A particularly delightful aspect of this evening was the apparent comeback of what was once utterly taboo in the classical music world: Clapping between movements.

Ten years ago clapping between movements would get you glared out of the building. But more and more audiences — either through enlightenment or simply not knowing any better — have brought back this original, historically correct way to show appreciation (classical musicians love it).

I read it here. As far as the “classical musicians love it” … well … it depends. Some do. Some don’t. I’ve found that the younger ones actually are more annoyed by the applause than some of us older folk. I enjoy it when it’s that spontaneous, just can’t help ourselves sort of applause. I don’t like it when it disrupts the mood.

Other people have jumped into this a bit. Some like it. Some don’t. Some don’t say.

Eric Edberg
Elaine Fine
Lou Harry
Charles Noble
Tim Smith

As I wrote at Eric Edberg’s site:

I’m fine with applause after an exciting movement that simply calls for it. It really is spontaneous sometimes, and that sort of thing shouldn’t be denied (in my little opinion). At the same time, there are movements that call for a response of absolutely awe and silence. I think most audience members would sense that, although not all.

Currently the hushing and horrified looks that come when some poor unknowing (or knowing) soul applauds is as bothersome as applause at the wrong time … or maybe even more bothersome.

Alex Ross started it. Here’s a link to the PDF full text.

So how do you feel about the issue? Do you care?

Need some applause right now? I know I could use some!


  1. One day hopefully I’ll be a good enough oboist to play in an orchestra or ensemble deserving of applause, and I’m sure I won’t mind a bit! Having only taken it up as an adult some seven months ago though, that’s a little in the distance.

    As a concertgoer I try to be slightly restrained between movements but if someone puts in a particularly moving or lively performance (or someone’s just played the EH solo from Dvorak 9 largo even marginally competently; I just adore that piece) then hang the glares, I’m clapping!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Kevin! I wish you all the best in your “oboing”!

    Now that solo in New World … well … that IS one where, as the English hornist, I’d actually prefer silence. It’s just such a moving movement, and so I just like the thoughtful silence at the end. (But I promise not to glare if you do clap. Inwardly I’d probably shudder a wee bit, though. 😉

  3. I’m pretty much with you, Patty. Some slow movements end so exquisitely and softly that the silence is, to me, part of the piece. But, as I said in my post, after the first movement of the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto, it’s ridiculous not to applaud.

    We’re so used to the LP-like silence in between movements now that it would take quite a while to get used to something else, that’s for sure!

  4. I agree, Eric. I remember spontaneous applause after a first movement of a violin concerto (can’t remember which now) and I really felt it was not only okay, but really it demanded it! The violinist (so sorry I can’t remember anything about this other than what I’m writing here) responded with a gracious bow. I believe he agreed! 🙂

  5. I’m neutral on the issue. If the piece calls for an enthusiastic applause then go ahead and give it your all. However, some of the slower pieces my require a moment of silence. Either way it doesn’t really bother me.

  6. Pingback: More On Applause at oboeinsight

  7. I think that there are times when, after the end of a movement (spectacular or introspective) that the composer’s intent is to contrast that mood with what follows, and to applaud at that point disrupts a larger flow of the ‘experience’.

    But when a truly exciting performance makes the listener so antsy they have to get it out, then fine.

    I do deplore the obligatory applause, just because the movement is over…

  8. Did you read Alex Ross’s speech, Bob? It really makes one wonder about what those composers really did want!