Concert Report: Quarantine Edition

Paper instructions

The syllabus had initially outlined the requirement to attend the Stony Brook Graduate Orchestra concert
on April 4th, 2020. For obvious reasons, this became impossible for everyone. The backup plan was to have
everyone watch online performances of these pieces, but that is also not possible due to the fact that there
are not video recordings of these pieces (in some cases there are no audio recordings, either). Instead, I
have found a program that will make up for the original concert.
The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the most well-known and critically acclaimed orchestras in the
world. For many years the conductor, Sir Simon Rattle, was the director of this orchestra. While he was
the director of this group, he made great strides in expanding the orchestra’s repertoire: this included
premiering new pieces with living composers, creating theater pieces with the orchestra, collaborating with
non-classical ensembles, and the creation of many educational programs meant for younger audiences.
On March 12, 2020 while Germany was already quarantining most of the country, the Berlin Philharmonic
decided to perform and record a concert, before the danger of the virus became too serious. As can be seen
in the performance, there is no one in the audience. Sir Simon Rattle was featured as the director of this
concert, and before each piece began, he addressed the virtual audience, providing thoughts about what the
arts mean in a time of quarantine and great isolation.
The program performed in this concert features two pieces: Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia (1968), and Béla
Bartók’s “Concerto For Orchestra” (1943). These two pieces are incredibly demanding for even the best
orchestras, and Berio’s piece, Sinfonia is rarely performed due to the difficult parts for 8 solo singers. Both
of these pieces, as Rattle explains in his interviews, were written during very complicated times in history,
not unlike the one we face now. Sinfonia explores thoughts and feelings about the global revolutions
occurring in 1968, the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and J.F.K., and Bartók’s “Concerto”
dealt with pains and fears during WWII, as well as the composer’s failing health.
Assignment: Watch/listen to this performance of the Berlin Philharmonic performing Sinfonia and the
“Concerto for Orchestra”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qA2mXSUt77o


Also listen to the short interviews/explanations provided by Sir Simon Rattle, as they will help guide you in
your experience. Each movement of each work is labeled in the video. Write about what you hear, describe
what you are listening to. Paper should be between 4-6 pages, double-spaced. REMEMBER! It’s fine if
you hate it, but you need to describe why. I do not want to create a bias, but generally, some people have a
hard time with some of the Berio: it is very “modern” and there is a lot happening. The Bartók piece is a
standard piece that most classical concert audiences love. It is very exciting and as Rattle says, sounds
“optimistic” at the end.
DO NOT:
1. Write dramatic clichés. “I felt the burning fury of revolution in the 3rd movement of Sinfonia.” “My
heart swelled with confidence in the final movement of the Concerto!”
2. Plagiarize. I will check all of these for plagiarism. If caught, you will fail and I will report you to the
academic integrity committee. I encourage you to do some background reading and use sources,
but cite them. However, I do not want your sources opinions on what you hear: those must come
from you!
Resources
Grove Encyclopedia of Music
JSTOR
Wikipedia (for basic background)
Program notes provided in the video
Library online resources
Questions that should be considered:
“How does music relate to memory?”
“Where do we travel to when we listen to a piece of music?”
“What is a concert?”
“What is a concert without a live audience?”
“What has my relationship been to music/arts since the quarantine?”
“How art visual collages are similar/different to musical collages?”
“How do I feel about classical music concerts?”

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