Posts Tagged ‘nearly empty house’


Photo: Tom Gralish / Inquirer Staff Photographer
A friend wrote on Facebook about listening to a Covid-19 Philadelphia Orchestra concert March 12.

At first when I read her Facebook post, I thought a friend I’ve known since I was in nursery school had gotten inside the hall to hear this concert. But I see the staff kicked almost everyone out. I guess she listened on the radio.

Hannah posted: “I was touched by the Philadelphia Orchestra playing a concert to an empty hall on Thursday. They did Beethoven’s 6th, a good choice for this strange time in our history. The acoustic was different, of course, and lent a crispness to the sound. It was their last performance until whenever. Available for streaming on WRTI. Thanks, orchestra!”

Looking up more info, I found an article by David Patrick Stearns at the Inquirer.

“The Philadelphia Orchestra was never meant for an audience of one — or few. That’s why the Philadelphia Orchestra’s audience-less Thursday concert felt like a parallel universe.

“You had the familiar orchestra musicians in full concert dress, music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and the beloved Beethoven Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6. Except different. On Thursday afternoon, the Philadelphia Orchestra canceled all of its events through March 23. ….

“The concert’s Plan B, which fell into place that same day, had the performance going forward to a nearly empty house, streamed on the orchestra’s website (though a snafu put it in Facebook Live) and recorded for WRTI radio broadcasts. …

“For those who were there, it was confounding to have the orchestra standing to receive phantom applause that wasn’t there. This was not a dress rehearsal, but the real deal. And it was also a reminder of the gravity of the situation.

“The atmosphere, though, was hardly grave. … For all of its magisterial image, the Philadelphia Orchestra isn’t easily unnerved, thanks to history of foreign touring under highly changeable circumstances. …

“Of all the composers, it’s Beethoven who has been there for the public through centuries of hardship, Nézet-Séguin said in a spoken introduction to the concert: ‘And we’re still inspired.’

“ ‘We rehearsed the program … we were gearing up to play it,’ first associate concertmaster Juliette Kang told me at intermission after playing Beethoven’s 5th.
‘We had to play it. It was an artistic imperative from the inside,’ Kang said. ‘The emotional whirlwind everybody’s in, it came through in the piece. It did for me. I could feel that struggle in the Beethoven.’

‘Though the hall was empty, I could feel trembling inside of me,’ said concertmaster David Kim. …

“Internet chatter praised the orchestra for maintaining its presence — along with criticisms that the musicians were at risk just from being together. There’s an edge of covert panic out there, and you can almost feel the struggle between people’s sense of hope and fear.

“On the hope front … On Twitter, pianist Igor Levit (@igorpianist) vowed to stream performance videos from his home every day at 7 p.m. Central European Time. The Berlin Philharmonic played a streamed concert from an audience-less hall on Thursday afternoon, including Berio’s Sinfonia, whose choral contingent embeds the words ‘Martin Luther King’ into the orchestral texture. …

“In Philadelphia [Beethoven’s Fifth] was not the kind of end-of-the-world Beethoven heard from European radio archives when empires were crumbling during World War II. Nor was there the hopelessness felt at the Philadelphia Orchestra’s post 9/11 concert at the Mann Center in 2001.

“The current adversary is an invisible virus, not a fallen hero or an act of war. Thursday’s concert had exceptional momentum, as if to say, ‘We will get through this.’

“Beethoven’s usually genial Symphony No. 6 (‘Pastoral’) had higher peaks of tension and release than usual, with an aggression in the third-movement peasant dances that led more logically than usual into the storm scene that followed — as if Nézet-Séguin conducted it as an opera without words.” More from the Inquirer critic here.

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