A classical music blog by music critic Tim Mangan
classical music, music videos
Carlos Kleiber, Johann Strauss, Vienna Philharmonic
January 1, 2015
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Brilliant. He certainly set the bar at such a level that all other ones after that pale in comparison, although Pretre was a fun one. Found out recently that when Kleiber first did it in 1989, he was a sub for Bernstein who had to pull out due to ill health. Having him do it would have been fascinating.
This can hardly be called conducting – more like channeling the music, at least as much to the audience as to the players. The main thing of course is – it certainly works well!
I always catch myself watching each year’s concert from Vienna, although at the end I often feel ambivalent, similar to the way I react after having eaten an overly gooey dessert. Just a little bit of sugar goes a long way, and so does a little bit of waltz music.
Incidentally, actress Julie Andrews has taken over the role of host of the US broadcast of the VPO over the past few years, replacing the late Walter Cronkite. She also attended last October’s season premier of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the one in 2013. Given that she’s well seasoned as a world traveler and apparently is a supporter of orchestral music, and is very familiar with the Musikverein in Vienna (which has long been rated as having the best acoustics in the world), her comments about the local band’s home are worth noting:
Of course, it is also “worth noting” that this is what one is supposed to say at a big birthday celebration. In any case, it is certainly nice of Julie Andrews to be a strong supporter of the orchestra.
My own ears weren’t at the birthday celebration, but they nonetheless still are pretty much in alignment with what the hearing of Ms. Andrews has detected.
As for this year’s concert from Vienna, it was conduced by a former conductor of the LA Philharmonic:
Personally, I can’t watch and re-watch, and watch all over again, New Year’s Day concerts emanating out of Austria, but I always find the following so beguiling (in terms of both the composition and the sound) that I can’t help but playing it on more than one occasion during the past several years. I also don’t get those pangs of ambivalence that I feel after watching the VPO (and all its waltz music—along with the Blue Danube for the umpteenth time) each New Year’s day.
Since the 2 videos above are of performances of different pieces, different styles of classical music, I didn’t even try to compare the sound characteristics until just now. Oh, my! Yes, Julie Andrews knows what she’s talking about.
Of course JA “knows what she is talking about” – after all, she is a talented musician who does actually attend performances in the WDCH occasionally! However, none of us knows for sure what JA’s ears “have detected”. But we do know that expecting any sane person in that kind of situation under these specific circumstances to publicly say anything that differs from unqualified praise is laughably naive.
Julie Andrews’s ears and those of Salonen’s appear to be in sync. Good for you, Ms. Andrews!
(MarK, you’re now starting to come off like a troll.)
Now this is an outstanding musician who knows the finest concert halls not from recordings or broadcasts but because he has been conducting and listening to performances inside most of them, and therefore his opinion is definitely valid. But it is not the only one. Like many things in music and other arts, evaluation of acoustics is a matter of taste and priorities. As LA Phil’s artistic leader since 1990 and until 2009, EPS was consulted several times during the Hall’s gestation period about its acoustical design, so it is not at all surprising that he feels personally connected to the building in which his particular acoustical ideas were taken into consideration and realized quite successfully. A couple of superlatives in his brief talk here, such as “if any” and “unbelievably”, show his “parental” pride which is fully understandable for a person who helped create that “baby” and was the conductor of its opening concerts.
Most musicians generally agree on which are the world’s best concert halls, but to place them in exact order is impossible and unnecessary because different people prefer different things. That is exactly why EPS correctly says “not many compare” without specifying which one of them is number one or two or three. As for his statement that “LA is lucky with the Hall”, i happen to be in full agreement with him about that too. And this opinion of mine is, once again, not based on recordings or broadcasts, but because i am one of those lucky ones who know WDCH “personally” inside and out even more thoroughly than EPS does, and also because i have been fortunate to perform and hear concerts in most of the world’s other great halls as well.
By the way, attempting to put a pejorative label on an interlocutor has never advanced anyone’s argument, especially when that label, as poorly and loosely defined as it is, still does not fit.
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