22. June 2011 · Comments Off on Applause, Applause … Sometimes · Categories: Applause

A couple of weekends ago, a friend and I went to a Sunday morning concert at London’s Wigmore Hall. With a free glass of sherry included, it’s a refined way to deal with the excesses of the night before, and naturally the quality of the music is excellent.

My friend had never been to a classical concert before and she enjoyed the first movement, so much that when the music finished she started to clap loudly. My neighbour glared, the lady in front swivelled 180 degrees to raise her eyebrows and loud shushing came from behind. My friend slunk low in her seat, mortified. “Why don’t they put up a sign,” she whispered. “How was I meant to know?” It does seem peculiar that hacking, coughing and spluttering are permissible, but clapping – a gesture of support and goodwill – will apparently distract musicians and audience so much it’s unacceptable.



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.

I’m home from the second of three concerts for Symphony Silicon Valley for this set. During Jon Nakamatsu‘s encore (he’s incredibly, by the way!) I heard this rumble and felt something. Looking over at the principal flutist we both mouthed “earthquake”. I assumed that’s what it was, but I’m not seeing any news about it and no one tweeted it. I’m assuming it was something else, then. But it was very weird.

By the way, our two soloists, Jon Nakamatsu and Jon Manasse are absolutely incredible. Really and truly.

After the Stravinsky tonight no one applauded. The conductor turned around and kind of gestured like “Yep, that’s it folks.” Then there was just a spattering of applause and again silence.

We have trained audiences to fear applauding at the wrong time so well they are now scared to applaud at all! I find this very sad.


Our principal bassist writes this: “The pit part of the stage apparently dropped slightly.” Ah-hah!

05. October 2010 · Comments Off on Applause (again) · Categories: Applause

Galas sometimes attract those unschooled in symphonic protocol, so I wasn’t surprised to hear some applause between movements. And Perlman and company should be used to such a reaction. While I appreciate the chance to silently soak in the completion of a movement and hear the purity of the beginning of the next, well, if an audience is inspired to show its appreciation for a performance, who am I to suggest that others restrain themselves?

What I found bothersome was the tittering that followed the applause. I couldn’t help but feel that some audience members were afraid that the great Perlman would think that we were a bunch of yokels for violating this rule of musical etiquette. (Perlman turned and made comments about it during a break, but I wasn’t in a position to hear what he said.)

Ultimately, the will-they-or-won’t-they hurt but didn’t ruin a strong musical evening.

As usual, a read of Marianne Williams Tobias’ excellent program notes was instructive. In writing about the Dvorak, she said, “The symphony was an instant success, both in America and Europe. At the New York premiere, December 16, 1893, applause followed every movement.”

I do think it’s even more annoying to deal with the shushing, uncomfortable laughter, or haughty sniffling that seems to happen when the between-the-movements applause occurs. Can’t we all just lighten up a little and relax?

I read it here.

I remember hearing someone make some noise at a concert once and the shushing by others was worse than the initial noise. Silly, eh?

(Yes, I’ve posted a lot today. Call it Gypsy Airs procrastination, if you will; I have to work on Kodaly and Dohnanyi and for some reason I keep hesitating. But no longer … off I go!)

24. March 2010 · Comments Off on More On Applause · Categories: Applause, Reviews

We also had those who had little concept of audience behavior by clapping between movements, and even clapping while a movement was in progress. Concerts (and concertos) require careful teamwork and skill, but it ain’t a football game. Wait until after the (concerted) touchdown to applaud, please.

This is from David Lowry, in his review of a concert that included an oboist who won a concerto competition (thus, the reason I located the article). The orchestra being reviewed is the “USC Orchestra”. Since I’m from California I first thought he was writing about University of Southern California. Not so. He is referring to University of South Carolina.

So, once again, someone is reprimanding the audience for applauding at the inappropriate times. I guess this practice that some stick to and some want to dismiss will always cause problems, yes? (Read my earlier post here.)

Here’s the section that reviews the oboist:

Melanie Pozdol elected to perform Eugene Goossens’ Concerto, op. 45. Goossens, an English composer of the 20th century. Collaborating with her was conductor Ya-Hui Cheng. This concerto is in one movement with some intensely interesting writing and brilliant orchestration. Soloist, orchestra and conductor all excelled with the preparation and interpretation of this work. For the oboist, the work is indeed formidable in the amount of control and virtuosity it demands. Melanie matched the requirements and turned in a rewarding performance. Again, she has the ear, the musicianship and the stamina to be a fine member of the rare world of double reeds.

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!