From Clapping to Selling Out? – Jennifer Pizzuto

When Music Director Manfred Honeck took the stage Friday night, I nudged my friend and said proudly, “there’s my boy Honeck.”


“Do you know him?” She was slightly stunned by my apparent familiarity. 


“Well, no…not personally,” I admitted.  But then again, maybe I do know Honeck.  (And no, I am not referring to our crazy hood rat days, which is a different story entirely—stay focused.)  I feel as if I know him and I hope that other PSO concert-goers would echo this sentiment.  Seeing Honeck conduct our fabulous orchestra has become a familiar, comfortable sight, a fundamental part of the symphonic experience.  It is such a marvel to watch him work his magic.  His love for the orchestra and the music is beyond obvious.  He conducts the orchestra as a parent would care for his child—at times gentle and caring, at other times demanding, but always loving.


Garrick Ohlsson played the piano with a flourish of sparkle that was brilliant and moving.  Hearing Beethoven’s Concerto No. 4 was an experience for which I was not prepared.  After being unable to connect with Mozart, I was worried that Beethoven would spark that same inexplicable ambivalence.  It was not to be so.  I loved Beethoven.  The musicians who expertly brought his masterpieces to life are absolute geniuses…and I clap for them every time, after every movement.  I know I’m breeching symphony etiquette, which begs the question: what is the clapping rule?


I am aware that this discussion surfaced among the other bloggers about a month ago.  I am, as usual, behind the times.  (That girl wearing the yellow eighties scrunchie on Friday night—that was me.)   When is it improper to clap?  I’m a newbie to the symphony, so I truly don’t know, though to be honest, no one else seems to have any idea, either.  I try to abide by standard “when in Rome…” rule, but it’s not applicable when the Romans are not consistent.  I am throwing this question out there, with the hope  that someone will help a girl out.  Clapping guidelines, anyone?


While we’re on the subject of numero quattro (sort of, but not really), let’s chat about Bruckner for a moment.  The music was wonderful and I truly enjoyed Symphony No. 4…having said that, and being the perpetual drama queen that I am, I was intrigued by the back story.  Bruckner allowed two of his pupils to “revise” his score to a such a degree that it was completely unrecognizable.   The original version was discovered years later.  It is speculated that this was Bruckner’s intention—that the public was not yet ready to experience, nor could they understand, the scores as they were originally written.  Another possible explanation is that Bruckner permitted these modifications for the sole purpose of having his work performed.   I am appalled that his work was modified in any capacity, as it compromises the artistic integrity and intention of the work. 


Here’s the question: is it acceptable for an artist (musician, writer, painter, etc.) to alter her/his work so drastically from its original form that it is almost completely unrecognizable, even for the sake of public approval?  I understand that this may have been the only way that Symphony No. 4 would have been played, but I still cannot condone such distortion of one’s art. 

4 thoughts on “From Clapping to Selling Out? – Jennifer Pizzuto”

  • Regarding clapping, maybe it’s useful to think what function clapping serves. In part it’s a spontaneous reaction, but it’s also intended to let the performers know what you thought of their performance. If the performers expect that there will be silence between movements and applause held until the end, then it’s appropriate to be quiet.
    As for altering one’s own work and artistic integrity, I don’t feel it’s my place to judge an artist about decisions like this. Lots of work is collaborative, so accepting students’ modifications doesn’t lessen Bruckner in my eyes. And artists may well want to change a work after first hearing it performed — I’ve been reading John Adams’s “Hallelujah Junction,” and he tells of many times when he’s continued to revise a work after hearing it performed or conducting it, once he sees what worked about it and what didn’t.

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