Letter: Grunting's noble musical tradition

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The Independent Online
Sir: 'Grunting' is not confined to tennis players: many great musicians have been known for their involuntary noises produced under the stress of total concentration as well as physical tension. In order to avoid such distractions, many members of the public chose seats at a respectful distance when Wilhelm Furtwangler was conducting, when Pablo Casals was playing the cello, when Vladimir Pachmann gave a piano recital, or when Glenn Gould was on the podium (to name only a few).

Mr Gould was fitted with a kind of gas mask at some recording sessions to prevent his 'grunts' appearing on his discs. Even the great Rudolf Serkin made occasional unconscious noises, such as sudden loud stamping of his leather-heeled shoe on the resounding parquet floor of the Festival Hall during a memorable performance of Beethoven's aptly named 'Hammerklavier' Sonata.

None of these great artists 'could help it'. While it may be desirable for Monica Seles, Jimmy Connors, and others, to try playing with a mute over their vocal cords, let their opponents on the Centre Court and the Wimbledon public wear earplugs if they 'can't take it' and emulate the musical audiences who suffered such irritations in silence or, at worst, with a benevolent smile.

Yours sincerely,

ALBI ROSENTHAL

Oxford

3 July

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