Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Evolution of Applause

Bernard Holland in today's NY Times looks at the evolution of concert behavior in the last 200 years and discovers that our current expectations of concert etiquette (be quiet during the performance and clap only at the end of the work) are far from common in the history of music. Some fascinating examples:

When Chopin played his Variations on “Là ci darem la mano” with orchestra, the audience bestowed its showstopping approval after every variation. As late as 1920, a Berlin audience was applauding Ferruccio Busoni in the middle of “La Campanella.”

Liszt, the composer of that piece, was observed in dignified old age, yelling bravos from the audience as Anton Rubinstein played Mozart's A minor Rondo. Hans von Bülow boasted to his students that his performance in the first-movement cadenza of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto regularly brought down the house, no matter that the movement wasn’t over.

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