The debate about whether to have applause or not between movements in the concert hall has been going on since at least the 1920s. Wilhelm Furtwaengler had two very successful lengthy guest engagements with the New York Philharmonic during two seasons in the mid-20s, and there were isolated complaints because he did not want applause between movements. In relatively more recent times, Erich Leinsdorf was vocal about approving of and even encouraging applause between movements. I remember a Boston Symphony tour concert in Chicago during the 1960s when there was a little applause after a movement of Brahms's 3rd Symphony. Leinsdorf turned around on the podium, grinned, and bowed. With which encouragement the applause increased.
I think one's reaction to such applause is purely personal. For myself, I entirely agree with Steve. I find it an interruption. It's fine that people approve of what the artists have done, but if some in the audience would prefer to consider what they've experienced in silence, such as I, they cannot. There is also the concept of a musical and emotional totality. Steve's example of Bruckner is perfect as far as I am concerned.
In another message, Carl Pultz mentioned how Mahler drew protests when he insisted that the Vienna Opera be darkened during performances to put an end to audiences' treating them as opportunities to socialize during the opera. Toscanini did the same thing, for the same reason(s), in Italy during the 1890s. It had never been done there, evidently. Like Mahler, Toscanini provoked howls of outrage. And since their time opera houses go dark.
I also agree with everyone about attaca between movements. The timing can make a huge difference in the work's final impression. And with regard to Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony third and fourth movements, may I risk telling a famous anecdote in case someone hasn't heard it yet? For those who have, apologies for the repetition. It could well even be true.
Supposedly, at a Boston Symphony concert at Tanglewood, Pierre Monteux conducted Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony. As usual, there was a storm of applause after the third movement. They finished the symphony. The story is that as two women were walking out of the Shed after the concert, one asked the other "what was that sad piece they played after the symphony?"
I remember that Jascha Horenstein's late 1960s HMV LP of the Pathetique has the last movement attaca. Barely a second or so between the movements on the LP and no separating band between them. There might also have been a comment in the liner notes that Horenstein had insisted upon that because he felt strongly about the movements being an emotional entity that should not be separated by applause.
In any case, the applause issue is a major point of discussion that's been around for many decades. It seems to have intensified a bit recently. It's very interesting.
From: Steve Smolian <[log in to unmask]>
To: ARSCLIST <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thu, Aug 16, 2012 9:27 am
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] FW: [ARSCLIST] Re: Applause
Applause between movements. The way I listen, I find it infuriating to have
my concentration broken. It drives me nuts during Bruckner symphonies, for
Applause between movements was common during WW II when servicemen were
often given tickets and were hearing their first classical concert. Not
knowing the style of music, they believed the silence meant the piece was
The space between movements can be meant as a resting place for the
orchestra to retune or otherwise adjust itself. Surely the pause between
the 1st & 2d mvts of the Mahler 4th Symphony is one such, as the first
fiddle has to switch instruments to one with a different tuning. In other
places, however, the rhythmic propulsion generated by the end of the prior
movement forces the one following to begin at precise moment thereafter- I
contend the end of the scherzos of the Beethoven 3rd and 7th are perfect
examples. Feel the unnotated beats. Attaca! Attaca!
Every so often I run across a tape of a performance where this happens.
Invariably, it adds a layer of excitement.
Sent: Thursday, August 16, 2012 8:54 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] FW: [ARSCLIST] Re: Applause
My father said he once saw a 6-disc set of 78s of a public pre-War Hitler
speech. Shouting in German for 11 sides, but on the last B-side was
nothing but thunderous applause. ):
On a similar note, when in college, my father and one of his roommates used
a disc recorder to make a lock-out groove recording (I suppose at 16 rpm?)
for the amusement of their third, O'Leary, who would walk in later to hear
the disc repeating their recording every 3.6 seconds(?), "O'Leary eats dung
raw, through a flavor straw, Haw, Haw!"
----- Original Message -----
From: "Tom Fine" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, August 16, 2012 8:40 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] FW: [ARSCLIST] Beethoven Violin Concerto on YouTube
> Hi Carl:
> I think audiences today in the US are more "polite" (some would say
> "restained" or "detached") than
> times past. I have some old recordings of concerts at Carnegie Hall and
> other venues, mostly
> transcriptions of broadcasts, and you hear constant coughing and
> shuffling, and often applause
> between movements. Orchestras seemed to pause more between movements back
> then, expecting applause.
> I wonder if the LP era and classical's "golden age" of recordings got
> audiences used to shorter
> pauses between movements, and some sort of cultural change caused a
> group-think that classical music
> must be reverently enjoyed in silence. I remember being discouraged from
> reading program notes while
> the orchestra played during a school trip, as if I can't listen when I'm
> reading. Meanwhile, how
> long can a kid pay rapt attention to men and women in black suits moving
> bows across strings?
> In today's multi-media age, I wonder why more orchestras don't at least
> explore, if not adopt, the
> concept of accompanying classical music to light shows and/or other visual
> events. Is it somehow
> "mind pollution" for another artist to suggest what colors and/or images
> may accompany the music?
> What if anyone with a wifi device in the hall could create their own
> visual entertainment, triggered
> by the ambient audio and/or some sort of sync to the score, on their iPads
> and cellphones (with the
> damn ringers turned off, of course - perhaps the app could do that
> automatically when it's
> launched!). I think it would make the genre more mainstream, boost
> appreciation for the idea that
> music can be deep and complex and subtle (as opposed to stereotypically
> simple and silly, like most
> pop hits). Don't forget that Scriabin wrote detailed notes on light shows
> to accompany his solo
> piano music, and Hilde Somer re-created some of that entertainment in the
> 60's. Also, I would
> suggest that Virgil Fox's tour of rock venues with the massive Rodgers
> Organ and accompanying
> psychodellic light show, exposed more people to the music of Bach than all
> of the symphony concerts
> in the world occuring in the same time frame.
> Here are two of Virgil Fox's "Heavy Organ" concerts:
> (registration required, lossy streaming audio, but you'll get the idea)
> Bottom line, who cares if people applaud between movements? Take the
> stuffiness out of the concert
> hall and the music will live on in "the masses."
> One caveat to my populism -- notice I don't advocate dilluting classical
> music with silly
> "crossover" dreck. It should remain a highly skilled affair, with close
> contact to the heritage of
> the art, and the worst thing to do is think that poptart "singers" or
> whatever else is popular at
> the moment has any place mixing in with Beethoven. And idiotic "theme"
> albums like "Bach for the
> Bathroom" or whatever just make the music seem dumb and boring. These are
> marketing ploys created by
> small minds, not artistic expansion of a music form into the modern arena
> of mixed-media arts.
> -- Tom Fine
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Carl Pultz" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Thursday, August 16, 2012 8:00 AM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] FW: [ARSCLIST] Beethoven Violin Concerto on
>> Applause after 1st mvmnt!
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
>> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Shai Drori
>> Sent: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 5:21 PM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] FW: [ARSCLIST] Beethoven Violin Concerto on
>> A really nice performance. Listening in bed for the night.
>> Sent from my ringing donkey
>>> There is this outstanding performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto
>> have just discovered.
>>> It's by Zino Francescatti,and The New York Philharmonic,under Dimitri
>> Mitropoulos.It is obviously a concert recording.Can anybody
>>> tell me when it was done,and if it was ever issued?