A French concert program created a petite stir last year when it included this note: “Applaud when you like! The 20th-century fashion of not applauding between movements is historically absurd. Mozart never imposed silence.” It is well known that audiences in earlier times did indeed show their appreciation (or disdain) for performances between the movements of symphonies and other musical works, sometimes even DURING a performance.
Modern audiences are generally encouraged to hold their applause until all the movements of a piece have been played. Why? Some say a multi-movement piece is best appreciated by savoring in silence the pause and change of mood or connecting themes between movements. Others say it is a courtesy to help maintain the performers’ focus, and respect for the preferences of others in the audience who may find repeated outbursts of applause distracting. Yet, many performers will say that applause doesn’t bother them at all. And some music lovers will cite examples of music whose composers – particularly in the 19th century – created first and sometimes other movements to their concertos and symphonies that were clearly designed to elicit immediate, enthusiastic audience response.
We record SAMF performances and ask our audiences to hold their applause until the end of the last movement for a “cleaner” recording.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts on applause.