Transmission of today’s BBC Radio 3 Wigmore Hall lunchtime recital,
given by the Jerusalem String Quartet, was abandoned after a group of
anti-Israeli protesters infiltrated the hall and disrupted the
performance with shouts, chants and bursts of song. The concert
continued once the demonstrators had been removed, but the broadcast was
replaced by a performance of the same repertoire by the Salomon
Quartet.

Wigmore Hall director John Gilhooly told CM that
there had been pickets outside the hall earlier in the morning, so some
sort of disturbance was not entirely unexpected, especially in the light
of a similar protest that took place when the Jerusalem Quartet
appeared at the Edinburgh festival a few years ago. ‘But today’s
demonstration was evidently extremely well planned,’ he said.

‘The
protesters must have bought their tickets for the concert a long time
ago, because they were all sitting in individual seats in different
parts of the hall. One stood up and started singing and shouting, and
while we were removing him another one started up somewhere else, and so
on.’

The quartet continued to play and completed its programme –
Mozart’s String Quartet in D K575 and Ravel’s String Quartet in F. ‘The
concert took an hour and 20 minutes instead of an hour, and the
atmosphere in the hall was very tense,’ said Mr Gilhooly.

The
Radio 3 broadcast was truncated ‘in order to deny these people
publicity’, and replaced with a performance of the same repertoire by
the Salomon Quartet. The Jerusalem players stayed on afterwards to
re-record some sections of the music and a patched version of the
recital will be broadcast in Saturday’s repeat slot.

Posters to
the Radio 3 Performance message board reported that the protest had been
announced on Sunday in a Twitter message urging protesters to join an
‘urgent demo against Jerusalem Quartet 12.30 Wigmore Hall’ to ‘boycott
ambassadors of apartheid Israel’.

The
protest was organised by the Brighton and Hove Palestine Solidarity campaign,
which issued a press release stating that it had organised the demonstration in
order to draw attention to the Jerusalem Quartet’s strong links to the Israeli
army and Israel’s crimes against Palestinians.

However,
commentators on the event have pointed out that military service is compulsory
in Israel and that one member of the quartet, cellist Kyril Zlotnikov, works
with Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, founded to bring Jewish
and Arab musicians together.

In response to the incident Mr Gilhooly said: ‘I
want to make the point very strongly that we can’t possibly condone any
kind of disturbance to an artistic event. Wigmore Hall is a totally
non-political organisation, and by disrupting performances the
protesters completely take away the whole meaning of an artistic event,
which is something that transcends politics.’