22. January 2010 · 6 comments · Categories: Links

I recently landed at a blog that really dissed audience members for clapping between movements. I’ve read other blogs that do the same thing. (No links for now.) Some writers seem to think audience members who do that are idiots or uncouth. Some audience members are so nervous about applauding at the wrong time they don’t applaud at the end of a work, worried that somehow they’ve counted movements wrong or something. I was attending a chamber music concert where a group performed two works, and the audience didn’t applaud until after the second work, assuming it was all one piece. (Funny to think that, since the works were quite different!) After that, I sort of nominated myself as the a “lone claque” (can one be a “lone claque”? Seems not, but oh well!) for those concerts; someone needed to get some applause going!

And now I ran across this:

To Clap or Not to Clap
Our Masterworks concert last Friday caused quite a stir amongst us musicians. The audience applauded between each and every movement during the concert. They even made the review in the News Sentinel. This sparked a somewhat heated backstage debate on audience etiquette. Musician’s opinions on the subject fell on a wide spectrum from some really enjoying applause between movements to others who couldn’t stand it and felt the symphony should post signs instructing audiences to wait. Who knew applause could be so controversial?!

RTWT … it’s interesting!


  1. I LOVE applause, and the more the better IMHO! Obviously if there is a very poinient moment at the end of a slow movement it could shatter the mood – but usually people don’t tend to clap then anyway. It’s after Mars in the Planets – so exciting people HAVE to respond! I believe (although I can’t document) clapping only at the end of pieces was a late romantic thing – before that composers would go into a deep funk if the audience DIDN’T clap after every movement, and even after big solos (like jazz today?).

    And FWIW, I love to start the applause – at the end of pieces anyway. I think many audiences are unsure, and I’m a very enthusiastic clapper. No wonder some people aren’t excited to go to a symphony concert – when the people who should be encouraging their response are squelching it; with attitude!

  2. I’ll go for applause between movements too, Jill. When somethings ends hushed, though (even a last movement), I love it when an audience is so into it that they just sit for a moment to relish it. I’ve been at concerts when that’s happened and it’s incredibly wonderful. When someone applauds too soon after those it breaks the mood and I’ve seen conductors wince (not toward the audience, but as they face the orchestra) because it’s so startling.

    The article I linked to does give a good background regarding applause. I wish more people understood that this “applause rule” hasn’t always been around, and need to stick around!

  3. I was at a concert a while ago, and it was free and to introduce children to classical music. A lot of the people in the audience had never been to a classical concert before, I think, and after the first movement they started clapping. After the second movement they did it again, and the conductor turned around and told the audience how usually people don’t clap between movements, but only at the end of a piece. He then added that in Haydns time (they where playing Haydn) people DID clap between movements, even during a movement, and that Haydn would have liked this audience.
    People still clapped in between movements after that :p

  4. Well, everyone wants to please Haydn! (He might be listening … right?) 😉

  5. To be honest, I think people should not clap, EVEN at the end of the whole performance, if the music is particularly solemn or sober.

  6. That might work if the audience is told they can’t applaud, but otherwise they’d be awfully uncomfortable with silence.

    I’m curious; are you a performer?