All the stuff I’ve written about “it’s okay to applaud between movements”? Well, I guess I lied!

I’m just home from a San Francisco Symphony chamber music concert with Yuja Wang. The first half of the program was the Dvorak Piano Quintet, Opus 81, and the second was the Brahms Piano Quintet, Opus 34. The audience applauded between each movement. Not just ones that are so exciting they couldn’t help themselves, but every single movement. It bugged me. It was especially annoying that some had to applaud even before the final notes had sounded fully some of the time. Is this just me being a snob? Is this just me being an old lady? I wonder.

The performances themselves were quite enjoyable. There were some clothing (costume?) choices I found unfortunate, but again, that’s probably just me being too darn picky or something, so I won’t go into all of that here. (I will say, though, that you take away the “must wear black and it must be long” option and you really do open up Pandora’s box!)

Any string players reading this? Have you played those works? Would you think it odd to hear applause after every movement? The players just disregarded it. I would have thought the audience might then have caught on, but they didn’t. And these weren’t just young’uns applauding. The older people in front of me certainly clapped.

Oh well. Guess I’m just a grumpy gus about this.


  1. Daniel V. Gurevich

    Funny, my father felt the same way. Well maybe not annoyed but furious! BYO was fortunate to get invited to a chamber concert played by musicians from the Vienna Philharmonic. We clapped through though every movement and I would have too if my dad hadn’t slapped my hands. After the first movement of the first piece, the musicians were astonished, not in a good way. They looked around not knowing what it meant and what they should do next.
    After the concert, my father and I went to their performance of the 6th symphony by Mahler. This time, sitting in the middle of a mature, grown-up audience, there was no clapping between movements. My dad was relieved by this second concert, with still hope in his heart that there still are good people in the world.

  2. I was surprised the applause kept going after every movement and at the significant number of people doing it. At first I thought it may have been due to the large number of students in the audience who may have been attending their first concert, but as you noted, it was a much larger percentage of the house.

    As for Wang’s choice of clothing (costume), I think people will be talking about that for some time.

  3. I honestly don’t mind applause after a very astounding and exciting movement, Daniel … but when it happens after each movement it is, to be, quite bothersome.

    Not sure it’s about “good people” … but maybe it is about “good listeners”! 😉

  4. Thanks for commenting, John. (And there did appear to be a good number of students there; discounted or comped tix perhaps?) The last time the audience seemed closer to this — although they didn’t applaud after every movement — was when I was invited to the “bloggers’ night” concert. I noted, at that time, that many in the audience appeared to be first timers. Perhaps these late-in-the-year concerts bring in more newbies? And I suppose I should just accept it. (I have some blogging and tweeting acquaintances who would say I’m being very uptight about it all.)

    And yes, I suspect there will be talk for a while about the choice of clothes. But maybe I’m just, again, too darn old or uptight? Good thing she’s at a piano, though, so that things remain blocked by the instrument. 😉

  5. I have always figured that the time between movements is just as much a part of the music as the notes themselves. Sometimes the pause is short – perhaps in the transition from a slow mournful movement into a livelier one. And sometimes it’s longer – perhaps following a movement with an exhilarating finish. I believe it is an emotional transition between movements and that the audience shouldn’t constrain the conductor with unnecessary clapping.

    That being said, I don’t mind so much if a really spectacular performance leads to clapping, so long as that clapping isn’t too long and doesn’t hinder the transition to the next movement.

  6. Yep, I’m with you, Nate. There HAVE been times when I’ve been at a performance (either on stage or in the audience) when a movement is so darn incredible and exciting it just screams for applause. In those instances I do understand the applause, and I welcome it! But this concert didn’t have one of those moments. Oh well!

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