Virus panic: Orchestra flies to Japan and is sent back home

Virus panic: Orchestra flies to Japan and is sent back home


norman lebrecht

February 26, 2020

We hear the Gothenburg Synphony’s tour was cancelled on arrival, due to new virus measures.

Here’s what they tell Slipped Disc:

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra cancels its two-week tour in Japan.

Today at lunchtime, local time, Japan’s Prime Minister announced that all concerts in the country will be cancelled from today and 14 days ahead to prevent possible spread of the so-called corona virus (covid-19). This affects the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra who would have performed their first concert on Friday 28 February.

The orchestra will now return to Sweden without making any appearance. General Manager and Artistic Director Sten Cranner says of the situation:

“Of course, after so long preparations, it is disappointing that we are now not allowed to perform our 10 planned concerts. At the same time, we have a great understanding of the decision that the government has made – it instills a great deal of confidence in how it works to counteract further spread of the virus. I have to admit that in the current situation, I am happy that the orchestra is coming home safely.”

Japanese authorities have received international attention for their prevention efforts to prevent the spread of covid-19. In the country’s preparations for the Tokyo Olympics this summer, all efforts become extra important and the restrictions are adjusted accordingly.

The Japanese organizer and tour sponsor Fuji deeply regret that the circumstances caused the tour to be canceled but have re-invited Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra to Japan in the coming years.

Chief Conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali was to conduct the tour, with soloists Fumiaki Miura (violin) and Mari Kodama (piano).



  • sam says:

    Christ, considering how the Japanese authorities completely f**ed up their handling of the quarantine of the cruise ship, making it one big floating petri dish, and sending its citizens back to their home countries still infected, what orchestra in their right mind would still travel to Japan?

    Japan can’t contain one man, Carlos Ghosn, how is it going to contain a virus?

    • Bruce says:

      Maybe they’re trying to learn from their mistakes.

    • Amos says:

      Perhaps more to the point if the orchestra actually spent any time in Japan one would hope that they were tested before being sent back to Sweden. If not then they should be quarantined in Sweden; that’s how a local viral infection becomes a pandemic.

  • Barry says:

    The Olympics are due to start in Tokyo in five months.

    I would expect them to go to the greatest lengths humanly possible to contain this in an effort to avoid the financial ruin that would result from cancelling the games.

  • Gustavo says:

    These kind of decisions are disappointing for musicians but above all for their audiences.

    Japan has one of the most enthusiastic classical music communities in the world, and two weeks without concerts can be considered a major crisis.

    But let’s celebrate some happy memories, and keep up some optimism!

  • Michael says:

    I was surprised the orchestra even attempted the tour as I would have thought they would have cancelled on their own.

  • Bill says:

    Isn’t this where someone says they should have been touring by train?

  • Hilary says:

    1)Boost up your immune system by taking plenty of raw ginger and garlic.

    2)Don’t smoke.

  • Robert Rÿker says:

    Let us all salute Marin Alsop as the first and for a time only woman to serve as Music Director of a major orchestra in North America. Now, 14 years later, nearly 8% of the conducting posts in North America are held by women, and 8 of the top 100 conductors of the world are women.

    All conductors face the same challenge of expressing the subtle balance of masculine and feminine characteristics inherent in the art of music. Great conductors bare their souls in the effort to inspire the men and women of the orchestra who realise the black notes on the white page to move the hearts of the audience with the invisible essence of great music.

    Men and women alike: some have it, some don’t. Artistic leadership is a rare quality.

    Marin Alsop is an inspiration to many women who will become leaders on the podium in the future. There is even now a competition in Europe, La Maestra, for women conductors. In Japan, the Tokyo Sinfonia is about to announce a competition open to female musicians for appointment as its apprentice conductor.

    Manifestly, it all started with Marin.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    As my Scot friend recently commented about the Corona virus: “We’re all fooked, lad”.

  • Judith Bingham says:

    Can’t believe the idiocy of deciding to go right now, really irresponsible. And they say the orchestra is safely home, but it gone through the airport system both ways, let’s hope the pesky virus wasn’t floating around.