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A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette #2771960
10/12/18 06:57 PM
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The scene – the Wigmore Hall on a warm October evening. The concert – Sir Andras Schiff playing three Schubert sonatas, on his Franz Brodmann piano of c. 1820. Two and a half hours of magical, thoughtful and sensitive playing. At the close of the final sonata Schiff sat motionless, indicating silence – which was rudely broken by a loud cough from the front right of the hall. Schiff glared at the offender, and gave a little bow in his direction. The silence having been concluded so abruptly, Schiff stood up to receive his ovation; he bowed to the audience, turned to his right to bow again to the people on that side, then turned to his left, and gave a deep and pointed bow straight to the cougher. Not a word was spoken, but the message was crystal clear: “Thank you so much for finishing my concert for me. We are all deeply in your debt.”

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Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: David-G] #2771972
10/12/18 07:47 PM
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I find Schiff's behavior extreme. Sometimes it's very hard or impossible to hold a cough in. In this case the cougher at least held his cough in until the piece was over but not until Schiff had put his hands down in his lap or otherwise indicated applause was OK. Definitely not a perfect ending to a serious program of three sonatas but it's very common to hear a lot of coughing at the end of a piece because audience members have been holding in coughs.

Since I don't think any of the Schubert Sonatas end with a slow movement, I'm not sure why Schiff would insist on waiting some time before "ending" his playing. This would more typically be done qt the end of slow pieces.

I think Schiff is a terrific pianist but in master classes he can be quite cruel. I have observed this in person at least twice. This wasn't a master class and almost all professional pianists have big egos, but I'm not convinced Schiff was in the right. OTOH I wasn't there so you may have greater insight to the nuances of what happened.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 10/12/18 07:54 PM.
Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: David-G] #2771984
10/12/18 09:01 PM
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If Schiff is "cruel" in his master classes he has no business conducting them. There is no excuse for that type of behavior.

As for the offending person in the first row, at least he didn't get up and exit the auditorium during the performance. That would have been a far greater distraction for the audience and the artist.

Last edited by Carey; 10/12/18 09:05 PM.

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Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: David-G] #2771992
10/12/18 09:42 PM
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Although a supreme pianist, and probably ultimately a nice person, our friend Schiff is not blessed with the best bedside manner.

In other words he's well up his own behind. A rather dodgy personality, in my opinion. But who knows, behind closed doors we don't know people, so he might not really be like that.

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: David-G] #2772033
10/13/18 02:50 AM
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No, no, in this case the cough was absolutely crass and unnecessary, and destroyed the ending of the concert. Schiff was absolutely right and I was glad that he reacted as he did. I have suffered from coughs, and no-one can tell me that this person could not have contained his cough for another 15 seconds, which was all that would have been necessary. Also it was clear from the nature of the cough that it was not uncontrollable.

And it is irrelevant whether the final movement was slow or fast. A two and a half hour programme of intense concentration and sublimity needs a silence to conclude it.

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: David-G] #2772067
10/13/18 07:09 AM
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Originally Posted by David-G
No, no, in this case the cough was absolutely crass and unnecessary, and destroyed the ending of the concert. Schiff was absolutely right and I was glad that he reacted as he did. I have suffered from coughs, and no-one can tell me that this person could not have contained his cough for another 15 seconds, which was all that would have been necessary. Also it was clear from the nature of the cough that it was not uncontrollable.

And it is irrelevant whether the final movement was slow or fast. A two and a half hour programme of intense concentration and sublimity needs a silence to conclude it.

In retrospect I agree with your second paragraph but not the part of your first paragraph where you are sure that the cougher could have contained his cough. I have a chronic cough and when the urge occurs there is no way I can delay it for a second. What the cougher should have done was try and muffle his cough. It's also possible that my highly negative experiences observing Schiff's master classes affect my opinion about this incident. I do think he is a fabulous pianist.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 10/13/18 07:11 AM.
Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: David-G] #2772082
10/13/18 08:14 AM
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Are we really talking about a cough? Something which is a bodily issue, that sometimes cannot be contained? Are we assuming that the person in the first row, could or could not? Did he place his hands in his mouth to contain the sound? Did he try to contain the cough? Or was he, just, completely indifferent to the ending that Schiff wanted?

For the record, without caring one bit for egos and names, a concert with LIVE audience can be unpredictable, and certainly is an interactive process between the audience and the performer(s). With that in mind:
a. Schiff should not react like that, as such an issue is to be expected
b. Schiff should react like that as he interacted with the offender.

Take your pick! ^_^

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: David-G] #2772091
10/13/18 08:40 AM
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I suffer from terminal flatulence. Is it OK if I sit in the front row of a chamber recital?

With respect to and for pianoloverus, I would hope he/she would choose to be seated at a distance that, when covering his mouth with his sleeve or a handkerchief, the resulting amplitude of the cough would not disturb the artist, or more importantly, the rest of the audience.

I went to Covent Garden (Royal Opera House) some years ago, and the programme said in large letters, Do you know that a single cough can exceed the volume of the entire orchestra playing ff ?

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: David-G] #2772105
10/13/18 09:28 AM
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No one knows whether this particular cougher could control the timing of his cough...if it were me, I could not. Could he choose a seat? Maybe or maybe not. Perhaps this is not a chronic cough but more of an acute issue that he could not even anticipate

If Schiff could not refrain from what I see as a childish response, maybe he should skip live recitals. This time it was a cough, Next time it will be an uncontrollable sneeze, and then.,.. something else. Wouldn’t it be great if audiences were perfect? Totally unrealistic.

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: prout] #2772107
10/13/18 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by prout
I suffer from terminal flatulence. Is it OK if I sit in the front row of a chamber recital?


Surely that's a slippery slope fallacy?

Originally Posted by prout
With respect to and for pianoloverus, I would hope he/she would choose to be seated at a distance that, when covering his mouth with his sleeve or a handkerchief, the resulting amplitude of the cough would not disturb the artist, or more importantly, the rest of the audience.


Assuming they knew they were going to cough, of course. And assuming that when they did cough, they had enough warning to actually cover their mouth, or indeed change his ticket for another seat, get up, and move to the other seat before he had to cough.

I think this depends on the cough, but I would wager that anyone coughing at an inappropriate moment at a classical music gig would most likely not really be in control of that cough, certainly not able to hold it for fifteen seconds longer. Either that or they're doing it on purpose to disrupt the gig.

The shuffling of papers and creaking around in seats, however seems a lot more avoidable.

I think without actually seeing this on video, or witnessing it live, it's very hard to tell.

I also think that Schiff should come down off his self created pedestal and remember that this was a paying customer, and that it was a cough. Now, if it had been someone's phone going off, then that would have been a completely different story. Or if it has been someone who was continuously coughing and refused to leave the arena.

David G - were you at this gig, or is this a story you're relaying from a newspaper etc. - can you enlighten us as to the details?

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: David-G] #2772112
10/13/18 10:22 AM
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I would say that Mr. Schiff is in the wrong line of work if he is so intolerant of possibly hundreds of imperfect people who no doubt are paying him very well. Maybe he should stick to recording sessions where he can control a few technicians. This is the kind of arrogant attitude that turns people off from classical music.
He should be ashamed of himself, ridiculous.


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Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: David-G] #2772125
10/13/18 11:31 AM
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IMO and experience, there would a lot less coughing if perfume and cologne were banned from indoor concerts. I can be in perfect health, happily seated, waiting for the concert to begin and to my dismay, someone sits down near me billowing clouds of heavy perfume in every direction. I'm sure they think they smell great. Ugh. Within minutes, I get an unstoppable drip down the back of my throat. Coughing is inevitable. This olfactory attack means I can either cough, ask for a seat change or take an antihistamine. I think heavy scents should be banned!


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: Roger Ransom] #2772139
10/13/18 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Roger Ransom
This is the kind of arrogant attitude that turns people off from classical music.
He should be ashamed of himself, ridiculous.


Well said.

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: David-G] #2772141
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I am firmly on the side of David-G, but not so much over the coughing, which would have totally destroyed the transcendent mood created by a consummate artist, but with people’s judgement of Schiff’s behaviour.

You paid your money, you got your concert, you experienced something that very few people in the world have experienced. If he blew raspberries at the entire audience, or mooned them after the concert ended, who are we to judge? He has been playing public concerts for over 40 years. Not all artists behave this way, but those who do and produce this level of music should be accomodated. Did he cause harm to anyone by ‘glaring’?

Really, people. Get a life. And gooddog, YES, people should be banned from wearing scented products when attending comcerts or lessons. Many of the concerts I attend and the buildings in which they are held are posted as scent free zones. My wife refuses to teach anyone who wears perfume. She is a professional singer.

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: David-G] #2772149
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It's a cough. Doubt it was deliberate and it happens all the time at live concerts. Perhaps the person may have been able to contain it, perhaps not. It's not the greatest of crimes. . . . . a mobile phone on the other hand. At least in that case you do have total control, long before the concert starts.

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: David-G] #2772155
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My take is that the guy should not have been blamed for coughing, and simultaneously, Schiff should be allowed to do whatever he wants on the stage.

If people no longer want to pay to see Schiff because of his rather pompous character then he'll find his concert halls empty, but if people want to continue to see him, then he'll find his concert halls full, and ditto his bank balance. Which, judging from his turnouts appears to be the case.

As far as the perfume thing is concerned, I'm not sure where I stand on that. It raises the question, what is a heavy scent? For example if I had a shower with some scented soap? Or is it actually that some scents contain chemicals that some people are allergic to? Not being a particular scent-wearer, I wouldn't know.

Also, what if someone has chronic body odour, which they can't help? Would it be preferable for them to cover it up with a heavy scent or would it be preferable for them to emit body odour? Or should they just be banned from the gig outright?

Talk of "banning" people because they are wearing a "scented product" worries me a bit. Who judges whether the product is scented, and how would they enforce the ban? Also, would the person get their ticket money back? Does this include deodorant and soap, which are scented? Or is it a specific thing to do with certain chemicals found in spray perfumes?

Also, I agree with the phone thing. A cough is not the person's fault, however, failing to turn your phone off is. And so I consider mobile phones going off to be rude.

I suspect everyone has a different opinion on this, as it is highly subjective.

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: Zaphod] #2772175
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Originally Posted by Zaphod
If people no longer want to pay to see Schiff because of his rather pompous character then he'll find his concert halls empty, but if people want to continue to see him, then he'll find his concert halls full, and ditto his bank balance. Which, judging from his turnouts appears to be the case.
That’s a good way of putting it. People vote with their feet.

I like people who are critical and brash. I always know where they stand on issues and know they are not dissembling when interacting with me. If I had been that person who coughed, I would have been very upset with myself and understanding of Schiff’s reaction.

Quote
As far as the perfume thing is concerned, I'm not sure where I stand on that. It raises the question, what is a heavy scent? For example if I had a shower with some scented soap? Or is it actually that some scents contain chemicals that some people are allergic to? Not being a particular scent-wearer, I wouldn't know.
Why should anyone use scented soaps, deodorants and shampoos and such-like products. They are all available now in unscented versions and do the same job. The scent has no function. This is not 17th C France where bathing was costly, not available to most people, and where there was a widespread belief that immersion in warm water was bad for you.

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: David-G] #2772185
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So now we should be required to use certain kinds of soap, deodorant etc to attend a concert. Will classical concerts get any more exclusive?


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Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: prout] #2772186
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Originally Posted by prout
Quote
As far as the perfume thing is concerned, I'm not sure where I stand on that. It raises the question, what is a heavy scent? For example if I had a shower with some scented soap? Or is it actually that some scents contain chemicals that some people are allergic to? Not being a particular scent-wearer, I wouldn't know.
Why should anyone use scented soaps, deodorants and shampoos and such-like products. They are all available now in unscented versions and do the same job. The scent has no function. This is not 17th C France where bathing was costly, not available to most people, and where there was a widespread belief that immersion in warm water was bad for you.

Exactly. I choose not to use scented products. Generally, I'm okay when someone has used light fragrance. My mother once told me, no one should be able to smell your perfume unless they are kissing your neck. (She was a funny lady but very considerate of others). My allergies only flair up when the scent is very strong, such as someone has washed their clothes in fragrant detergent or has splashed on large quantities of perfume or heavily scented lotion and I am unable to get away from them. I know I'm not alone in my sensitivity to fragrance. I've entered schools and offices that have signs asking people to refrain from using scented products out of consideration for people with allergies, asthma or other respiratory conditions. There is no reason a concert hall can't suggest the same. Recently, I was sitting in the living room at a friend's house. A new guest arrived and I could smell her perfume from 15 feet away, (no exaggeration). Gag. It permeated the entire house for the duration of her visit. It wasn't a bad scent, it was just too strong and pervasive.

More on my peeve: Have you ever tried on new clothes that are permeated with someone else's fragrance? How selfish to wear perfume while trying on clothes. Or have you had your hands reek from perfume after holding the handle of a shopping cart? It's disgusting.


Best regards,

Deborah
Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: Roger Ransom] #2772200
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Originally Posted by Roger Ransom
So now we should be required to use certain kinds of soap, deodorant etc to attend a concert. Will classical concerts get any more exclusive?
Many public schools do not allow peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Could they get any more exclusive?

Remember Roger, You can choose to not go to the concert. It might make you, and the rest of the audience happier.

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: prout] #2772208
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Originally Posted by prout
Many public schools do not allow peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Could they get any more exclusive?


Quite obviously because of peanut allergies. Which can result in death, for example if kids swap sandwiches. A far cry from people wanting to ban things because it offends them.

Originally Posted by prout

Remember Roger, You can choose to not go to the concert. It might make you, and the rest of the audience happier.


Oh you're a real charmer aren't you.

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: Zaphod] #2772229
10/13/18 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Zaphod
[quote=prout] Quite obviously because of peanut allergies. Which can result in death, for example if kids swap sandwiches. A far cry from people wanting to ban things because it offends them.
.

I don't appreciate having my physical reaction to perfumes being reduced to my merely finding them "offensive". They really do make me sick. I won't go into all the symptoms, but besides the cough, there is also the instant headache and vertigo. It would be a simple thing to post a sign that encourages moderation and raises awareness. Scent allergies and respiratory problems are quite common.



Best regards,

Deborah
Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: prout] #2772310
10/14/18 06:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Roger Ransom
I would say that Mr. Schiff is in the wrong line of work if he is so intolerant of possibly hundreds of imperfect people who no doubt are paying him very well. Maybe he should stick to recording sessions where he can control a few technicians. This is the kind of arrogant attitude that turns people off from classical music.
He should be ashamed of himself, ridiculous.

You weren't there. I was. The cough was crass.

Originally Posted by Nikolas
Are we really talking about a cough? Something which is a bodily issue, that sometimes cannot be contained? Are we assuming that the person in the first row, could or could not? Did he place his hands in his mouth to contain the sound? Did he try to contain the cough? Or was he, just, completely indifferent to the ending that Schiff wanted?

Precisely. It was a voluntary cough, not involuntary, not the slightest effort to contain it, totally indifferent to the transcendent ending.

Originally Posted by prout
If I had been that person who coughed, I would have been very upset with myself and understanding of Schiff’s reaction.

Exactly. I would have been mortified, and felt entirely deserving of Schiff's censure.

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: David-G] #2772311
10/14/18 06:53 AM
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Perhaps I can add a little anecdote which bears on this discussion. A few years ago I attended a lovely lunchtime concert at St Luke's - a fortepiano recital played by Ronald Brautigam of music composed in London in the 1790s, by Cramer, Clementi, Field and Haydn. For those that don't know it, St Luke's is an eighteenth century church which was bombed in the War and restored as a beautiful modern rehearsal space. The concert was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. I arrived early and chose the perfect seat - in the front row towards the right. Because that is where the piano sounds best, the radio microphone was placed similarly and was only a few feet from me.

During the previous week I had had a cold; it had turned to a cough, which I was nearly over. I thought I should be able to last the hour without coughing, and took all the medication which might help, just to be on the safe side. All was well for the first twenty five minutes. Then I was aware of a little tickle at the back of my throat, which soon became an overwhelming urge to cough. But I could hardly do so, sitting just feet from the radio microphones. So with enormous effort I contained it and just did not cough. After two or three minutes' inward struggle the urge passed away and I could enjoy the rest of the concert in peace.


Last edited by David-G; 10/14/18 06:56 AM.
Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: Roger Ransom] #2772316
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Originally Posted by Roger Ransom
So now we should be required to use certain kinds of soap, deodorant etc to attend a concert. Will classical concerts get any more exclusive?
I think the issue we are discussing has morphed into a larger concept - that of consideration of others rather than consideration of self. Our societies around the world seem to be moving toward a conservative - everyone for him/her self attitude - I can pollute if I want to. - I can play my music outdoors at earsplitting volume in my neighbourhood if I want to. - and so on.

Back to topic at hand though - I know there things we as humans do that are beyond our control, but we can at least recognize that what we do may not be percieved by others as welcome, and we should should accept censure.

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: gooddog] #2772341
10/14/18 09:20 AM
10/14/18 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by David-G

You weren't there. I was. The cough was crass.


See you failed to mention this in your initial post, and I think we've all been thinking of an involuntary cough.

Is there by any chance a clip of it?

Originally Posted by gooddog

I don't appreciate having my physical reaction to perfumes being reduced to my merely finding them "offensive". They really do make me sick. I won't go into all the symptoms, but besides the cough, there is also the instant headache and vertigo. It would be a simple thing to post a sign that encourages moderation and raises awareness. Scent allergies and respiratory problems are quite common.


I meant "offensive" in the sense that you mean it, it wasn't an attempt at belittlement. The point I was raising was that we can't just ban things because one person is affected by them, otherwise we would live in an incredibly authoritarian society. However, on the other hand, if a reasonably large proportion of people are upset by something, then you have a case for banning it. Such as smoking in public etc. - you can't not ban anything either otherwise you end up with the opposite problem as prout has highlighted in the post above. Both models would be no fun for anyone.

So I guess it depends - what proportion of people are allergic to fragrances? You may have a strong case for all I know.

With both of these, the cough and the fragrance issue, the devil is in the detail.

Just as an aside, a quick Google search will reveal that Schiff has a thing about his audiences coughing, and a history of getting annoyed at it. Rightly so or not? I guess one would have had to be there to judge.

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: Zaphod] #2772388
10/14/18 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Zaphod
Originally Posted by David-G

You weren't there. I was. The cough was crass.


See you failed to mention this in your initial post, and I think we've all been thinking of an involuntary cough.

Is there by any chance a clip of it?

You are right, with hindsight I can see that I could have been clearer. My feeling was that the person had been waiting until the end of the concert to clear his throat. And he decided that the silence had been long enough, so went right ahead, wrecking the communal silence for everybody else.

Originally Posted by Zaphod
Just as an aside, a quick Google search will reveal that Schiff has a thing about his audiences coughing, and a history of getting annoyed at it. Rightly so or not? I guess one would have had to be there to judge.

The Wigmore audience is usually exemplary. This incident was exceptional. In this concert there was quite a barrage of coughs between movements, and Schiff turned not a hair. There were a few involuntary coughs during the music, but all were quiet and suppressed to some extent. Again this is as one would expect, and there was no indication of annoyance from the artist. But this one at the end was glaring. The mood was ruined for me - and I expect, for many in the audience. I cursed inwardly, and was then glad that our pianist was making his feelings known outwardly.

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: David-G] #2772393
10/14/18 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by David-G
My feeling was that the person had been waiting until the end of the concert to clear his throat. And he decided that the silence had been long enough, so went right ahead, wrecking the communal silence for everybody else.
Or he was holding in a cough and simply couldn't hold it in any longer. I don't see how one can be sure in a situation like this.

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: David-G] #2772394
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Originally Posted by David-G
My feeling was that the person had been waiting until the end of the concert to clear his throat. And he decided that the silence had been long enough, so went right ahead, wrecking the communal silence for everybody else.
Or he was holding in a cough and simply couldn't hold it in any longer. I have personally been in that situation. I don't see how one can be sure in a situation like this.

Re: A cougher put in his place - an extraordinary vignette [Re: pianoloverus] #2772479
10/14/18 06:05 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by David-G
My feeling was that the person had been waiting until the end of the concert to clear his throat. And he decided that the silence had been long enough, so went right ahead, wrecking the communal silence for everybody else.
Or he was holding in a cough and simply couldn't hold it in any longer. I have personally been in that situation. I don't see how one can be sure in a situation like this.

We shall just have to agree to disagree. Of course one can't be sure. But I know what I heard.

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