14. June 2010 · Comments Off on Leonard Slatkin Blogs About the Applause Issue · Categories: Other People's Words

Over the years there has been a constant argument about when an audience should applaud. Certainly at the end of a piece, unless they are bored or hate it, in which case boos are appropriate. But what to do in the case of Concerti, where after a virtuoso display, including cadenza in the first movement, there is a rush to positive judgment in the form of clapping?
I have no problem with this. In fact, it is part of tradition, going back to at least the classical age. No one is sure when this was considered bad form, much less who started discouraging the expression of satisfaction. It is certainly preferable to coughing.
The trouble lies with the symphonic canon, and since we were playing one of the most glaring examples of premature applause, Tchaik 6, the situation was bound to come up. Surprisingly, almost every concert I did on this trip had at least one moment of audience participation earlier than expected. In Lyon, it was after the first movement, not of Rachmaninov’s 3rd Concerto but the 3rd Symphony. Frankfurt heard a ripple after the 1st movement of the Fantastique.
At the end of the 3rd movement in the 6th, I held up my hands to try and keep the sound of silence the order of the evening. No luck. In fact there was quite an ovation. I thought we could leave the stage and only a few people would notice that we did not play the last movement. But still, the applause here does not bother me. It seems natural.
However, at the end of the symphony, there is the most sublime sound of lower strings, fading as if the last breath of the composer were being pulled from his chest. We had played a beautiful pianissimo and I did not bring my arms down or even give a cut-off for the orchestra. One gentleman in the seats to my left and behind the orchestra began to cheer and applaud. A few others joined in and then most people realized we were not quite finished and it stopped. But it was too late. The damage to the moment was done and I could only bring my arms down and try to compose myself.
It is a fine line between letting the audience express itself and stepping beyond the boundary. Some orchestras print guidelines in the program book. A few conductors glare at the patrons, possibly risking embarrassment to all. There is really not much that we can do, other than hope that people know a little bit as to what is expected of them.

I read it here.

I’ve never had the opportunity to play in an orchestra conducted by Mr. Slatkin. I haven’t a clue what he’s like. But I do enjoy his blog entries (or “notes” as he calls them). I know there has been some discussion about him recently regarding the whole Met/Slatkin/Gheorgiu thing, since he has now give his side of the story, but I’m just not into going there so if you want conversation about that you’ll have to travel elsewhere.

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