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The Lebrecht Weekly


Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]

A round of applause for Riccardo Muti

By Norman Lebrecht / September 26, 2007

Riccardo Muti leaped last week into a long-running spat about clapping between symphonic movements. Upset by applause after the vivacious third section of Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique, the fiery Italian conductor turned round and rebuked the Chicago audience. ‘When you come to a concert,’ said Muti, ‘always try to follow the message of the music and not be taken by the loudness.’

That’s telling ‘em, maestro. When Prom-goers this summer broke into Mahler’s Ninth with a spatter of claps, a craven BBC hastily welcomed the interruption as a sign that it was reaching the politically correct objective of ‘wider audiences’.

Nicholas Kenyon, the outgoing Proms director, argued on Radio 4 that people should have a right to express their feelings in concerts and the BBC Scottish conductor Ilan Volkov affirmed, prompted or otherwise, that musicians always like to be appreciated.

I stood alone the following day on the BBC airwaves, defending the right of ticket-holders to hear a life-and-death meditation uninterrupted, and of musicians to have their concentration span respected. Muti now makes the point that this is exactly what the composer wanted – which is the first objective of any musical performance.

People who clap between movements do so mostly because they think it is expected of them when the music stops (and some because they are bored). I have never seen anyone get upset at being asked to desist. Concert halls routinely ask audiences over the public address to switch off mobile phones before a performance begins. They should, at the same time, remind them not to applaud until the work is over.

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Visit every week to read Norman Lebrecht's latest column. [Index]


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