Friday, February 13, 2009

The Battle of the Bands

Recently, I was introduced to a Board member of the Pacific Symphony who ardently averred that it's a better orchestra than the Los Angeles Philharmonic. I admired her passion and her support for the PSO, which is indeed a fine ensemble, and pointed out that was one of those months where she might be able to compare them since they'd both be performing in the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.

But then I went one better: I asked her if it wouldn't be more accurate and fun if they could be scheduled on the same night in the hall--a veritable "Battle of the Bands". Well, we all had a good laugh over that. (Full disclosure: I worked for two major orchestras briefly during my salad days, and once promoted a jazz-themed pops concert as getting to hear "the biggest of the Big Bands." That didn't go over so well with one of the musicians who wrote a letter to the editor of the daily newspaper excoriating management for having them deviate from an exclusively classical repertoire.)

Well, recently OC Register's classical music critic Tim Mangan pointed out the rankings of orchestras appeared in the UK classical music magazine Gramaphone (I think), so when I came across a blog entry today in the Arts Journal on that subject, I took notice.

The writer questions the methods of ranking:

"What exactly are the standards for such ranking? Intonation? Ensemble? Tonal quality? Blend? Quickness to learn new music? Responsiveness to a range of repertoire and conductors? Adaptability to different hall acoustics on tour? Musicians who smile? Power? Finesse? Passion? Some mix of all of the above? In what proportions?" Read his entire entry here.

As for me, I'm sort of partial to "musicians who smile".

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