One of the salient features of the Covid crisis has been the distance that has been drawn between orchestras and their music directors. Very few orchestras these days have conductors who live in the same city, or even the same country.
With the singular exceptions of the LA Phil and the SanFran Symphony, no major US orchestra had its maestro close at hand during the tragedies, anxieties and isolation of the first Covid quarter. Chicago’s chief is in Italy, Boston’s in Germany, Cleveland’s in Austria, the Met’s and Philadelphia’s in Canada.
The situation was slightly different in the UK where the London Symphony Orchestra, for instance, was in close Zoom contact with Simon Rattle, but he lives in Berlin and may not be seen in quarantine-zone London any time soon (though he has conducted this month in Munich and Prague). By contrast, Tony Pappano stayed close to Covent Garden and Liverpool’s Vasily Petrenko and the Halle’s Mark Elder were also local and at hand.
The situation varied across Europe. Most international Finns stayed home in Finland. Alan Gilbert was round the corner from the Royal Swedish Opera. Valery Gergiev was in St Petersburg, far from his Munich orchestra, Paavo Järvi was not in Zurich, where he heads the Tonhalle orchestra. Fabio Luisi, who heads the opera, was. He also held private and impromptu Zoom recitals with his Dallas musicians.
Gergiev is expected to fly to Munich this week for two concerts for 100 people, tested before departure and again on arrival.
Many orchestras will look back on this period as one when the bonds with chief conductors loosened. It could be a defining moment.