The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Is clapping between movements appropriate or inappropriate? Do performers like it or not? | July 22, 2017

By Jacob Stockinger

Some classical music fans complain about there being too much applause and too many standing ovations these days.

And some of those fans are also really embarrassed by audience members who interrupt a performance to applaud.

Yet twice in the past week or so, The Ear heard musicians give the nod to the audience applauding or clapping between movements or pieces in a set.

One was the internationally renowned arranger and conductor of the All-Festival Concert that concluded the Madison Early Music Festival. The other was a member of the Willy Street Chamber Players.

Both musicians basically said that there is nothing to be embarrassed about.

Applauding between movements, it turns out, was a frequent event in history. Disapproval nowadays can seem a kind of misplaced snooty or elitist purism.

And both performers said that the musicians love hearing applause between movements. It’s a form of reward for the hard work they do and the beauty they create or express.

True, some works seem to lend themselves to such interruptions better than others do. Applauding between the movements of a symphony, concerto or opera seems less intrusive than doing so between sections of a requiem or a song cycle.

But here is a good story on the famed radio station WQXR-FM in New York City about applauding between movements. Read it and see what you think:

What do you think of applause between movements or pieces?

Do you clap between movements?

If you don’t, will historical evidence and approval from the musicians themselves change your mind and behavior?

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. Clapping should be limited to the end of a performance.
    Emotionally it is separate and is an interruption to a performance.

    Comment by Phil — July 22, 2017 @ 8:28 am

  2. Audiences that ignorantly applaud between movements embarrass me, I admit. But sometimes it seems bizarre not to be able to applaud when a concerto movement has finished with a solo briliant cadenza, just as opera audiences applaud the bravura singing of an aria. In opera, in fact, it is expected, and it doesn’t ruin the music. Applause during the music is a convention in jazz, after after outstanding riffs, and is part of the fun of being in a jazz audience. Yet classical audiences are expected to withhold not only their applause but their emotions at all times. Is it natural? Is it even musical? Maybe the conductor could more provide more guidance.

    Comment by Ron McCrea — July 22, 2017 @ 8:01 am

  3. Clapping between movements is a symptom of the decline of classical music as a popular art. Most seats are taken by tourists or leisure industries whose clients do not know the music they are listening to. It saves them embarrassment at assuming a work has finished when it has not. Those who know the music are either listening at home or in the cheaper seats where no doubt they cringe. Musicians have to go with the crowd.they are cultural followers unlike composers who set standards.

    Comment by Duncan McGibbon — July 22, 2017 @ 4:04 am

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