Premature concert clappers: let’s give them all a round of applause
There’s not much point in frowning on ‘ill-timed’ applause. What’s unusual today used to be the norm
What got me thinking about all of this was a letter from a person in Co Kerry who travelled to Dublin for a recent concert in St Patrick’s Cathedral by The Sixteen. The writer was disappointed by the intrusive applause.
The letter was addressed to Simon Taylor, chief executive of the National Concert Hall, which promoted The Sixteen’s concert, and the major bone of contention was that the audience ignored a message printed in the programme: “The Sixteen respectfully request audience members reserve their applause until after each group of pieces, as indicated, rather than after each piece.”
I have two problems with this request. Firstly, as it was made only to those people who purchased a programme, there was no way it was going to be universally observed. If you want everyone to ration their applause, you have to tell everyone, not just the people who bought programmes.
Secondly, with the best will in the world, I was unable to work out from the programme itself which works were supposed to be grouped together. One way of looking at it gave just two groups. Another way gave nine. Again, a specific announcement from the stage would have taken care of this.
Applause between movements
By curious coincidence, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra’s concert on Friday had an audience that insisted on applauding between movements, and there was early applause at the Hugh Lane Gallery on Sunday in Franzita Whelan and Finghin Collins’s performance of Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder.
At the gallery, the applause seems to have been occasioned by the printing of the texts of the first three songs on a single page, with the text of the fourth overleaf. Yes, it did say Four Last Songs at the top of the page. But, obviously, some people who were living in the moment couldn’t help themselves.
I found myself rather underwhelmed by the performance of the Strauss songs, mainly because Collins’s handling of the piano part was obtrusive enough to sound like it was in competition with the voice, rather than partnering or supporting it. The transformation in Reynaldo Hahn’s À Chloris was complete and immediate; everything came into sharp focus and stayed that way.
Whelan’s expression of scorn in Mozart’s Alma grande e nobil core sounded rather more forceful than the music could actually bear (Collins got the balance right here), and the duo’s encore of Benjamin Britten’s arrangement of The Salley Gardens was utterly mesmerising.
The NSO’s programme conducted by Garry Walker was one of a Big on Britten mini-series celebrating the composer’s centenary, and included a high-impact account of the Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes and the inimitable Serenade for tenor, horn and strings, with Andrew Staples the commandingly clear tenor and Marie-Luise Neunecker a dispassionately probing horn soloist once she got past some initial difficulties.
Walker swung through the Dance Episodes from Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town with swaggering aplomb, though he didn’t seem to find the same sharpness in Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.
The last concert of the NSO’s Big on Britten series, featuring the Soirées Musicales, the Cello Symphony and Saint Nicolas, is on November 29th.