If you take the figures that the German Orchestra Association (DOV) just published, our orchestras initially hardly suffered from the corona pandemic. As in the survey two years earlier, there are 129 professional orchestras in Germany, and no orchestra has been merged or closed since then. A total of seventeen jobs out of 9,749 were lost, which has to do with the long-term job cuts at the SWR Symphony Orchestra, to which the radio orchestras of Stuttgart and Baden-Baden/Freiburg were merged. In the case of state and municipal orchestras as well as chamber orchestras, the DOV even recorded a slight increase in permanent positions.

"The situation of the professional orchestras has consolidated," stated Gerald Mertens, Managing Director of the DOV, at the press conference in Berlin, to which the switch to short-time work during the pandemic, which was used by eighty percent of the orchestras, also contributed: " That was very helpful for the orchestras.”

The pandemic also released creativity in the development of new concert formats.

"1:1" concerts, in which a musician gives a ten-minute concert for just one listener, are taken up in many places, and shorter concerts lasting a maximum of ninety minutes without a break could also be attractive in the future.

Mertens also counts the fact that many arrangements for smaller ensembles were created or excavated as one of the positive aesthetic effects of the Corona crisis.

He is also satisfied with the development in the East German states, where more and more orchestras from disadvantageous in-house contracts are being taken over by the better regional tariffs, or where politicians have at least expressed corresponding declarations of intention.

Operations in academies are faltering

Nevertheless, the orchestras are faced with a multitude of imponderables. The number of final examinations at German music colleges fell significantly last year and, at 1750 examinations (previously 2250), was at about the same level as it had been twenty years ago. There is still no information about the exact reasons for the low number, said Mertens, it is conceivable, for example, that more students have applied for a semester off because of the Corona crisis. Together with the sluggish operation in the orchestra academies over the past two years and the meanwhile greatly reduced opportunities to enable interns to gain practical experience, there is a certain vagueness for the DOV when it comes to young people for the orchestra.

However, the decline in the number of examinations takes place against the background of a continuously increasing number of degrees at music colleges over the past twenty years.

This has led to the accusation that the universities are training musicians for a market that doesn't even exist.

In this light, the decline in the number of examinations that has now been recorded can also be understood as a sensible regulatory measure.

The greatest uncertainty, however, is how the number of subscribers will develop once the corona pandemic is over. Who will choose a concert or opera subscription again after many orchestras and opera houses have suspended subscription sales? Too uncertain the prospect of which concerts will take place and which will not; too complex the procedure of a refund for canceled evenings. The older audience in particular, who make up the majority of subscribers, are currently still reluctant to go to operas and concerts, reports Mertens.

Mertens points to the Rhineland-Palatinate State Philharmonic Orchestra in Ludwigshafen, which, with its artistic director Beat Fehlmann, was able to win fifty-one percent more subscribers for the current season on how to successfully win subscribers.

A clever advertising campaign helped and the personal commitment of the musicians, some of whom advertised their ensemble at weekly markets.

As you can see here, there is still a lot that is possible when the orchestra moves towards the citizens.