Can a symphony describe Covid quarantine?

Can a symphony describe Covid quarantine?


norman lebrecht

February 26, 2021

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

I had serious qualms about listening to, let alone reviewing, a symphony that purports to describe our present situation. We all know by now the effects this pandemic has wrought on our lives, and we also remember the lives it has taken. Music has limitations in conveying such losses in abstract form. Mostly, one feels, it shouldn’t try.

But if you are a composer called Tchaikovsky it will take more than a public health crisis to stop you relating to an historic event, be it Napoleon or cholera. Alexander Tchaikovsky, 75 years old this month….

Read on here.

And here.

En francais ici.

More languages follow.



  • Gary Freer says:

    That didn’t stop Shostakovich writing a symphony about an even more serious military and public health emergency in wartime Leningrad? Or Haydn writing a Mass as Napoleon approached Vienna?

    • John Borstlap says:

      Or Strauss writing Rosenkavalier after Pauline bitterly complained about Elektra’s dissonances, or Schoenberg writing his first atonal piece when his wife left him for his friend Gerstl, or John Cage holding his breath when he heard about the Kern County Earthquake on July 21st 1952 and wrote his 4’33”. Bach wrote his Kunst der Fuge when one of his sons had said he didn’t like fugues in general and his father’s in particular.

  • yujafan says:

    Cudos indeed to Martin Anderson, the driving force behind Toccata, for bringing to light music that others might fear to touch. Many Toccata recordings and books have long been staples of my library.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Lots of noise, some beautiful orchestral effects, and hardly any musical substance. The tuttis like one-pan meals: throwing-in everything at hand.