So you want to be a socially distanced orchestra

By The New York Times

Mahler’s “Symphony of a Thousand” might not be a great idea. Schoenberg’s “Gurrelieder,” with 150 instrumentalists and even more singers? Ditto.

As the coronavirus pandemic endures, much of the attention in resuming the performing arts has been on the size and density of audiences. But symphony orchestras are often just as packed onstage as in their auditoriums. If concerts are to go forward with social distancing restrictions in place, they will have to include not just fewer listeners, but also fewer players.

What will those fewer players play? Chamber standbys, surely: the original 13-person “Appalachian Spring”; string-ensemble works like Barber’s Adagio and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade; Bach’s “Brandenburg” Concertos.

But what about more varied fare? Schott/EAM, a publisher of contemporary composers, recently posted an inspiring list of works from its catalog appropriate for social distancing. Universal Edition put out an intriguing selection of opera and symphonic reductions. In a livestreamed panel discussion on Thursday, several innovative chamber orchestras will share repertory ideas. We have followed their lead with our own playlist of pieces, old and new.

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