YouTube is destroying music: Pianist Krystian Zimerman storms out in middle of classical recital

By James Maynard , Jun 05, 2013 04:24 PM EDT

Krystian Zimerman halted a June 3 classical music recital performance and walked off because a member of the audience was filming him with a smartphone. The performance took place at the Klavierfestival Ruhr (Ruhr Piano Festival) in Essen, Germany. When he returned, Zimerman, one of the most highly-respected classical pianists alive today, lambasted YouTube and online video in general.

During Variations on a Polish Theme in B Minor, the Polish keyboardist noticed someone on the balcony filming his performance using a smartphone. Zimerman asked the audience member to stop filming, and then he continued to play. The man recording the performance refused to stop, despite the request.

"He was filming, I believe on an iPhone, and was in the middle of a block of seats so it was not possible to remove him during the performance," Anke Demirsoy, a festival spokeswoman said.

After several starts and stops, the 56-year-old pianist left the stage, saying he could not concentrate while being filmed. He came back a few minutes later and began to rail against online music videos. The pianist claimed that record executives have refused recording contracts to the virtuoso for material which is already available for free on YouTube.

"The destruction of music through YouTube is enormous," Zimerman said.

The musician did finish the performance, but refused to play an encore, ignoring loud cheers from the audience for him do perform another song. He also canceled a reception planned for after the event.

The person filming Zimerman has not been identified.

This is the latest in a series of incidents surrounding performing artists speaking out against video recording by audience members. Performers who have come out against the practice include Yeah Yeah Yeah and former Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters, who said he considers such recording shows a lack of respect for the artist.

In 2009, Zimerman announced on stage at the Walt Disney Concert hall in Los Angeles that he would no longer play in the United States due to American policy concerning military bases in his homeland. Over ten years ago, a Steinway grand piano owned by Zimerman was confiscated and demolished when security officials, nervous from 9/11, determined that the glue in the piano smelled suspicious.

The piece he played after the 2009 outburst was Variations on a Polish Folk Theme, by the same composer, Karol Szymanowski, who wrote the piece Zimerman was playing when he halted his latest show.

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