Philadelphia Orchestra scraps 20-21 season

Philadelphia Orchestra scraps 20-21 season


norman lebrecht

August 17, 2020

A replacement season was rolled out today, with a small ensembles performing online without an audience.

‘It’s totally different,’ said Matías Tarnopolsky, president and CEO. ‘Because of COVID, it’s not safe to convene a large orchestra in a large concert hall with audiences present.’

Ensembles of 25 to 30 musicians will perform at an empty Verizon Hall or outdoors at the Mann Center, filmed for online transmission. Yannick Nézet-Séguin will conduct seven concerts. Guest artists will include Emanuel Ax, Angel Blue, Yefim Bronfman, Lang Lang and Branford Marsalis.

They’re calling it ‘reimagined’. Just like every other orchestra.



  • Miguel Esteban says:

    This only affects the first part of their 20/21 season, not the entire season.

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    Let the Hunger Games begin.

    They will now be competing with the Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall

    No word from the other Big Five US Orchestras.

    And who will pay and for what?

    While there are amazing musicians in all the major orchestras, competing with chamber music groups like Lincoln Center will not work.

    Perhaps we are entering a new dawn for chamber music played real groups and not just thrown togther.

  • Dana Willis says:

    Performing with no real audience is basically a sitzprobe.

    Having everyone in the same room feeds the souls of those onstage and in the audience.

    The attempt is nice but everyone is basically shut in their own worlds with no outside participation.

    It’s too sterile and morose for people to fully enjoy save the money it takes to be properly set up all of these tech platforms plus access charges for those that are able. It’s also leaving the most important base of older listeners out who want to GO somewhere and a night out dining and traveling.

    Good for Yannick and the stars performing though! I would press him and others to give other artists a chance who also need income, particularly new blood no matter their age.

    • Jeff says:

      I don’t know if you are a musician or not, but if you are I feel badly for you. Every recording you have ever listened to except for live recordings, of course, has been made without an audience. Musicians do not need their souls fed in order to create beautiful music. We feed our own souls, thank you very much.

      • Derek says:


        Surely you know what Dana means?

        Yes, you can play beautiful music for yourself but sharing and listening is also a part of music.

        You can write a brilliant novel but if nobody reads it …?

      • P. Edgewater says:

        You’re obviously not a musician Jeff; just an argumentative little curr.

    • Tesse says:

      Members of elderly listener base who cannot go out due to underlying health issues are pleased with options like this that include us.

  • Eldwin says:

    “Scraps” seems to imply NO season, when in fact there IS a “replacement” season.

  • RM says:

    Very ambitious…and admirable.
    Other major US orchestras should consider and announce doing same…of course only if their local health officials allow for it.

  • Quevinne Bobotard says:

    At this point during these egregious and dangerous times, I am thrilled to see musicians back on the stage in any capacity. These people have worked so hard to establish outstanding careers, and having the opportunity to see and hear these upstanding folks do what they do best brings a welcome warmth to this weary old fart. Try to see the good that can come from our present situation, Norman!

    All the best,

  • John Chunch says:

    I for one am looking forward to enjoying the new season as announced. I’ve never been much for large orchestral works, I find them sonically overwhelming. It will be a wonderful opportunity to hear the fantastic Philly orchestra woodwinds in a clear sonic timbre for once. Hopefully by 2022 we can resume concert life and maybe orchestras will learn to mix in a little more of these smaller chamber textures.

  • Buddy Guy says:

    Good. Maybe they can listen to top European orchestras on their time off and learn a thing or two about “BLEND”.

  • robert w says:

    yannick and that whole list of guest “artists” should get the Emanuel Ax.

    • Penelope Insect says:

      This is a terrible joke and you should consider never contributing to this comments section again, thank you.


  • Cubs Fan says:

    And the Phoenix Symphony has also cancelled the 20/21 season.

  • Grittenhouse says:

    Same old, same old, same old. Who isn’t tired of hearing Ax, Bronfman, Lang Lang, etc. Competent yes, artists, no. It’s a criminal act, when you think that these concerts are what young musicians need to learn from, be inspired by. What great artists there were in the 1980s, I could not here because I didn’t have the money, and they would sell out immediately. No tickets were set aside for students. This is irresponsible.

  • V. Lind says:

    Well, they certainly seem to have support for it from top performers.

    I don’t see anything wrong with how orchestras and artists are trying to make something out of the difficulties all around us. Instead of carping at them, wouldn’t it be better to encourage? Add ideas, if you have them?

    While I miss live performance, I am spoiled for choice when it comes to options.

  • MacroV says:

    In the spirit of making lemons out of lemonade, this does present orchestras with an opportunity to get creative. Play works that big orchestras usually avoid – maybe even some newer or more obscure ones. Try out venues where social distancing may not be as much of a necessity. Also, the Concertgebouw showed they could play large works, just taking up more of their stage than usual.

  • James Weiss says:

    “Reimagined.” George Orwell would be proud.

  • MIke McGuire says:

    Mr Lebrecht, If i can get used to this stupid British phrase “went missing” that replaced “disappeared” in the American vocabulary after the child disappeared in Portugal, you can most certainly get used to the work reimagined. Reimagined is certainly better than the word “scrapped” that you used in the headline, which is nothing more than clickbait! Mike McGuire

    • V. Lind says:

      Before you “go crazy,” and nationalistic, think who says “went AWOL.”

      Don’t even think about starting a language war. You come from a country that can’t use the word “lay” correctly, even in book titles (Joan Didion) or song titles (Bob Dylan).

      • Eric says:

        Well Brits almost always confuse its with it’s, not to mention phrases like “he is poorly” and the archaic-sounding “whilst”. Both sides of the pond have their peculiarities.

      • CarlD says:

        Dylan — as well as Eric Clapton (Lay Down, Sally) — stretch the grammatical rules to fit the spirit of the genre. Joan Didion was quoting a golf expression.

      • Edgard Self says:

        V. Lind’s familiar bias contra Baja Canada is on full view again. We have been over this once before, helas, to no accord. I won’t even mention the former mayor of Toronto, or current ministers, prime or finance.

  • Mick the Knife says:

    Its a good idea. I’ll buy tickets to several concerts. Thanks to the Philadelphia Orchestra for presenting this to the worldwide classical music audience.