Vienna Phil in rehearsal today: no more distancing

Vienna Phil in rehearsal today: no more distancing


norman lebrecht

June 18, 2020

All musicians have been tested several times. All came back negative. They are rehearsing today in normal formation.

Just the audience will be distanced.


  • Brian says:

    Well, leave it to Vienna to be the first to go back to the old ways. The hostage video suggests that not everyone’s on board with this plan.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Hoorah! Wien bleibt Wien. But … will there be a conductor? And what music is there that the Professors can’t already play in their sleep?

  • David says:

    I hope the health officials are right.

    • Bill says:

      A little over 400 active cases in a country of 9 million people; California alone reported 10x that many new cases today. The risk isn’t 0, but it is pretty close. We’ll see how it turns out for them!

  • Gustavo says:

    Were they tested for antibodies?

    • tina says:

      PCR Test

    • Karl says:

      They should be getting an antibody test. We need more data to see if antibodies convey immunity. If they do we can use a shield immunity strategy to begin opening up societies.

      • Bill says:

        Antibody testing is not particularly useful when you are trying to prevent active infection from spreading into your group. Without knowledge of what antibody levels are required to provide lasting protection, all an antibody test tells you (assuming you get an accurate result, which is problematic) is that maybe that time you got sick earlier this year really was COVID-19 (or maybe you had an asymptomatic case that you didn’t even notice, lucky you).

      • Ilio says:

        Anti-body tests are not reliable enough to depend on.

        • Karl says:

          The Roche COVID antibody test has a specificity greater than 99.8% and 100% sensitivity.

          • Bill says:

            No, it had those results on the limited pool of samples that they tested when applying for FDA approval. There unfortunately has turned out to be a difference between such numbers in testing and real-world results. And some people apparently do not produce detectable antibodies even after verified infection.

      • Maria says:

        Sort it then given you know best from living there!

  • Freddynyc says:

    Well at least it’s one of the handful of orchestras that actually worth listening to these days. Won’t mention any names though……

  • RM says:

    All it takes is one false negative test out of a hundred musicians (not to mention staff, stage hands, etc) for asymptomatic spread.

    And they would have to test every day before rehearsal and at night before concert. And it’s indoors, hot on stage sitting and breathing close together.

    Sorry to say it but the statistical odds are not on their side. Might as well be ahem…a string of political rallies of some sort.

    One of the key players tests positive just before rehearsal or concert – then what?
    The show certainly must go on…

    • Karl says:

      It depends on the health conditions of the musicians. People with no health related risk factors should be able to safely go about their lives. Americans are notoriously unhealthy but it’s estimated that only 20% of us are at risk for a severe case of COVID. The rest will have mild or no symptoms if they catch the disease. We had a recent outbreak in my county where almost 100 people contracted COVID, but only 20 had symptoms and only 2 people were hospitalized. Fear of COVID is overblown. The death rate keeps decreasing. A recent study from NYC showed a 0.28% crude mortality rate.

      • James says:

        Please tell my dead-from-the-virus relative that fear of COVID is overblown.

      • RM says:

        Tests are a picture in time…that’s all!
        It’s meaningless without contract tracing, etc.

        Something is not getting through to most people!

  • Tiredofitall says:

    It would be laughable if not the consequences could be so dire.

    Bist du deppert? (I hope that’s the correct usage.)

  • Henry williams says:

    The musicians are taking a chance

  • This will work until one of them catches it outside of rehearsals..

  • inaustria says:

    To those of you who find this foolhardy, or too soon: at what point do you think that it would be wise to resume life as it was? (if ever?) I dont mean this rudely, just wonder what needs to happen in your eyes?

    • Peter San Diego says:

      That’s good question. My shot at answering it:

      (1) Good epidemiological data on the risk factors. We know that risk increases with age and certain comorbidities. We also know it’s related to gender, with males more likely to become more seriously ill. Evidence, not yet demonstrated beyond doubt, includes other possible risk factors: (a) blood type (A worst, O best); (b) male pattern baldness (because certain androgens appear to augment the ability of the virus to fuse with cells); (c) existing blood vessel impairments (but taking statins seems to help). The more we know with certainty, the better one can assess one’s own level of risk, and the better that organizations like orchestras can plan.

      (2) Effective therapeutic drugs. There are several promising developments that can probably be rolled out soon, such as dexamethasone for treating serious and severe cases, and many more in earlier stages of testing.

      (3) Effective vaccines. Because of the need for reliable efficacy and long-term safety testing, these will probably become available considerably later than many therapeutics (especially therapeutics already approved for other uses).

      Each stage takes us closer to a new normal more and more similar to the previous normal. Until the next previously unknown virus shows up…

    • RM says:

      When there is testing and contract tracing and quarantining.

      It’s every epidemiologist’s mantra for the last 100 years or more.

      Otherwise, modify the organization’s practices as in Germany, South Korea, New Zealand, etc.

      The degree of denial amongst the rest of humankind is less than that of chimpanzees.

    • OK… Life as it was. Life with ZERO precautions taken. That is what you are asking for.

      If that is the bar you set, that can’t happen until there is a vaccine against the virus or some ready treatment that makes catching the virus a trivial matter. How else could life with ZERO precautions proceed?

      Before this pandemic, if the circumstance had been that after every orchestra concert even just one person each time became critically ill or died, that would have been regarded as a serious problem that needed solving. Concerts would not have been allowed to continue.

      That is what will happen now if we start crowding 2000 people into concert halls for two+ hours at a stretch with zero precautions. Every concert is going to be a super spreader event if they are conducted as before. Why is that acceptable now? Just because people are bored? Just because they don’t like minor inconveniences like a mask?

      I think you might be able to go back to normal-ish public events if a mask were available that truly prevented spreaders from spreading. Something better than the flap of cloth being promoted now.

      Get that better mask and make it clear that it’s a rule that HAS to be followed.

      That is not “life as it was” but for many purposes it would be close enough until a real medical solution is devised.

  • Gustavo says:

    An exceptuonally high titer of midi-chlorians acquited mid January 2020 may have boosted the VPO’s general immune competence.

  • Rational says:

    A randomly selected study of over 1400 participants in Austria showed the current Corona infection rate is less than .15% at the very highest. No members of the orchestra are over 65 (except the conductor), so the chances of fatality are extremely low, basically zero considering these two points (not to mention being tested every week). No one is being compelled to work by force.

    The economy here has been very open, aggresively so, while the rate of COVID continues to go down. Seems that American media portrayals of COVID have created a unrealistic understanding of the virus in the public, perhaps in an effort to criticize Trump for attempts to gradually reopen the economy. It seems like a Tale of Two Completely Different Viruses between America and elsewhere.

    The whole point of shutting down everything was to flatten the curve so that hospitals could handle the number of cases. We also have begun to understand the Corona was not as dangerous for most people as we may have initially thought. It was certainly the right call to shut down initially, to flatten the curve and to be safe, given we didn’t know how dangerous the virus could be. But bringing back culture in a safe, responsible way is an admirable step taken by an orchestra that seems to value forward-thinking as much as it values tradition.

  • Fiddlist says:

    Are the musicians going to be tested once per week, per month, what?