I do have one big complaint about audiences in all countries, and that is their artificial restraint from applause between movements of a concerto or symphony. Of course applause should be spontaneous, not dutiful, but often it is the most natural thing to applaud between movements.

-Pierre Monteux

Terry Teachout has written about applause for the Wall Street Journal. He, too, thinks we can lighten up about the whole applause issue, suggesting opera and ballet goers could teach others a thing or two. He also agrees with me (so he must be right!) that there are those times that silence should come first. When a work has torn at your guts, and ends in a hush, it doesn’t even feel right to jump in with loud clapping until you’ve managed to bask in the ahhh of it all.

2 Comments

  1. That’s exactly the point, I think – you should be able to express your appreciation without worrying that you’re following some convention. In other words, one shouldn’t feel obliged to jump in clapping as soon as something ends any more than one should feel obliged to wait until the end of a multiple-movement piece to clap. I mean, when something really comes together, it should spread through the audience until they’re all feeling the same thing; no one should have to be thinking about “when do I clap, do I clap now?”

    Just my $14.83 (inflation and all).

  2. At SJ Youth Symphony they applaud between everything — or did at the last concert I attended. But then what I’m finding to be more common these days is that people get SO worried about clapping in the wrong place they don’t clap when appropriate. The audience at the chamber music concerts not only doesn’t applaud between movements, but if a group is playing two works by two composers, they don’t applaud after the first work! I finally just decided I’d hire myself … I’ve become a self-appointed claque. Hired for no pay, of course, but whatever.