Concert and pandemic – The day the gilding of Victoria Hall lost its purpose

OSR and pianist Khatia Buniatishvili hosted a streaming concert for screens. Beauty in a spectral void.

Pianist Khatia Buniatishvili, alongside OSR musicians and guest conductor Cristoph Koncz.


Twelve spectators dispatched in a room which can contain approximately 1600, what does it give exactly? For those who have rubbed shoulders with this appalling disproportion between empty and full, between abandoned seats and timidly occupied places, the simple glance towards the parterre, the boxes and the balconies has opened up a metaphysical abyss. Of those, to get along, who invade you when you scrutinize the paintings of Giorgio De Chirico. On Wednesday evening, therefore, the Victoria Hall turned into a stage of a deviant genre, transformed into a simple pedestal for the needs of a concert which was aimed at streaming music lovers connected by interposed screens. The pandemic will have succeeded in this too: to cut off the Orchestra of French-speaking Switzerland from its audience and to project its musicians far from their traditional walls.

From then on, it was the whole meaning of the concert, its rituals and its tocs, which was upset. What was expected in the room before the appearance of the Covid, no longer being at all, or perhaps becoming so at home, the computer on to follow the event remotely. An example? Upon entering the premises, we are told not to clap between the pieces on the menu. The needs of the capture, provided by the RTS, imposed this rule. So what do we do instead? We give in a little to instinct, to this momentum which pushes you to salute the performance after a telluric “tutti” and a devastating crescendo. But we do it by converting to mime, by moving our hands without making any noise. And we then observe out of the corner of our eye our neighbor, who has also complied with the same reflex, and we look at each other with an air half amused, half dismayed, measuring the growing thickness of the silence that surrounds us. And then we notice, just as surprised, the bowing and the thanks of the young conductor Cristoph Koncz and the pianist Khatia Buniatishvili addressed not to us, shipwrecked in the void, but to the cameras.

8,200 visitors to the screen

Ah, misery of virus which capsized everything, up to the bar of the place, transformed into receptacle of cases of instruments, jackets and coats of the musicians. What should we keep from the evening? The approximately 8,200 people who followed the live stream on the OSR, Arte and YouTube sites. And then the music, let’s see, which was beautiful. With a program concocted by the Friends of the OSR, two great hits from the repertoire have emerged. First of all, Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 1”. Where it will have been given to grasp what Khatia Buniatishvili is when she spares part of her demonstrative inclinations. We have thus found a musician who certainly emphasizes all the features, and who plays in the mannered playing, but who is also capable of a formidable touch – what a blend with the orchestra in the “Andantino” – and of a technique unstoppable. Later, the OSR delivered a vibrant, balanced and noble Brahms ‘Second’.

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Posted today at 15:43

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