During the performance, string players, percussionists and the conductor wore black, branded ASO masks. The woodwinds, to mitigate the aerosols created when playing their instruments, performed separated by plexiglass partitions. Masks were, of course, not practical for these performers, so they were distanced at least 10 feet, front to back, from their colleagues. Behind the scenes safety protocols included COVID testing, and daily temperature checks and health assessments.
Preparing for a concert like this would historically involve multiple 2.5-hour blocks of rehearsal time; these practices were limited to 90 minutes. The time constraints also extended to the recording sessions. (No more than 50 total people were involved in the recording sessions.)
Current circumstances call for agile programs. The ASO had intended to open the season with Beethoven’s fifth symphony, but safety protocols made staging expansive works impractical. Across five more recorded concerts broadcast through the ASO Virtual Stage, the orchestra will focus on mostly treasured baroque and classical works, which were written with smaller ensembles in mind. Compressed rehearsal times and the limits placed on the orchestra mean the performance of more contemporary classical pieces is unfeasible.
Performance plans are fluid (this opening night concert was originally set to air Sept. 26), but the ASO’s adaptability and the ability to perform under extraordinary circumstances should be celebrated.
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with Gil Shaham
ASO Virtual Stage. $48 for three concerts, $96 for six. 404-733-5000, atlantasymphony.org.