The chorus of coughing between movements is a familiar sound to orchestral audiences – especially during winter concerts – but coughing during the music can be distracting for both musicians and listeners. Just this month Limelight’s editor Jo Litson overheard one audience member politely ask another to leave when her coughing failed to ease. The formidable Italian maestro Riccardo Muti– in Sydney earlier this year for performances with the Australian World Orchestra– took things a step further during a concert with his regular band, bringing the entire Chicago Symphony Orchestra to a halt on Saturday night, the Chicago Tribune has reported.

Riccardo Muti, Australian World Orchestra, AWO Riccardo Muti conducting the Australian World Orchestra. Photo © David Collins

The famously stern maestro dropped his arms and the orchestra stopped playing after a quiet moment in Cherubini’s Chant sur la Mort de Joseph Haydnwas disrupted by talking audience members and a loud cough. While the conductor is not above making jokesin rehearsal, music is a serious business for Muti – as he told Limelight’s Clive Paget, “to make music is something sacred and demanding.”