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3.12.08

Thanksgiving with Bruckner

Thanksgiving was rescheduled to Friday in my household -- in part because you can do that, if you live abroad... and also because it allowed me to attend the Mariss Jansons conducted Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra's performance of Bruckner's Fourth Symphony. Unfortunately, I sat in what must be one of those dreaded awful-acoustic spots of the Philharmonic Hall at the Gasteig, and all I heard in the opening Mozart Symphony (No.36, "Linz") was muddled garbage. It was only marginally better for the Bruckner, and until the excellent fourth movement, it was impossible to discern whether it was just the acoustic or also the performance that made Bruckner sound like a mess.

"Boring and senselessly loud" stands scribbled in my notebook; at least that's what I heard in Block "E" (the right of the lobster 'chelipeds', if you will), along with horn solos unworthy of the "Sixth Best Orchestra in the World". The Finale, however, came together much better, was suddenly compelling and dramatic, with poignant climaxes, not empty gestures. I'm not sure how much of this might have been me getting used to the acoustic and how much of this was a genuinely modest performance improving greatly... which leaves me unwilling to review the concert altogether.

For better Bruckner memories I am left recalling Blomstedt's Eight (also with the BRSO) at the Herkulessaal and at Ottobeuren and Thielemann's Fourth (with the Munich Phil), both from last season. Unfortunately Nagano's Eigth with the Bavarian State Orchestra from two weeks ago wasn't particularly impressive.

2 comments:

Michael Pakaluk said...

The Grammaphone list looks ridiculous to me. The Met orchestra should be near the top; Berlin over Concertgebouw; LSO much farther down; Vienna's far overrated (as usual). There are about ten unmentioned American orchestras which have as good a claim as most members on the lower half of this list. Etc etc. The jury, after looking at this final product, should have concluded that their method was wrong somewhere, and started all over again.





ON TOP OF GRAMOPHONE’S LIST OF “THE TOP 20 ORCHESTRAS”:
1) Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam

2) Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

3) Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

4) London Symphony Orchestra

5) Chicago Symphony Orchestra

6) Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra

7) Cleveland Orchestra

8) Los Angeles Philharmonic

9) Budapest Festival Orchestra

10) Dresden Staatskapelle

11) Boston Symphony Orchestra

12) New York Philharmonic

13) San Francisco Symphony

14) Mariinsky Theater Orchestra (tours the West as the Kirov Orchestra)

15) Russian National Orchestra

16) Leningrad Philharmonic

17) Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

18) Metropolitan Opera Orchestra

19) Saito Kinen Orchestra (Japan)

20) Czech Philharmonic

jfl said...

The Grammaphone list looks ridiculous to me. The Met orchestra should be near the top; Berlin over Concertgebouw; LSO much farther down; Vienna's far overrated (as usual). There are about ten unmentioned American orchestras which have as good a claim as most members on the lower half of this list. Etc etc. The jury, after looking at this final product, should have concluded that their method was wrong somewhere, and started all over again.
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Well, such lists are inherently ridiculous, not because they somehow got it wrong.

Too many factors are to include: Quality of the orchestra on CD or live? (Though judging just from recent recordings, the BPh should barely have made the top 20, for example) How many times have these critics actually heard the orchestras live? I've heard eleven of them over the last two years, and most of those at least twice or more often... and I don't think I could make a really meaningful list even for myself.

That doesn't keep me from having opinions about it, though (Leipzig should be far above Dresden, these days -- NYPhil doesn't belong even as high as 12, LSO barely top 10, if that... VPO overrated, I concur... but so is the BPO (surely the BPO is not a better orchestra than the RCO, these days!)

In the US, I would have included Minnesota... if Saito Kinen can be included, why not Lucerne? Neither of them are full time orchestras, after all.

In any case... that's what such silly lists are useful for: We can pronounce them silly and then hotly debate our own versions thereof. :-)

Cheers.