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Degrees of silence

A knowledgeable audience can make all the difference to a classical concert—just as too many coughs, or bored silence, can spoil things. London may be lucky with its audiences at the moment, but will this remain the case?

By Stephen Everson   April 2007

A Monday in mid-March, and the Argentinian mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink is giving a lunchtime recital at London’s Wigmore Hall. All the 500-odd seats are full, and several people, none of them young, are standing along the back wall of the hall. Fink begins with some songs by Grieg, works not performed very often, and as she sings, at least two thirds of the audience are following the texts of the songs in the programme. Every few songs, there is the sound of turning pages as the audience follows the programme’s injunction only to turn the page when the song has…

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