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Hand-to-hand Combat

October 07, 1990

Jack Smith does a disservice to serious music listeners and performers by encouraging applause between the movements of classical works ("Hand-to-Hand Appreciation," Aug. 19).

It makes perfect sense to applaud after a piece is over and not one-quarter or halfway through. The silence between the movements can be an integral part of the musical experience, providing a moment of reflection or digestion as one section concludes and another is about to begin.

He is wrong if he believes "enthusiasm and generosity" are what prompt some people to applaud between the movements. The real reason is that people have been conditioned to applaud anything and everything, and frequently.

Contrary to what Smith thinks, ill-timed applause does not encourage musicians but interrupts their concentration and, worse, makes the evening longer. As for providing a chance for people to cough, they can do that between the movements whether there is applause or not.

And since he brought up that subject, I've never been to a concert where some audience members didn't feel free to share their bronchial woes all through the music. Curiously, these people can always be found in the lobby during intermission chatting away politely without difficulty, but when the lights go back down, up comes the phlegm.

Life can be hell, even in Mozart's presence.


Long Beach

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