Religion and the decline of concert-hall applause

Old essay by Alex Ross on the sacralization of classical music, particularly the decline of applause after each movement.

I have a rosy image of the hubbub of pre-20th century concert halls as a creative benefit, something which would naturally be appreciated by musicians and composers.

Not so. Many apparently loathed it. Musicians would plant people in the audience to applaud their solo. To prevent this, Gustav Mahler went so far as “hiring detectives to patrol the theater”.

But for entirely eliminating applause after each movement, Ross blames conductor Leopold Stokowski. Stokowski dreamt of the concert-hall as a “Temple of Music”, where the audience should ” listen in spiritual silence and then return home refreshed and strengthened” [not his words]

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