I attended a concert recently at the Center for the Performing Arts. It was a fabulous concert featuring the D-major violin concerto by Beethoven. The audience clapped at the end of the first movement – traditionally a “no-no” in the classical music world. It got me thinking about this topic again and then, lo and behold, my friend Vince Lee (the Associate Conductor of the ISO) posted these comments on Facebook:
“I’ve been musing/mulling over this subject for a while (and my opinion on this was largely settled) but after last night’s ISO concert, I am now even more convinced: applause between movements of a work is awesome.
Forget all of the historical/factual reasons for this (which, in a nutshell, are the late 1800s German Romantics who created this idea of the concert hall as hallowed ground, followed by the recording-minded maestros of the early 1900s.)
Forget that, otherwise, the breaks between movements are an awkward combination of silence, rustling programs/page turns, shifting bodies, and unpleasant ambient sounds from orchestra and audience alike. (SERIOUSLY, hearing applause after last night’s Beethoven 5 1st movement was so refreshing, compared to the standard clearing of throats and turning of pages that usually fills the sound space.)
Even forget the fact that the conductor and/or the music can have a direct influence on the moments that you *don’t* want applause. For instance, after the first half of last night’s RITE, the energy was so intense that a full 30+ seconds of silence passed before a quick smattering of applause emerged and disappeared. And *everything* was silent- no coughs, no nuthin’.
Simply put, it’s counter-intuitive and counter-expressive to not applaud in between movements! A big talking point for most musical non-profits is “moving” (emotionally/mentally/psychologically) the audience with an experience that can only happen at a live concert. But, according to unofficial rules that are younger than Brahms, one isn’t supposed to express how they were moved until the entire experience is over.
Luckily, the applause-shaming has largely died out over the last 10 years, several articles on this subject have been published, and a handful of organizations have even come out as pro-applause in their program books. In order to actually change this unofficial rule, though, it would take a joint effort between all of the major orchestral organizations across the country! I think it will happen eventually…until then, I’ll definitely smile every time audience folks show their appreciation in between movements.”
I tend to agree with Vince. What are your thoughts?