Everybody knows Peter Oundjian, music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, has a quick wit. It was on full display Thursday night during the TSO’s performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Coronation” Mass.
As he often does, Oundjian delivered pre-performance comments from the stage.
During his introductory remarks on the Mozart mass, Oundjian made a passing reference to the infamous poisonous relationship between Mozart and Antonio Salieri. The Salieri-Mozart feud, as fictionalized in Amadeus, the movie based on a play by Peter Shaffer, creates a story around Salieri alleged guilt over having murdered Mozart.
When Oundjian refers to the murder plot, the audience laughs.
About an hour and a half later — following the intermission — the performance of the “Coronation” Mass is well underway, nearing the final section. Canadian soprano Leslie Ann Bradley has just finished the Sanctus. There’s one more section to go, the Agnus Dei.
Just as the last notes of the Sanctus are struck, it begins.
It’s somebody’s cell phone, ringing from somewhere in the audience. Everybody pauses.
Oundjian — set to conduct the orchestra and chorus through the Agnus Dei — drops his baton to his side. Leslie Ann Bradley lets her hands relax. All of Roy Thomson hall is silent, waiting for the owner of the bleeping phone to shut the bleeping thing off. No such luck.
A musician could tell you what the tweerp’s key was. High. Not unpleasant. But Mozart’s “Coronation” Mass is on hold while somebody in the audience is biding time, or struggling to find the cell, or whatever.
Somebody in the audience (that would be me) shouts out: “Answer the phone!”
That gets a laugh. But still nothing.
It seems to have stopped.
At that point, Oundjian turns to the audience and says: “It’s Salieri calling to say he doesn’t like my tempos.”
That brings the house down.
Then the orchestra and chorus get back to work on the final Agnus Dei section of the Mozart.
That also brought the house down.