Les Dissonances chamber music series started performing on June 17. They were quite careful to only seat 150 in an auditorium that seats over 1,600. I believe I read that the audience was also required to be masked but now I can’t remember where I read that.

Only trouble?

The musicians weren’t masked as they shared the stage. They played Ravel’s Ma mère l’Oye piano duo, sharing a piano. No gloves, of course. They played duos, trios, quartets … and Natalie Dessay sang at what turned out to be their final concert.

After four concerts they canceled future events because one musician tested positive for Covid-19.

And this is one reason I don’t believe performers will be back to work in the near future. Here in the United States I am certain we won’t be back to work for a very long time: we have been so much worse about being careful and our numbers are far too high and rising.

I find the news of the chamber concerts in France so troubling. When we began to cancel concerts some suggested orchestras play for empty halls but live stream the concerts — as if we are immune to this horrendous virus. (Or is it that we are expendable? Hm.) One orchestra in Germany DID do a live stream concert in that way (funny, though, that many of their regular players didn’t join in and there were a number of subs or second players sitting principal). They were unmasked and seated normally, quite close together, with no screen protection. Early on we were urged to figure things out. Get back out there. Don’t let music die … don’t let the audiences down … don’t let them forget us!

Truth be told, we musicians (and I’m guessing performers in general) have always been so ready (and urged) to work while ill. I know I even played when I had a fever of 102° (many years ago). I know one player who sat in a pit while ill and, as a special little gift, gave a neighboring musician pneumonia. We have had “the show must go on” drilled in to us for far too long.

I’m grateful for the musicians who have the energy to put together the “virtual performances” we find online. No, they aren’t the same as being in a hall full of people, or being on stage with our colleagues, but they are safe. This time of confinement doesn’t mean the music stops. It means it is offered up differently. It does mean some will be retiring rather than returning (lists of openings are growing, from what a friend and colleague told me). But the music doesn’t have to die. It’s a new time of creativity and careful planning. Performers are creatives, after all … time to create in new, safe, experimental ways.

Here … enjoy this wonderful safe performance of the last movement of the Beethoven Oboe Trio, played by Seattle Symphony musicians Mary Lynch, Chengwen Winnie Lai, and Stefan Farkas.

And is it here now?

No live audience. Everyone distanced. One on a part strings. But still it’s quite beautiful.

I do wonder about those playing strings that must have opted for no mask.

From the YouTube page:
Join members of the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn and its music director, Dirk Kaftan, for a special “pandemic version” of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, the “Pastoral.” This new orchestration of the Pastoral was arranged according to social distancing guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, which meant that only some members of the orchestra could play together. In addition, the brass and woodwinds section was actually positioned outside the building where recording took place, and watched Maestro Kaftan conducting on a large video monitor.

The Beethoven Orchestra Bonn had a busy year of concerts planned to mark the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth – concerts that had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. This performance was the first time that the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn and Dirk Kaftan had been able to meet since the pandemic hit, and it was a very special and moving experience for all of them.

The location where they performed is also special: La Redoute, a sumptuous 18-century hall built for royal balls. Ludwig van Beethoven himself performed there, and it’s said to be where he met Joseph Haydn, who encouraged him to move to Vienna.

Speaking about this performance, Dirk Kaftan said, “Music is not only connected to the time in which it’s composed, but also to the time in which it’s performed.” And indeed, this special concert is very much a direct response to, and a reflection of, the time in which it was performed.
#Beethoven6 #DirkKaftan #BeethovenOrchestraBonn


Beethoven, Trio for 2 Oboes and English horn, Op. 87, Adagio
Eugene Izotov, oboe
James Button, oboe
Russ deLuna, English horn