Take it from a conductor: Active, not passive, listening is welcome
Jeremy Eichler’s “Shushed at the symphony” (Critic’s Notebook, Page A1, Sept. 25) sheds light on a real hot-button issue affecting passionate concertgoers and those of us who present concerts to them.
As a conductor and music educator, I am often asked by audience members whether they may, or should not, clap between movements of symphonies or concertos. As Eichler affirms, history tells us that audiences indeed applauded between movements if they were genuinely moved to do so, and some audiences didn’t stop there.
Mozart wished to engage his audience in active, not passive, listening, as Eichler notes in citing the “Paris” Symphony, a work the composer designed to solicit mid-movement applause.
In August, the Globe published a review of Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in Copland’s Third Symphony in which Christopher Benfey wrote, “The audience … broke into scattered applause after the first movement. Thomas, whose evocative hand gestures made him the most expressive performer on the stage, turned to the audience and said, to appreciative laughter and more applause, ‘I agree!’ ”
We, as presenters, work so hard to get people into the concert hall. After all that effort, we’re then going to ask them to sit on their hands? Thomas gets it.
The writer is conductor of the Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra and the New England Conservatory Youth Symphony.
Art summons a response, but there’s something to be said for silences
Thank you, Jeremy Eichler, for leading us to think about how and when we show appreciation for a work of art. In the past few years, I’ve noticed applause at the theater begin immediately after the stage lights dim at the end of a show, and I appreciated the few seconds of silence following the end of a recent performance of “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” as a tribute to the play’s emotional power.
Either way, as Eichler reminds us of Thomas Mann’s wish for art to be “on a first-name basis with humanity,” my hope is that we humans can be on a first-name basis with art and allow it to touch us and summon our response, whatever and whenever it is.