Stop Clapping!!

The most-asked question we encounter when it comes to classical music concert-going is, “When the heck am I supposed to clap?!”

Salon97’s default response is that it is generally most acceptable to wait until the end of the piece. If you’re confused, just follow the crowd.

But now, this may be starting to change. Alex Ross, classical music guru, gave a lecture in London earlier this week that has the classical music world talking. A lot. News articles and blogs posts are popping up everywhere. Why? Because the debate over when one should clap at a classical concert was the subject of his discussion.

Back in the 1700s people went crazy every time they heard something exciting. They’d cheer and ask for more. Applause, yelling, chanting, it was all fair game. Over the years it has become less and less fashionable to show excitement and appreciation for classical music in the concert setting. This started in the 1800s and has been the way things are done ever since.

Ross asserts that it may be time to become more old-fashioned–that classical concerts should become more communal. You know, the way it was back in the 1700s.

There is so much wonderful innovation happening in the classical music world these days, but perhaps this is one area where we need to regress. Wouldn’t it be great to show up at a concert and not have to worry about when it’s appropriate to clap? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to cheer at the end of an exuberant movement of a piece?

It will be interesting to see how this evolves. How long will it take us to get back to the 18th century?


  1. Hear Hear (or should I say ?)
    I saw Yefim Bronfman absolutely kill Brahms’ 2nd Piano Concerto last fall. The crowd just couldn’t contain themselves, clapping and chearing after the 1st and 2nd movements, prompting the Bronfman and the conductor to acknowledge their presence. Both were gracious and somewhat amused. The pauses served to break the ice a little and made the concert a more intimate and pleasurable experience. So I say if you like something, show it! What’s the point of a live concert if the audience is dead?

  2. I wonder if there is a focus on getting the *audience* to express themselves, or for the *conductors* to prompt their audience to applaud and cheer. It would certainly draw me into the culture to see people getting giddy over a performance! I also think it would help me, as an audience member, to be encouraged by the performer(s) to interrupt them with my hoots and hollering. Think of the fun we would have! I would bring flowers just to throw them on the stage when I’m having the most fun!

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