Well I am back from a nice vacation, just in time to see the latest silly flare up from someone who feels that classical music is so delicate that it can't withstand exuberance from patrons who don't know the "rules" of engagement.
Apparantly, Jonathan Lennie, the classical music editor of Time Out magazine in London, recently wrote an article lamenting audiences applauding at the "wrong" time. Here is an article about it from the Daily Telegraph. Sorry I don't have the original article at the ready to post.
(The irony of this is that this controversy comes at the BBC Proms, one classical music festival in world that considers the vibrancy of the audience to be a crucial element of its success and a difference compared to other festivals.)
The Daily Telegraph (London)
July 15, 2009 Wednesday
Don't clap, you're;
By Nick Allen
AUDIENCES at the Proms do not know the correct time to applaud and need educating to avoid spoiling the music for others, according to a classical music expert.
Jonathan Lennie, the classical music editor of Time Out magazine, attacked those who try to impress others by racing to be first to applaud as they recognise the closing bars of a piece. He also criticised concertgoers who applaud between movements.
Mr Lennie, in an open letter addressed to the Loud Clapping Man Who Sits Behind Me At Concerts, said: "You don't have to clap, you know, particularly between movements in a symphony, or songs in a song cycle.
"You don't have to reward the performers halfway through, this isn't opera, they do not expect it and most often resent the intrusion.''
He added: "Particularly in a profound piece of music the silence that follows that music is part of that music.
It also allows a moment of reflection. If someone claps into that it shatters the moment and it's lost.''
Roger Wright, the Proms director, had "sympathy'' but added: "The Proms is a special place. More important is what the composers and artists think about this.''
There had been no indication performers wanted audiences to stop clapping. He added: "Mozart rather enjoyed audiences clapping and Brahms was rather disappointed when they didn't clap.'' Leonard Slatkin, the American conductor, says that the way audiences are showing their appreciation is returning to the customs of centuries ago when it was normal to acknowledge a performance as it was going on.
Like Wright I have some sympathy to Lennie. I am not doubting Lennie's expertise (how can I with a guy named after LB!? ;-) ) and I agree that a quiet moment can be hurt by someone clapping but, most "errant" clapping comes from louder music (some composers wrote endings to first movements that demand clapping, such as those of Mozart's Symphony No. 41, "Jupiter," Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1, Tchaikovsky Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6, and many more.
My feelings are, one, that classical music is not so delicate that it has to be protected from reality (especially since most of it was not premiered in hermetic environments) and two, that audience members are a vital part of the live experience for me. If some audience members feel the urge to express their joy by clapping at a musical moment, most of the time I have no problem with it. I have also had moments enhanced by noticing that other patrons were as rapt as me -- that creates a certain magic for me, esp. when it is with a group that is typically louder or more expressive. Anyway, this argument will never go away -- I wrote about it in 2007 -- so tell me what you think in a reply below.