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Latest on Forbes: Go Hear My Orchestra Tonight! (+ Gergiev in Munich)

In Search Of A Home, Abroad: The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra In North America

...The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra is said to be the bee's knees among orchestras, the cream of the crop. Mariss Jansons brings the band to North America for people between Chapel Hill and Montreal to hear for themselves...

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Gergiev Starts Into Second Season In Munich

...For those who listened carefully, right off the bat (and again at the very end), two remarks were made that might be hints of a sea-change in the orchestra’s attitude; hinting perhaps at a point-zero of the Munich Philharmonic moving on from a considerably good but ultimately provincial orchestra of second rank to something more than that...

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Anonymous said...

Interesting to compare the two orchestras in Munich. As a devout Celi fan, I would take an issue to say that his and orchestra's fame was localized. Yes, in the U.S. Celi was and is a cult figure - much like Michael Gielen perhaps (of course their style of making music is different) - but he was worshiped in Japan, and I would say that his fame extended (to different levels, depending on the place) to all important European musical centers.

I would also argue that during his tenure, the Munich Philharmonic was the best trained orchestra. Player for player, there were better bands, and the orchestra rarely sounded at its best with guest conductors - a marvelous Bruckner 9 under Eugen Jochum, released in Japan is one such exception. But I have rarely heard an orchestra sounding as ONE instrument like the Munich Philharmonic did during Celi's tenure. Even when the interpretations were controversial, such as in Pictures at an Exhibition, the way the notes "floated in the air" - for lack of better term - was incredible. Plus Celi taught his musicians to actually listen to each other: this is an aspect that is often discusses, but rarely put in practice - Ivan Fischer's Budapest Festival Orchestra being again an exception.

Indeed, if we compare Celi's EMI recordings with those of the Bavarian Radio Orchestra under Colin Davis is the same repertoire - say Bruckner 7 on Orfeo or Bruckner's Mass on Philips - one cannot escape the conclusion that at that time it was the Munich Philharmonic that was the better orchestra.

That was then. But since Celi's death the Munich Philharmonic is still searching for a direction and steady leadership, while the Bavarian Radio Orchestra was in the hands of just two conductors, both great orchestra builders. The results speak to themselves.

Still, in spite of the orchestral excellence of today's band, my favorite period in the history of the Bavarian Radio Orchestra remains the Kubelik era.

jfl said...

I am 100% with you, in every aspect. Well, 99%, because I would argue that the Japanese pockets of idolatry are included in that "localized" fame I speak of... in fact, it was that which I was referring to.

Some of what you say about Celi (whom, sadly, I never heard live with the orchestra -- but I've heard most of their recordings from that time and spoken with several members of the orchestra who were part of that era (including Helmut Nikolai, the violist who famously left the Berlin Philharmonic to play under Celi) and I still remember the reverence with which was spoken of Celi, back in the days) was true about the time with Thielemann. I would always tell friends in Munich that if they wanted to hear an almost certainly really excellent performance, they should hear the BRSO. But if they wanted to have a good chance for a really memorable, emotionally charging concert, they ought to hear the Munich Philharmonic, assuming it was conducted by CT. They might not like it, they might love it, but they would certainly find it interesting!

And Gawd, yes... that comparison Davis/Celi... No contest.

Anonymous said...

Well, even Colin Davis, gentleman that he always was, admitted that Celi was in a different class...