Saturday, 21 July 2018

To clap or not to clap.

Last week-end I watched the First Night of the Proms - and thoroughly enjoyed the first half.   Not so sure about the 'new' piece with lighting effects in the second half (but that's another story).
The performance of Holst's Planets Suite was superb;  I enjoyed every single minute of it - I was entranced.   It is a suite I know well and I also think that the conductor is probably the best in the world to conduct it as he also knows it well. 

The audience did rather irritate me because in the first two or three movements (which have an interval between) many of them applauded.   The conductor smiled.   The players waited for the applause to stop.   Then the suite continued.   I wondered what the players and the conductor thought to what I saw as interruptions.

Today there is an article by a player written in The Guardian in which she says that players often enjoy applause between movements.  It gives them time to collect themselves, it lightens the atmosphere, it shows how much they are enjoying it. 

Do you have an attitude to this?   If you go to a classical concert do you applaud between movements if you are enjoying it? Perhaps I shall have to rethink my attitude.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a difficult one. If the performance of a piece is stunning ( I'm thinking opera here mainly) then spontaneous applause can be really uplifting. However - I have attended concerts and performances where it all feels a little perfunctory i/e/ pause / clap / move on/ pause /clap / move on.

The most interesting experience we had was a performance a few years ago at the Kings Lynn Festival of a cello piece by Kodaly. It was extremely complicated for the performer but also difficult to listen to for the audience - quite discordant. At the end the applause was rapturous. It was difficult to to work out whether is was an appreciation of the difficulty and execution of the piece - or just sheer relief that we'd got to the end! (Debbie)

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

The Proms were planned to attract a new audience to classical music and originally eating, drinking and smoking, as well as wandering about, were allowed, so presumably a bit of clapping now and then would have been tolerated too. Nowadays of course audiences are quite used to movements being played in isolation on Classic FM and quite possibly don't know them in any other context. I only hope that those who applauded were made welcome and will go to hear classical again.

Bonnie said...

I prefer no clapping between movements. Let the music settle in silence & listen to the change in the next movement. Silence is an ideal partner to music.
I'd like to say to audience members: it's not about YOU! Don't ruin the experience for others.

Carol said...

Please keep in mind that my comment is based in more than half a century of playing the oboe. In a piece with several movements, I find a need to maintain a continuity in my concentration during the interval. Applause signifies an ending, and in the wrong place breaks that continuity. Usually I feel that rather than a response to the intensity of the music, applause between movements indicates an audience that doesn't know the music and thinks the performance is over. In short, as a persnickity musician, I don't like it.

Midmarsh John said...

Personally I would be irritated, as an audience member, by any applause before the end. For me it would break the magic of listening to and being absorbed in wonderful music. It is many years since I went to a live performance. How I miss the three years I spent in Coventry when I attended many concerts given by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. No applause between movements in those days.

That reminded me of the time I went to a classical concert in Coventry Cathedral. Apparently it had been agreed there would by no applause allowed. At the last moment we were informed we could applaud and several of the clergy attending promptly got up and walked out as they considered it not the done thing in a CofE place of worship. Things have probably changed since the sixties.

jinxxxygirl said...

Well Pat , I have never been to a classical concert... I honestly wouldn't know when to clap..sad to say ... If there was a pause.. i would be inclined to clap.. not knowing any better.. Perhaps that was the problem.. A few people not knowledgeable about how things are done at classical concerts felt they should clap during the pause and others followed along?? The conductor didn't seem to mind.. perhaps he expected the confusion.. Nice that he had a sense of humor about it. Hugs! deb

No Roots said...

I can understand why The Proms is welcomimg applause. For many people it is an accessible and popular introduction to classical music. The Proms are probably visited by many tourists too, who may not know the etiquette. Canute could not hold back the tide...
Personally, I much prefer the silence, it lets the music 'soak in'.
I can't see more provincial orchestras embracing this trend yet either. Hyacinth Bucket springs to mind!

Gwil W said...


The advantage for applauding between movements is that it would drown the coughing brigade.

I have no reason to disagree with Alfred Brendel. And I believe in keeping quiet during the whole performance. What annoys me intensely is people who start applauding and shouting bravo as soon as the last note has been played, and sometimes before the last note has died away and a moment of respectful silence is a requisite. But what can we do? We can only take the rough with the smooth.

Heather said...

This is a tricky one. If one knows a piece, one knows when to clap and when not. ! expect experienced musicians forgive us for any over enthusiasm.

Gwil W said...

By the way, it's reported a few days ago that a huge amount of original sheet music, 350 pieces of music I think, Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, have been destroyed by water getting in to the storage place in Vienna. I think they said its in the cathedral. In any event some pieces can't ever be played again . . . seems there are no copies. It's a scandal if it's all true. Now they are trying to salvage and dry out what can be salvaged. I think I imagined the whole thing as I've not heard a word about it in the days following.

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

The modern prom on Friday was rather harder listening for you, I'll wager. Jacob Collier? Very showy!

Bonnie said...

My son was a college music major and used to perform in many classical concerts with both the university and with other orchestras. He is one that is quite serious about the music and it always bothered him when there was clapping during those breaks. However, I do understand that not everyone is familiar with some of the classical pieces and they do mean well. If I am not familiar with the music I will wait just a bit before clapping - just in case!

Anonymous said...

My choir director used to say, " Don't clap until the conductor has put down his
hands."

Cro Magnon said...

I remember seeing Nigel Kennedy in Brighton, and much the same happened. Of course being him, he simply turned round and said 'Shut up'. We did.

Rozzie said...

As a teenager I played viola in the Queensland Youth Orchestra. It was a long time ago but I seem to recall our conductor addressing the audience (many of whom were as young as we were) and explaining that they were not to applaud until the symphony was over. I think I'd have been put off otherwise.

These days as a listener only, I am irritated if I hear clapping before it is due, even as I accept many people don't understand the nuances of a symphony.

Librarian said...

Like most of the readers who have commented before me, I was taught (from a young age, since our parents made sure we were introduced to classical music early on) not to clap until the end of a concert or a "piece", depending on the circumstances.
If someone does a particularly impessive solo performance, I think applause is appropriate, but one has to develop "antennas" to feel when it is right and when it is not.
Gwil definitely has a point about the coughing!

Rachel Phillips said...

Jacob Collier is very articulate and I enjoyed listening to him on Proms Extra in the studio last night. As for clapping in the wrong place I do not feel strongly one way or the other but I think Nigel Kennedy has got it right, as Cro describes.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Interesting resposes and so many slightly different views. I must point out that the woman who wrote the article (can't remember her nane) was herself a player in one of the major orchestras.
Gwil's comments amused me - and Nigel Kenne.dy's response - brilliant.
I must admit it does irritate me greatly when folk destroy the silencebetween movements

Tom Stephenson said...

I would not want to appear ignorant by clapping before a piece had finished. I would rather be seen as highly critical by not clapping at all, as if I thought it was a crap performance. Ha ha!