My Big Four Orchestra Run
Symphony Hall in Boston
One of the things I wanted to do before leaving the US was to see and hear all of the so called Big Five orchestras - Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York and Philadelphia. So, I made a little dash across the country and managed to hear four of the five perform during just one week! Unfortunately I still haven't heard the NY Phil live, but the time will come.
The interesting thing was how each of the orchestras I heard had a distinct sound and personality. As a string player my attention naturally gravitates to the string section, and there I could say that the winners are Philadelphia and Cleveland. Both have a luxurious golden sound! My preference is still Cleveland, maybe because they are extremely disciplined and you always are able to hear all the lines separately. Maybe I'm just used to it, who knows.
When it comes to woodwinds, Philadelphia sounded the best and most balanced section to my ears. Brass is a tie between Chicago and Boston. Overall the most impressive performance I heard was in Boston - very energetic playing despite small problems in ensemble. This leads me to think why it is that in Chicago and Boston string section playing sounds more energetic even though the sound quality and ensemble are not as refined as they are in Cleveland or Philadelphia? Do we have to make a choice between a lot of personal investment in the execution of the single string part versus being "obedient" to the ensemble in general? Is it that observing your leader and trying your best to be together with the section makes you sound less personally involved. Big questions for orchestra nerds.
Each of the orchestras played in a beautiful hall, and I had no complaints about acoustics - maybe again, I was just lucky with my seat. The winner for me is Severance Hall simply because it is the most beautiful concert hall I've seen in the whole of US. My second place goes to Philadelphia and Kimmel Center which has the fancy modern look. I was surprised how small and intimate Boston Symphony Hall looks. The only problem there is that your neck gets tired if you are seated on the side balcony...
All of the orchestras I heard definitely deserve their "Big" label. I cannot wait to hear the NY Phil and some of the "not so big" orchestras, like Dallas, LA or Minnesota, but that has to wait for another trip in the US. Hopefully I will have time to do another orchestra run in the future!