Thank you very much to Alex Ross for the finest piece of writing I’ve read from him or any classical pundit in a long while, the extremely apt, and wholly welcome Time to Show our Appreciation for Classical Music, published in London’s Guardian newspaper. Hopefully the following quote will get you to read the whole thing:
Programme booklets sometimes contain a list of rules, rendered in the style of God on Mount Sinai: “Thou shalt not applaud between movements of symphonies or other multisectional works listed on the programme.” And one may only applaud: “Appropriate applause is the only acceptable audible response from the audience.”
The underlying message of the protocol is, in essence: “Curb your enthusiasm. Don’t get too excited.” Should we be surprised that people aren’t as excited about classical music as they used to be? This question of etiquette is only part of the complicated social dilemma in which classical music finds itself. But I do wonder about the long-term effect of the No Applause Rule, as I wonder about other oddities of concert life: the vaguely Edwardian costumes, the convention-centre lighting schemes, the aggressive affectlessness of many professional musicians.
Amen, brother, although let’s leave the “vaguely Edwardian costumes” out of it, please (no reason to mess with a good thing, especially one that makes even the ugliest man look his handsomest). I totally agree with Mr. Ross – let’s get some more applause back into the ol’ concert hall. Composers of yore frequently wrote letters (many of which Mr. Ross cites in his article) saying that this movement or that movement was such a success with the audience, got so much applause and had to be encored, etc. I’m all for it.
Speaking of this particular author, however, I’ve got to say: Alex, come on, Top 10 Glissandos? Hello? That practically reeks of These are a few of my favorite trillz! Don’t think you’re going to get away with that one unnoticed, good sir. But if that’s how you want to play the game, then it’s on. Just be warned that I won’t stop at much, and my response is likely to stun you into silence: Top 20 pizzicati of the 1930’s!!!