No audiences, but concerts streamed to the world. This is a moment in classical music history

16 March 2020, 21:51 | Updated: 13 October 2020, 11:35

Bach Collegium Japan live stream
Bach Collegium Japan live stream. Picture: Facebook / Kölner Philharmonie

At a time of profound upheaval, music is being made not for an audience, but for the world.

Back in March 2020, Bach Collegium Japan performed Bach’s St. John Passion at the Cologne Philharmonic. The performance was full of passion and the highest artistry. At the end of the final chorale, orchestra, choir, soloists and conductor turned and bowed, but very poignantly, there was no sound or ovation to be heard.

It felt like one of the first concerts in a deeply meaningful chapter in the history of live music.

In 2020, the world’s musicians are not playing to audiences, they are not showcasing their craft for the applause. They are simply playing to share music with a world that needs to hear it.

As governments around the world restricted gatherings, multiple theatres, concert halls, and opera houses have had to shut their doors to the public or limit audience numbers. In response, many artists and venues are turning to social media and Facebook Live, Twitter's Periscope and YouTube live streams, to fill virtual concert halls.

It's also remarkable to note that without an audience, artists have been enabled to new levels of creativity and invention. True silver linings.

Classical music hasn't had a moment like this before, but millions of people are watching these performances – some big, some small. Music may be reaching us in a different way, but it's still having the same impact it's always had: inspiring, calming, entertaining and bringing reassuring peace. And it feels like the world needs that more than ever.

We wanted to highlight just a few for you.

  1. Bach's St. John Passion from Bach Collegium Japan

    Here's that powerful and profound performance from Cologne – watch it on Facebook here.

  2. The Philharmonia Sessions

    Our great Orchestra on Tour, The Philharmonia saw an opportunity to explore a different acoustic in concert. The chic, rustic grandeur of the Battersea Arts Centre was the place for The Philharmonia Sessions from July to September. With star soloists like Sheku Kanneh-Mason and Nicola Benedetti, they brought spectacular socially-distanced music to thousands in online ‘sessions’.

  3. The greatest chiors, streamed live from the UK's capital.

    In summer and autumn 2020, some of the world's finest choirs took part in a series, Live from London. The groups VOCES8, The Sixteen, Stile Antico and others took part in the online ticketed concerts, filmed in ultra-lush style. There's more music coming for Christmas too, if you're in need of your festive choral fix!

  4. An epic piano recital from Igor Levit

    Here's an example of the sort of concert that was enabled by this moment: phenomenal pianist Igor Levit, playing an excruciating 20-hour Satie piece. Back in May, his pianistic marathon was watched by thousands.

  5. Beethoven from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

    2020 was also Beethoven's 250th anniversary year, and the great composer's music rang out in countless online performances, including in this one from one of the great concert halls of the world. A reminder that great music cannot be silenced.

  6. A Renaissance masterpiece from the Tate Modern

    The ORA Singers had planned to sing Tallis' incredible 40-part motet Spem in Alium at the Tate Modern in May.

    This had to be delayed, but in September the singers were able to gather in the gallery's imposing Turbine Hall and fill it with the most beautiful music, streaming it all to the world. It sounded incredible and powerfully spoke to our moment in time.

Listen to Classic FM’s Live Music Month with Viking throughout October. The Classic FM Concert will feature all-live programmes every night from 8pm to 10pm.

For more information on how you can explore the world in comfort from your home, visit Viking.tv.