No audiences are allowed at its concerts this fall, but the Minnesota Orchestra will still be playing.

A streamlined series of six Friday evening concerts was announced Monday, replacing the orchestra’s previously advertised fall season.

All six will be televised live from Orchestra Hall on Twin Cities Public Television’s Minnesota Channel and on the orchestra’s website. Most will also be live on Minnesota Public Radio classical stations.

The concerts begin Oct. 2 as part of what orchestra President Michelle Miller Burns called a “gradual phased return to concert performances.”

Not all of the orchestra will be involved in each concert. Social distancing protocols mean that a maximum of 25 musicians can fit onto the Orchestra Hall stage, with additional health and safety measures also in operation.

The orchestra last performed in full on March 13 — a concert without an audience that was broadcast by MPR. Last month it experimented with a partial return to live performance with a string of socially distanced chamber music recitals, presented outdoors on Peavey Plaza.

Music director Osmo Vänskä will lead two of this fall’s six concerts, including the Oct. 2 opener. He will play a key role in choosing repertoire suitable for an orchestra about one-third its normal size.

“The musicians, artistic staff and I relish the challenge of programming fall concerts with new repertoire and new combinations of players that can showcase the versatility of the orchestra,” he said in a statement. “We thank our ticket holders and supporters for their understanding and flexibility as we unroll plans that are significantly different from what we originally programmed.”

The 2020-21 season will be the next-to-last for Vänskä in Minnesota. The orchestra had mapped out an ambitious schedule starting Sept. 24 after being forced to cancel its spring and summer concerts. Fall programs now will be shifted to next year. Concert dates starting in January remain on the schedule, pending the status of the coronavirus pandemic.

The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra is taking a similar tack. It canceled all in-person performances through the end of December but will livestream six free concerts from Ordway Center starting Oct. 3 at thespco.org.

Sarah Hicks, principal conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra’s popular “Live at Orchestra Hall” series, will host this fall’s TV broadcasts and online livestreams. Concerts are also scheduled Oct. 23, Nov. 6 and 20, and Dec. 4 and 18. Each lasts approximately 60 minutes. Details of the pieces being played will be available later this month.

Bringing “limited audiences” back into Orchestra Hall is the likely next step, said Miller Burns. But until then, “our goal … is to enable audiences to easily and safely access the orchestra on the platform of their choice — online, on TV or on the radio.”

 

Terry Blain is the Star Tribune’s classical music critic artsblain@gmail.com