After historic 13-month hiatus due to COVID-19, New York Philharmonic delivers first concert in front of masked audiences

There were electronic tickets with timed entry, and temperatures were taken upon entry. Each person had to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or proof of having completed vaccination at least 14 days earlier.

The Associated Press April 15, 2021 19:28:00 IST
After historic 13-month hiatus due to COVID-19, New York Philharmonic delivers first concert in front of masked audiences

Essa-Pekka Salonen, center, music director of the San Francisco Symphony and principal conductor of London's Philharmonia Orchestra, leads the New York Philharmonic before an audience of 150 concertgoers at The Shed in Hudson Yards, Wednesday, 14 April, 2021, in New York. It was the first time since 10 March, 2020, that the entire orchestra performed together in front of a live audience. Photo via The Associated Press/Kathy Willens

Esa-Pekka Salonen walked on stage to join the New York Philharmonic, which had not gathered before an audience for exactly 400 days.

“On behalf of all us on stage, welcome back,” the conductor told the crowd Wednesday night. “We have been dreaming of this moment for a long time.”

The philharmonic gave its first public performance after of a historic hiatus of more than 13 months caused by the coronavirus pandemic, playing at the Shed in Brookfield Place, about 2 miles from its under-renovation Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

“I’m kind of on a euphoric high right now, because I missed it more than I realised,” concertmaster Frank Huang said afterwards.

After historic 13month hiatus due to COVID19 New York Philharmonic delivers first concert in front of masked audiences

People line up outside The Shed before a live performance by the New York Philharmonic, whose members performed together for the first time since March 2020, on Wednesday, 14 April, 2021, at Hudson Yards in New York. Normal subscription performances are to resume in September. Photo via The Associated Press/Kathy Willens

There was a reduced force of 23 strings — all masked — and no brass or woodwinds for a program that lasted one hour: Caroline Shaw’s Entr’acte, Jean Silbelius’ Rakastava (The Lover) and Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen.

The cavernous Shed, which opened in April 2019, had a masked audience of 150 spaced out in groups of one and two folding chairs, about 10 feet between each set, in a venue that usually seats about 1,200.

There were electronic tickets with timed entry, and temperatures were taken upon entry. Each person had to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or proof of having completed vaccination at least 14 days earlier.

After historic 13month hiatus due to COVID19 New York Philharmonic delivers first concert in front of masked audiences

Concertgoers take their seats before a live performance of the New York Philharmonic, which performed for the first time since 10 March, 2020, at The Shed in Hudson Yards, on Wednesday, 14 April, 2021, in New York. Photo via The Associated Press/Kathy Willens

During the gap, many musicians taught. They had the benefit of continued but reduced salaries, a contrast to their Lincoln Center neighbour the Metropolitan Opera, which stopped pay for its unionised employees for long periods.

The last time the Philharmonic had gathered before an audience was on March 10 last year for a night of Claude Debussy compositions with mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard and conductor Louis Langree.

After historic 13month hiatus due to COVID19 New York Philharmonic delivers first concert in front of masked audiences

Guest conductor Essa Pekka Salonen, front center, greets a live audience as New York Philharmonic musicians stand behind him before they performed together at The Shed in Hudson Yards, on Wednesday, 14 April, 2021, in New York. Normal subscription performances are scheduled to resume in September. Photo via The Associated Press/Kathy Willens

Since then, at most a handful of Philharmonic musicians had played together in public, at “Bandwagon” performances moved around the New York City area and as a quartet in Florida where there were less stringent COVID-19 regulations. There were also programs for digital release on NYPhil+ recorded at St. Bart’s Church and at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall with music director Jaap van Zweden.

The Philharmonic hopes to resume regular subscription concerts in September, shifted to Tully and the Rose Theater at Lincoln Center Jazz until the Geffen reopens in September 2022. Its musicians will open the summer series of Picnic Performances in New York City’s Bryant Park with four nights starting 9 June and also hope to play in Vail, Colorado. The limited return is ahead of Broadway shows, which have talked about possibly resuming in September, and the Met, which will open 27 September if it can reach new labour agreements.

Salonen, the 62-year-old music director of the San Francisco Symphony and principal conductor of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, came in as a guest conductor and will repeat the program on Thursday night.

After historic 13month hiatus due to COVID19 New York Philharmonic delivers first concert in front of masked audiences

Guest conductor Essa-Pekka Salonen takes a bow before leading the New York Philharmonic in a performance in front of a live audience at The Shed in Hudson Yards, on Wednesday, 14 April, 2021, in New York. Photo via The Associated Press/Kathy Willens

“If there’s one thing we musicians have loved during these 14 months or so, it is that nothing — absolutely nothing — can replace the act and the ritual of a live concert,” he told the audience. “Music, of course, exists on many different levels: in written form using the complex system of symbols we call notation; as recordings on various mediums; or perhaps most importantly, in our memory and in our dreams. However, music can truly fulfil its original I dare say biological function as a powerful tool to convey deepest emotions and feelings only when performed here and now at this union point in time where music performers and the audience become one in a perfect symbiosis.”

Acoustics are difficult for an orchestra in The Shed, with its high ceiling creating the need for amplification. Players grinned as they saw the crowd, and some in the audience responded with a standing ovation.

After historic 13month hiatus due to COVID19 New York Philharmonic delivers first concert in front of masked audiences

The shadow of guest conductor Essa-Pekka Salonen, upper right, can be seen on the floor as he leads the New York Philharmonic as they perform together before a live audience of 150 people at The Shed in Hudson Yards, on Wednesday, 14 April, 2021, in New York. Salonen is music director of the San Francisco Symphony and principal conductor of London's Philharmonia Orchestra. Photo via The Associated Press/Kathy Willens

“The three works we have chosen to play tonight all share a sense of moaning, nostalgia and loss elevated to something deeply and essentially human by the sheer beauty,” Salonen said. “Of course, no single program can even begin to sum up our feelings and emotions after these months. Instead, we should see tonight’s concert as a new beginning, a signal for happier times ahead, filled with music and other things that give meaning to our existence in this troubled world.”

Updated Date:

also read

As Broadway gears up to reopen in fall, a tough road lies ahead for musicals
Entertainment

As Broadway gears up to reopen in fall, a tough road lies ahead for musicals

Broadway shows thrive on tourists — who were roughly two-thirds of the people in the seats before the pandemic struck — and producers are banking that visitor numbers will be up by fall. The hope is that theater lovers — both tourists and New Yorkers — will loudly cheer the return.

UP Panchayat Election 2021: Polling marred by clash between rival groups in Mathura; 60 percent turnout till 5 pm
Politics

UP Panchayat Election 2021: Polling marred by clash between rival groups in Mathura; 60 percent turnout till 5 pm

Lakhs of candidates were in fray for over 7.32 lakh seats in gram panchayat wards, 58,176 in gram panchayats, 75,852 in kshetra panchayats and 3,050 in zila panchayats

'#WhatsTheHurryJerry': Mumbai cops tell people to follow COVID norms with Tom and Jerry tweet
India

'#WhatsTheHurryJerry': Mumbai cops tell people to follow COVID norms with Tom and Jerry tweet

A tweet asking people to not step out of their homes without a cause or a mask accompanied by a six-second video of Tom and Jerry cartoon has gone viral on social media, garnering praise for Mumbai Police for its wit