Opinion: The limits of what audience-free streamed performances can provide

Posted on: March 16, 2020

“On March 12th, the Berlin Philharmonic gave one of the eeriest concerts in its history,” writes Alex Ross in Saturday’s (3/14) New Yorker. “In response to the coronavirus pandemic … the Philharmonic went ahead with its scheduled program … performing in a vacant hall and streaming the event for free over the Internet.… As I sat and watched at my home laptop, I became sufficiently immersed in the music that I forgot about the peculiar context, and it was a shock when stony silence intruded at the end…. Other ensembles have been giving audience-free concerts in recent days … and a sense of weirdness is pervasive. Later on Thursday, the Philadelphia Orchestra, under Yannick Nézet-Séguin, presented the Fifth and Sixth symphonies of Beethoven alongside ‘Jeder Baum spricht,’ a new piece by Iman Habibi…. The leaden silence that followed the performance was unnerving. Nézet-Séguin and his players looked a little ashen as they stared out to the cameras. Music is at heart a social medium, and it desperately needs contact…. The Berlin concert … dramatized what technology cannot supply: the temporary bond of purposeful community that forms under the spell of live music. The final silence was a vacuum crying to be filled.”