Audience etiquette shows ambivalence over clapping between movements

Posted on: May 29, 2012

In Tuesday’s (5/29) Chicago Tribune, Mark Caro writes, “At Symphony Center and other classical music halls around the world, there’s a widely accepted way for concertgoers to behave during the space between one movement’s end and the next one’s beginning. … They don’t clap. Except sometimes they do. Last month in Moscow, for instance, the audience applauded between movements of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s take on Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5. In Pilsen a few weeks later, a more neighborhood-oriented audience clapped between movements as cellist Yo-Yo Ma and four CSO musicians played Brahms’ Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34. … So what’s going on here? … ‘In earlier times people applauded between movements of symphonies,’ said University of Chicago emeritus music professor and historian Philip Gossett. … On the CSO’s tour, music director Riccardo Muti noted that audiences not only used to applaud between movements but sometimes would call for the composer to take a bow. Gossett said the practice of remaining silent stems from the German tradition…. Yet this approach does not jibe with the way people react to almost any other type of music. People clap after virtuosic jazz solos or rock solos or impressive vocal performances…. To CSO bassist Steve Lester, the discussion isn’t about behavior but the music itself. ‘I know some people think the convention of not applauding between movements is archaic. I think there’s more to it than that. There are times when it makes musical sense not to interrupt.’ ”

Posted May 29, 2012