Clapping in between movements and coughing (concerts).

October 30, 2017, 10:18 PM · I was just wondering what your opinion was on clapping between movements and excessive coughing during concerts because i went to a concert yesterday (Janine Jansen: Sibelius Violin concerto - and yes it was amazing) and the audience seemed to all have the cold! And clapping between movements does tend to get quite frustrating sometimes. anyways what do you guys think?

Replies (63)

Edited: October 30, 2017, 10:29 PM · I personally think clapping between movements is just fine. If there is a movement after which immediate applause would spoil the mood, the performers should take their time signaling that they are done. For coughing, it should go without saying that it's ok, especially since it can be rather involuntary.
I believe that the classical music audiences should return to the way they were a couple of centuries ago, which was the way many audiences at rock, jazz, and pop concerts are now. I don't know how it all got to be so darn uptight. I think our snobbery is turning potential new fans away.
October 31, 2017, 12:26 AM · A spontaneous burst of applause at the end of a movement is just great. Unfortunately it tends to become customary and a portion of the audience (e.g. at the BBC Proms) thinks it has to applaud after every movement, out of kindness!
October 31, 2017, 4:31 AM · It depends a lot on the piece!

If you have a a concerto where the first movement ends with a big flourish - applause is great.

If you have a more meditative piece then I find applause between movements a bit irritating. Less true of solo repertoire than of say Mahler symphonies.

I also get frustrated by applause at the end of a piece that is too soon. I go to the Proms a lot and it's really noticeable that after some deeply emotional performance the people right at the back of the hall will start clapping the moment the baton goes down, at times when people at the front want to spend a few seconds or longer in silence.

October 31, 2017, 6:07 AM · I agree with Lieschen regarding clapping.

Excessive coughing is rude and distracting. If you can't keep the cough under wraps through the use of cough syrup, non-crinkly cough drops and/or careful breathing while waiting for the loud parts, you're probably not well enough to be at the concert.

October 31, 2017, 6:53 AM · I agree that it depends on the music. Last year I attended a concert that ended with Shostakovich 8. quartet - a piece after which you don't feel like clapping at all. There was this one guy who wanted to show that he knew the piece had finished - you know the type - so he applauded loudly even before the bows were down. But no-one else in the audience joined him, so eventually he stopped again. Then the quartet took down the bows and after a while the rest of us clapped.
Was it Victor Borge who said: "Why do people go to concerts when they have a cold. They should go to the doctor instead."
Edited: November 4, 2017, 9:24 AM · As a person who generally listens to music with his eyes closed, I do not appreciate the "ignoratti" who applaud between movements and break my spell. EDIT: But I will admit that there have been some performances in which anon-ultimate movement has been so spectacular that an ovation is warranted and OK.

Also, I hate the sickos who cough through a performance because they should have listened to Borge's advice; (I once had to sit through an extra 2 measures of Mahler's 8th with MTT and the San Francisco Symphony because during that and all 2 previous performances those measures had been infected by audience noises and had to be re-recorded. The recording won an Emmy the next year!)

BUT - here I am, with a cold, I have the $100 tickets I bought a year ago to the only performance Itzhak Perlman will ever give in my lifetime or his in my small city with my regional orchestra.
WHAT SHOULD I DO?

October 31, 2017, 8:54 AM · One thing I forgot to think about that others have raised is that the coughing could be contagious, which isn't nice to have in an audience.

Also, I wouldn't be opposed to some designated low-noise concerts sprinkled in to the regular series to help include those who have certain disorders which lend themselves to issues with excessive noise in the concert experience. But then again, complementary ear plugs could be provided.

Edited: October 31, 2017, 9:00 AM · I agree with Lieschen and Mary Ellen about clapping. I don't think it's really a big deal, but hopefully not at the end of the second movement of the Tchaikovsky, for example.

Some coughing has to be tolerated. We are all human. But people with a bad cough should remember that they are not the only ones who have been looking forward to the concert for months. Hundreds of other people have too. Also I think teaching one's kids how to control a cough is a basic parenting function.

Andrew -- opiods control cough very well. See your physician for a specific prescription and dosage recommendations. You should only need one. Get an Uber instead of driving.

Adding on to what Lieschen said, yawning is also contagious.

October 31, 2017, 9:00 AM · "BUT - here I am, with a cold, I have the $100 tickets I bought a year ago to the only performance Itzhak Perlman will ever give in my lifetime or his in my small city with my regional orchestra.
WHAT SHOULD I DO?"

Codeine for the cough, coffee so the codeine doesn't put you to sleep, hand sanitizer in your pocket, sit at the end of a row near the exit.

(I am not a doctor and I would hope nobody takes this as actual medical advice.)

Edited: October 31, 2017, 9:23 AM · I think that if you have an urge/need to cough, many will try to hold it and politely relief their discomfort in between parts/pieces. They don't mean to disturb someone's zen moment, they're human and it's the most appropriate time to do it if you have to, and perhaps why so many people seem to cough at that moment, which happens to be when it is most noticeable also. Not mentioned also, many times my urge to cough is induced by some ladies wearing perfume, scented hairspray and variety of other beauty products, which is to say the least, irritating.

As for clapping, many don't know how many movements a particular piece has, and most programs utterly fail to indicate that critical piece of information (and sometimes one movement flows into another one with only a change of tempo without any noticeable break to confuse the poor unaware listener even more). I've lost count of how many time my spouse asked: is this the end? How do you know when to clap or not? I'm sure she's not the only one.

Edited: October 31, 2017, 9:13 AM · "I believe that the classical music audiences should return to the way they were a couple of centuries ago, which was the way many audiences at rock, jazz, and pop concerts are now"

Because classical musical contains much greater subtlety, and because it's rarely amplified, I would not wish to have people behaving as they do at rock or pops concerts. Can you imagine starting a long cadenza with people screaming? Can you imagine people eating hot dogs, or smoking pot and drinking and yelling with an orchestra trying to perform Das Lied or Barber's Adagio or the funeral march from Betthoven 7th? People need to tolerate silence in church, or at a college lecture, or a yoga class.
We don't invite people to yell and drink and dance in these venues either.

Classical music is not the same as a pop, rock, or jazz concert. We don't like silence because we're snobs--we need it because the music itself demands it. It's like saying the viewing experience of an action movie is the same as viewing a miniature painting by a Dutch master at the Louvre. Or that stuffing yourself at the drive-though on a road trip is the same as dining at a fine French restaurant.

I was at a BSO concert when David Zinmann turned around at the coughing and said "the artist needs a canvas. We need silence."

Coughing is involuntary. But yes, I agree that classical music needs silence as its canvas.

Edited: October 31, 2017, 9:16 AM · I went to a concert where there was someone who was SNORING during the quiet parts, and to another concert where someone seated at the third row was conducting through Beethoven's Emperor Concerto. Not fun at all...

Most of the time, people restrain their coughs until the end of the movement. The silence between movements is when everyone starts fidgeting and clearing their throats.

Aside from clapping, there are those moments where the audience just exhales at the same time, usually after the last note has died down. It's pretty surreal. It was as if everyone was holding their breaths up until that moment.

October 31, 2017, 9:57 AM · Since clapping is intended to convey appreciation for the music I see no problem with that. I have never been in a situation where the clapping was annoying.

I would agree with others who say to take good cold medication before the concert. I have played piano gigs with a bad cold and made it through ok.

Some things are unavoidable. It almost seems things happen at the worst possible moment. I have had to exit a quiet moment when I had a scratch in my throat, probably from the lack of humidity in the space. I have been known to hold my nose when sneezing if it happens at a bad time. That almost blows my eyeballs out lol. But it does prevent the noise from happening.

In some settings kids can be a real problem. I'm guessing most leave the kids at home at classical concerts.Most mothers will get up right away with the child. This doesn't change the fact that everything was interrupted and why they probably shouldn't be there in the first place.

I attended a violin recital on Sunday. The player has spent the last 8 months practicing the music. The last thing I wanted to do was make it more difficult for her to concentrate. My thoughts were not really on what I could or couldn't hear. It was more about making sure she did well.

October 31, 2017, 11:15 AM · Timothy, I think we need to be more patient with kids. I have heard others express similar sentiments about kids in other public places such as restaurants, airplanes, parties, and religious services. How else are they supposed to learn how to behave at a concert if we don't have the expectations and the practice opportunities for them in concerts, or in general public discourse?

I think, barring extenuating circumstances, such as disabilities, most kids can be trained to fit in with what's currently expected in a particular venue. When I visited China and played some concerts in various cities there,one of the first things I noticed was how many families brought their toddlers along for the ride, and how they stayed completely silent throughout the entire program, which was often around an hour long. I didn't see so much as a wiggle from them. I didn't witness one disruptive child. Now compare that to the West where we see disruptive children in public all the time. My guess is that we just don't have standards for these kids, and that they would be able to rise up if we just had some more expectations.

October 31, 2017, 11:20 AM · Snoring just makes no sense. Why come if you can't stay awake?
Edited: October 31, 2017, 11:58 AM · I think kids can learn to behave at a concert without having that learning experience take place at a formal 8 PM concert with expensive tickets. There are concerts designed for families that make a better first introduction. Don't bring your kid to a Bruckner concert that starts at 8 PM on a Saturday night unless you already know for a fact that your child can sit still for that long without disturbing those around you, and will get something out of it.

Drives me absolutely crazy when a gorgeous soft moment is ruined by a shrieking baby or toddler. Even if the parent immediately removes the child from the hall (and usually these parents don't act right away, thus prolonging the agony), the moment is ruined for stage and audience alike.

Yeah, yeah, I know, *my* child is special, *my* child knows how to behave...if that's true, then great, bring your child. But if your child's bedtime is 8:30 PM and the concert starts at 8 PM (and especially if the program is long and heavy), then it is not fair to either your child or the rest of the paying audience to set up a situation destined to fail. Unless you have the psychic ability to remove your child before the crying actually begins, please be considerate and wait for a more appropriate performance.

Editing to add that I don't hate children; I have three of my own, all of whom started attending concerts when they were old enough to be reliably well behaved. Before that point, we listened to music at home, and I took them to less formal performances.

Edited: October 31, 2017, 12:25 PM · My solution for bringing my kid to a concert was always to bring a bag of books (and, when he was very small, cheerios, which I would dole out one by one every time he looked like he was about to make a peep). I rationalized the rudeness of reading with the theory that at least he wasn't disrupting others' enjoyment and was staying quiet (and the music was still seeping into his brain). Still, it was stressful

I agree with Mary Ellen: matinees and shorter concerts are a much better option for most kids.

Funny story about applause: my dad used to fall asleep during concerts at Duke--something about sitting way up in the balcony and the warmth and quiet was soporific. Usually it was no big deal but one time he awoke with a start as a movement concluded and began loudly clapping. Oops.

October 31, 2017, 12:40 PM · I have had kids of my own and they both have kids, so I have been exposed to those kinds of situations.

I agree with Mary on letting the kids go to something more accepting of kids. Maybe start with a local community concert.

I am not against kids getting all of the rich music education possible for them. Where I might part with some is the venue chosen for those of a very young age.

Much of it has to do with the upbringing and disposition of the child too. Some kids I would trust at 6 years old, some I wouldn't. This is a reflection both on the parents and the child.

October 31, 2017, 1:11 PM · Not clapping between movements is at most a dubious tradition. If they are so moved they want to clap, they should be able to clap. When I had a recital I specifically did NOT mention not to clap between movements and my partner agreed we would just let them clap if they wanted to. As for coughing, it’s not healthy to hold in coughs so while it may be distracting, no one should get the stink eye unless they’re deliberately trying to sabotage the concert.
October 31, 2017, 1:13 PM · Earlier this year I played a recital in a very pleasant, intimate space (seating around 100 people) designed for chamber music. The daytime concert was heavy on retirees, unsurprisingly, and right down the center aisle, no more than a handful of feet from me, was placed a gentleman in a wheelchair.

Said gentleman fell asleep, snoring, while I was tuning. He then proceeded to sleep (and snore loudly) through the entire 20 minutes of Stravinsky's Suite Italienne, played at high volume both by myself and the pianist. The applause afterwards finally woke him up.

October 31, 2017, 1:58 PM · If someone's coughs are distracting in the middle of a concert, they absolutely should get the stink eye unless they are doing the proper thing and very quietly getting up and exiting the hall.

I hold in coughs all the time onstage at certain times of the year (allergies). It's a simple matter of not breathing deeply (and/or using cough drops and/or a prior half-dose of codeine) until either the brass are covering up everything else or the applause has started. It isn't unhealthy, it's considerate. If the cough is bad enough so that the aforementioned measures don't work, I leave the stage--that's happened maybe once or twice in a 30+ year career.

October 31, 2017, 4:46 PM · People have lung disease, such as interstitial lung disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis or lung cancer couldn’t stop coughing when it occurs, but they can’t tell what time the cough will come up during each day. They could be living for many years with such symptom but can also be during their final days without knowing that. It's annoying to hear coughing during the concert, but it could be the last concert for this person. I am saying this because I happen to know a few such people in my life.

October 31, 2017, 4:52 PM · I don't like coughs, claps or any other not wanted noise. That simple my opinion is. And I'm not a stubborn elder, I'm 22.
October 31, 2017, 5:04 PM · Yixi, that's a good point about people with lung disease. I have a story, and I still don't know how I feel about this.

Years ago I was involved in a giant performance of a Mahler symphony with two orchestras put together (it was a sister-city performance). During the slow movement, a member of the audience began coughing and it was immediately obvious that something really awful was happening. Someone in the audience called 911, and by the time the emergency vehicles arrived, we had stopped the performance and were just sitting on stage. Once the EMTs left with their patient, we resumed the performance at the next movement but it was very hard to play when every person on stage and every person in the audience was extremely upset.

We later found out that the gentleman who took ill had passed away--I'm not actually sure he was still living when he was taken to the ambulance. His partner wrote a lovely note of apology to my orchestra; the gentleman was dying of AIDS but had been a Mahler lover all his life and wanted very much to hear our performance. In retrospect, the partner wrote, the gentleman would never have wanted to disrupt the music and would not have attended if he'd known what would happen.

I don't have a conclusion to draw from this other than to say that I feel for people with a serious illness and I would not want to be the person telling them they couldn't go to what might be their last concert. At the same time, I think it would be wise to buy seats near an exit in case of an unforeseen attack, and if the person is so ill as to be unable to exit quickly if needed, perhaps the person is too ill to be there.

Edited: October 31, 2017, 8:30 PM · Also, there was someone who was leaving the performance durning a piece and all you could hear was the *THONK* *THONK* *THONK* of their shoes. AND someones phone went off during the encore! It was quite disappointing really.
Edited: October 31, 2017, 9:05 PM · Mary Ellen something like that happened to me once. I was giving a chemistry exam and right in the middle, a student had a terrible seizure and had to be taken by ambulance. The amazing part of the story is that a few of my students in the exam room (out of about 400) were campus volunteer rescue members themselves and knew exactly what to do to comfort and stabilize the stricken individual and ready him for transport. Honestly, I was frozen. You don't get that kind of training during faculty orientation. Fortunately the young man was okay.
October 31, 2017, 9:03 PM · Mary Ellen, how heartbreaking.
October 31, 2017, 11:09 PM · Mary Ellen, I witness the similar situation minutes before a concert started a few years ago. Victoria is known for a place for retirees and classical music concert goers are mostly white-haired, many on walkers and in wheelchairs. It's heartwarming to see frail people are still so full of passion for music and would go extra miles to attend evening concerts, rain or shine. When I grow old, I want to be like them and count each concert I made to as a triumphant. I admit that sometimes I got annoyed and would turn my head and look at them when I heard repeated noise of candy wraps or snores or the occasional coughs. But I always felt terrible about it afterwards because I don't know what special effort they had to make to make a trip a concert and how much the concert meant to them. It maybe because I'm still grieving the loss of my late husband, but if it were up to me, I'd not discourage an old or sick person from attending a concert that he/she wants to go.
November 1, 2017, 1:37 AM · Oh yes May Ellen, a similar thing happened at a concert i went to last year; it was Anne Sophie Mutter, Dvorak Violin concerto and someone had a heart attack during the last movement but she was okay though. i guess anne sophie was just too good.
November 1, 2017, 4:01 AM · That and maybe age has something to do with it.

It is sad when you go to a chain bookstore like Barnes and Noble and you see in their music collection all this other stuff and literally 1 or 2 books on classical music. CD collection is not much better.

November 1, 2017, 5:04 AM · I used to have a rigid view on clapping between movements of a classical piece, but I am fine with it now. Holding your emotion for 35 minutes of Beethoven's 5th is too much of a burden for many of us.

Sometimes very dry air causes an unexpected spasm of coughs during the live performance in a concert hall. To suppress it, I carry a small water bottle in my pocket. It is pretty effective.

November 1, 2017, 7:50 AM · Yixi, I am terribly sorry for your loss.

It's a difficult question, concerts and human frailty. But the concert I remember wasn't marred by an annoyance. It was ruined, for everyone in the hall. That's the last thing the sufferer would have wanted.

Edited: November 1, 2017, 8:33 AM · Two days ago I heard Jordi Savall and his musicians at the Wigmore Hall in London. The hall now has a visual 'idiot presentation' which asks you to turn your phone off etc. etc. and at the end asks the audience to refrain from coughing during the performance. Immediately after the word 'coughing' appeared, there were coughs from all round the hall - perhaps auto suggestion is quite strong on that word?

There are worse things, though. Years ago I was at a concert near Venice. Not only did The Venice Baroque Orchestra have to wait for a mobile phone to stop ringing before starting their second encore, but in the silence just before they started the third encore (Italy, remember), someone broke wind very loudly. Here in UK there might have been some amusement, but the Italian audience just ignored it.

November 1, 2017, 6:35 PM · Thank you Mary Ellen. I agree with you. I wouldn't want it either if I were in such situation.
November 1, 2017, 7:15 PM · Kan Pai, that certainly depends on where you live. Chain bookstores, including B&N, can have very well-stocked book sections on classical music if there's local demand for those books.
November 2, 2017, 1:14 PM · Yes, people have to cough sometimes. What bothers me is the number of people who make no effort to muffle it, or hold it until the brass are blasting away. It's almost as if these people wait for a particularly quiet passage, then do their best to cough as loudly as possible. It's downright rude.

If I feel the need to cough, I can usually swallow a bit of saliva that soothes my throat and reduces or eliminates the need. For an unavoidable cough or a minor sneeze I'm quite adept at quickly bringing my arm up and coughing into my elbow, muffling the sound. In extreme cases I'll put my head between my knees and time it with a loud burst of music.

There's no reason not to make an effort to minimize the disturbance to your fellow audience members.

November 2, 2017, 7:04 PM · I live in Sydney where I go to concerts in the Sydney Opera House twice a year. What I always notice is the seniority of the audience. Around 80% of them are old and with white hair.

With that demographics, generally you would have to accept some occasional coughs and throat clearings during any performance. As a concert goer who never makes any noise (until now), I am completely fine with them. In all cases, I could see that the person making the noise was trying to contain it.

There are individual unique cases encountered by some V.com members here (such as the one by Mary Ellen) where it is difficult to state unequivocally whether the person should get the blame. But in most cases, to me it's totally bearable.

After all, without the old and senior (those more likely to make involuntary noises) classical concerts probably wouldn't exist for me to attend. I would consider the occasional noise to be an unavoidable side effect of their love for music that help sustain the performances.

Edited: November 2, 2017, 7:08 PM · What bothers me most in a concert is to see the hall half empty.

Something like requiring a person to know beforehand which are the pauses between the movements and which are the ones bewteen the works adds to the perception of snobbism that empties those halls.

Yes, we all want better public but as things are and the direction they are going, I am happy with more public at the expense of some uncouthness. The goal is balance but that is always swinging from one side to another.

In order to get more people to go to the live performances I am willing to make sacrifices in form.

Edited: November 2, 2017, 7:38 PM · @Carlos, in general I would have the same opinion.

What concerns me is if the noise would discourage too many other audience members from attending the concerts/ or the performers, resulting in a net loss for the future performances.

But from all concerts I attended, I haven't seen anyone making noise in such a way that obviously affects the audience or performers (though you may have experienced such).

November 2, 2017, 7:59 PM · Will, I don't think we would have to worry about turning most people off. In the more popular genres, concerts are louder than us classical nerds could ever imagine.
November 2, 2017, 8:43 PM · Will, precisely my point is that -with some exception as the cougher or the sleepy child-, I think that people actually overbehave. I see them sitting tight in the chair clutching the armrests like if they are in a rollercoaster.
I get a similar feeling in gala dinners where I see some guests so stressed about which bread is theirs and which fork to use that it is impossible that they enjoy the menu. They are distracted by the formality of the occasion to the point that they can't make a normal conversation (they even try a received pronunciation!) or savour the evening.
That's why I agree with Lieschen's post above. Maybe not to the point of a rock concert, but I would love to see audiences following the music more relaxed, following the rythm with the head or the hand instead of looking like Abu Simbel statues.
One example of this: Not long ago in a concert a maybe 12 years old child was imitating noiselessly the conductor's hand and following with the head some of the beats. He got told by some other people to stop doing it because it was distracting. Than child that had been clapping and cheering in the pauses was sank in his seat the rest of the performance. There you lost a music lover and maybe his family. And before they scolded him I was actually thinking how wonderful would it be that most of the public would do the same.
November 2, 2017, 8:59 PM · I personally do not like when people clap between movements. I think clapping at the end of a piece, not movement, is what people should do. It makes sense to me to applaud at the end of a piece and not between movements. If the piece isn't over, I don't see why there should be clapping, even if it was an amazingly performed movement.
Edited: November 2, 2017, 9:15 PM · Some classical musicians in my city are trying very hard to change some of those etiquette by bringing classical music outside the concert all. A few years ago I went to a chamber music concert at a local pub. A few musicians from our professional symphony orchestra have been bringing played Brahms, Shostakovich, Schubert, etc., and Bach solo during intermission! Tickets by donation. Most importantly, they encouraged audience to dance, drink, eat and even talk to each other when they were playing. It was a lot of fun and the house was full. I don't know if they are still doing this between seasons. I sure hope so.
Edited: November 2, 2017, 10:01 PM · @Carlos Let me explain myself a bit more clearly.

Honestly I find some infrequent noise during concerts to be totally acceptable (and unavoidable given the audience's demographics). In all the concerts I attended, coughing and clearings do exist, but I have found them to be far lower than the threshold which cause any discomfort on my part.

Having said that though, coughing do interfere with some other people's ability to enjoy music. Hence my concern. But I'm glad that I maybe just overthought it, as Lieschen has suggested.

This discussion reminds me of an incident. If you can still remember how Kyung Wha Chung got blasted by everyone for publicly shutting up a child during her performance:

https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2014/dec/03/kyung-wha-chung-london-concert-coughing-child

http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-30327567

Since this is a related topic, I'm interested in you guys' thoughts of the incident. i.e. Should Chung as the soloist upbraid the child like that? What would be the best reaction for her? If you were in her situation, what would you do?

November 2, 2017, 10:18 PM · She was being a total primadonna. If you are that famous, you should be a resilient enough performer to put up with coughing of all things. If I were her, I would have completely ignored it, or figured out how to cope better for next time, I have played through worse. No excuse for her behavior.
November 2, 2017, 11:16 PM · Everybody would agree that the performers that are able to keep on playing regardless of the surprising difficulties (broken string, malfunctioning heating or lighting, rowdy public, even earthquakes!) are awesome.
And those who let anything but a perfect studio atmosphere distract them, maybe they are great artists but less than good professionals.


November 3, 2017, 1:23 AM · Carlos, your remark on snobism a few posts up is spot on. I love listening to classical music and performing it (amateur choir). But I don't like attending classical orchestral concerts because of the atmosphere surrounding them. Usually, no one on stage will speak to the audience about what they are performing, to place the music in a context. Apparently I'm supposed to know all that in advance and have looked up the translation of the lyrics (in case of a vocal performance) beforehand.

Well, all that, and sitting still for two hours is a challenge for me, but I find it easier to do in the cinema than in the concert hall. ;-)

November 3, 2017, 4:38 AM · @Carlos, your reference to a 12 year-old kid makes me think.

We are in a profession where little kids cannot be regarded as knowing nothing about classical music.

Lots of little kids are very advanced violinists. Have a look at one of those international violin competitions, or YouTube. I know of 11 year-olds who can play something like the whole Tchaikovsky concerto with good intonation, and I think you do too.

I have observed that children are quite welcomed to classical concerts, probably for this reason. My guess is that most of them are already playing violins, or come from parents who want their kids to take up string instruments.

I have no doubt that some children can play better than an adult orchestral member (correct me if I'm wrong on this).

I think kids would have no problem sitting quietly in a 2-hour concert, if they have been trained with an instrument which requires much discipline as the violin, for a sufficient time.

Edited: November 3, 2017, 5:01 AM · Also, about the clapping between movements, no offense to anyone but I find it difficult to understand why some of you are object to that. After all it comes from good will and appreciation.

I can't help but think of Lindsey Stirling. She isn't the best violinist out there technique-wise, but she surely is very effective in inspiring a younger audience to come to know and learn the violin - something very desirable to classical music, but somehow only with limited success within its current strict shape and boundaries.

November 3, 2017, 8:03 AM · Will, I don't think most people against clapping between movements even know why they are against it, and probably just want to go along with the tradition they were raised with. They probably just saw enough people they subconsciously deemed in positions of authority to model the correct social order, and parroted their behavior at concerts without thinking.
November 3, 2017, 8:15 AM · There are some movements that it's virtually impossible to refrain from clapping afterwards. It doesn't bother me.
Edited: November 3, 2017, 8:38 AM · Clapping after each aria in Vivaldi's Gloria or in a Bach Passion is both justifiable enthusiasm and gross insensitivity. Even the conductor's raised hands cannot stop it.

I try to suggest that he keep the soloists on the stage until the next movement has begun. To no avail so far.

I feel the same about late Beethoven quartets, but then I'm a bit of a snob...

Edited: November 3, 2017, 10:57 AM · Mary Ellen and Adrian, a recent performance of Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto is a good example of what you just said. After the first movement, Timmy Chooi got not only clapping but an standing ovation! The conductor told the audience "Now the on call will be the second and third movements". That was a great concert.

Edited: November 3, 2017, 2:54 PM · @Adrian, I don't think someone would be considered a snob just because she dislikes the clapping ;-)

Sometimes it's really just our personal taste and preference. The fact that I love pizza doesn't necessarily mean I have to love every ingredient, traditional or not, being put into pizza.

That said, I think enthusiasm and excitement are precisely what classical music needs for its future but are lacking at the moment, and personally I would welcome more, not less, of it. Though clapping between movements of a meditative piece may negate musical experience in a way, as a younger audience member I welcome it.

@Lieschen I don't even think clapping between movements is non-traditional; it could well exist since the beginning of concertos, though I could be wrong on this.

November 3, 2017, 2:43 PM · My preference is no clapping, as it isn't part of the performance, and it can kind of stain a really nice moment. On the other hand, I like that people feel like strongly expressing their enthusiasm. Unfortunately, sometimes it is more about unthinking social convention, but I think it makes more sense to take the good with the unfortunate and realize that it really has no bearing on the quality of the performance you just witnessed, so no reason to stress about it. Coughers can go to hell, though!
November 3, 2017, 4:13 PM · @Christian: "Coughers can go to hell, though!". Maybe you're just being humorous, but that reminds me of how harsh Kyung Wha Chung got criticised, just for shutting up a coughing child that ruined her concentration in one of her most important performances (I posted link above).

After all it was the first performance that marked her comeback after a decade-long hiatus, struggling with finger injuries, non-practice, and a divorce.

Even THAT, together with her status as one of the most respected contemporary violinists, wasn't enough to shield her from a deafening silence of disapproval from the audience at that moment, and an ensuing firestorm of criticism and bashing from the arts community after that incident.

While I would rather not argue whether Chung deserved it, this makes me think about the composure, calmness and resilience to distractions that a performer is expected to have by the art community and the classical audience, no matter how great that violinist is or how important his performance to him.

Like, if I dared to pursue this career, I should be able to perform to the fullest no matter what. This seems to be harsh, but IMHO is what is industry standard.

November 3, 2017, 4:44 PM · It is unstifled coughing that is the problem.
November 3, 2017, 6:00 PM · Ironically, my community orchestra has taken to telling audiences before the concert that clapping between movements is okay if they feel moved to do that... and it's been the single most effective way to stop people from clapping between movements. :-)
November 3, 2017, 6:14 PM · @Lydia The audience would never clap if they knew the orchestra didn't want it.
November 3, 2017, 7:13 PM · Hi everyone, come vote on this topic, if you have not already! :)

V.com weekend vote: Should audience members be permitted to clap between movements?

November 5, 2017, 3:13 PM · The coughing thing is much trickier than the clapping thing, in my mind. Both in hearing others cough and my own personal terror that a tickle throat attack was oncoming. Fortunately cough drops keep the worst of it at bay. And as I already commented on the clapping business at Laurie's aforementioned V.com weekend vote, I'll refrain from repetition. Mary Ellen, yikes, what a thought-provoking but tragic story you shared.

And Lydia, I love the reverse psychology your community orchestra employed (whether they'd intended it as that, or not). What a great way to offer a hint, hint, without alienating anyone.

November 6, 2017, 9:21 PM · As long during the performance the person(s) next to me are not:
1. Snoring
2. Emitting noxious fumes
3. Exchanging bodily fluids

I don't care what they do

November 8, 2017, 8:48 PM · Imagine a chamber music concert, where the audience is almost completely silent and listening, where even a few coughs or shuffles don't really bother the others because they're engaged in the music. The movement ends, with a feeling of anticipation of what's to follow. There'd be no applause because everyone would understand that it isn't the time for it. And if musicians were to completely respect that, they would also minimize the pause, re-tuning, arranging music on the stands, etc., which some do, and I would also hope most would, for at least those cases where the pause is clearly just a moment, such as when the next note actually completes the phrase while also starting a new one.

Jazz is no less of an art form than classical music, and there applause is even tolerated within a piece, but within limits, and always with a sense and hope of sensitivity towards when it is appropriate and not detracting from the music, whereas ritualistic clapping after every movement generally is. The magic of a concert is when the audience is entirely engaged and you can hear it their silence, and in their appreciation of it when it's over.


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