Review: Berlin Philharmonic tests waters with streamed concert, musicians spaced apart, no audience

Posted on: May 4, 2020

“On Friday, the Berlin Philharmonic was supposed to have played its annual, widely broadcast European Concert in Israel, as part of the German president’s state visit,” writes Anthony Tomamasini in Sunday’s (5/3) New York Times. “The whole visit was canceled because of the pandemic, but the Philharmonic went ahead with its performance at its hall in Berlin: the first major classical event to venture, as it were, out of lockdown…. The concert … was organized to conform with local health regulations. No more than 15 musicians could be onstage at a given time, making this a de facto chamber event. The players were kept two meters (about six and a half feet) apart—except for wind players, spaced five meters (about 16 and a half feet) from one another and their colleagues.… It’s hard to overstate what a departure from the norm this setup represented. Normally, musicians in chamber ensembles and orchestras try to sit as close together as possible … to add cohesion to the overall sound and help players hear each other. Yet though the seating arrangement was strange, it was also inspiring to see musicians trying to find some way, however awkward, to keep making live art.” Kirill Petrenko conducted the concert.