When is it appropriate? When is it not? Who makes the rules? Why are there rules? Who cares?!
Prompted by Andrew Druckenbrod’s thought-provoking article on the matter, and the media heat it has inspired (see a few of the on-line music critic responses from Greg Sandow, Mark Geelhoed and Alex Ross), I’d like to solicit your thoughts on the matter. What do you think of the traditions and our approach here in Pittsburgh and also further afield?
We ran an article in our Program Books for a couple of concerts, written by Leonard Slatkin (and copied in full below) and featured on the Adaptistration Blog. Although, as Andrew Druckenbrod pointed out to me earlier today, it’s not entirely consistent with the message we have in the back of our program books…
To clap or not to clap
By Leonard Slatkin
Concert season has opened around the world. Orchestras are tuning up, bringing out their
musical gifts to the concert going public. Most of the time, they know their efforts will be rewarded with rounds
of applause. They just don’t know when
this will occur.
I was reminded of the difficult choice the audience
must make in this regard, with a few concerts that I conducted during the past
When the Pittsburgh Symphony performed at the Proms
in London, Lang Lang was the soloist. He played the first concerto by Frederick
Chopin. When we concluded the [first] movement,
several thousand persons in the Albert Hall burst out with fervent, appreciated
applause. Lang Lang acknowledged them
with a bow.
A few weeks later, I was involved in a performance
of the Brahms Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham. On the first night, the audience applauded after the movement, but,
surprisingly perhaps, the subsequent two audiences refrained from any kind of
outburst other than coughing.
I cite these examples because it is clear that
audiences do not understand the etiquette that goes along with there [sic]
participation as part of the performance. Most of the time, most listeners just wait to see what others will do
and follow suit.
Well, the argument against premature applause is
usually that it interrupts the flow of the entire work. History tells us that this is a false
assumption. In the 18th and 19th centuries,
it was common for the audience to express its appreciation and demand, if not a
repeat of a movement, at least an encore of another selection.
The applause is not only to acknowledge the
performers and a particular portion of the work, but it is also a suitable way
to break the tension in a positive way. What happens when no one applauds? The audience coughs and finds other ways to release the buildup of
sitting for up to 25 minutes in silence.
I can only think of a few [musicians] that prefer
the silence. Most of us are delighted
that the audience is enjoying the performance and wants us to know it. But no sin has occurred. And there should be no embarrassment.
So, in summation, it is just fine to express
yourself at a concert. Those of us on
the stage will know if you really mean it and we will be thrilled. Just don’t overdo it with lengthy outbursts
that last well into the night. We all need to get to the restaurants before
Used under the terms of the Creative
Taken from original posting at:
Adaptistration; an ArtsJournal.com weblog on
orchestra management by Drew McManus, www.adaptistration.com