Thomas leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was plagued by audience coughs, which proved especially distracting in the hushed pages of the final movement.
On Saturday night, there was even more coughing throughout the first movement. The conductor went offstage and emerged with two large handfuls of loose cough lozenges, which he tossed underhanded into the main floor audience seats. He said he hoped that would solve the problem and encouraged audience members to pass them on to those that need them.
Among the numerous comments: "It’s a mystery — one never hears this kind of coughing at a movie or a play." There is some truth to that. By the way, Davies Hall has large baskets of free coughdrops at several locations.