Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Seeing the New York Philharmonic

I'm from Chicago.  I know what a world class orchestra sounds like, because we have one right here, conducted by Maestro Muti, when he gets back from Italy that is.

I was excited to see the New York Philharmonic.  I went to a concert they gave at the Lincoln Center on Saturday.  The program was Beethoven's 2nd Symphony in D Major and Twelve Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn by Mahler. 

I wanted to see how the famous New York Philharmonic compared with my hometown Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  Unfortunately, I couldn't really hear the New York Philharmonic, and I could really see them either.  The hall they performed in was Avery Fisher Hall.  First, I noticed that couldn't see anything, in spite of having reasonably close seats in the first tier.  The angle of view to the stage was blocked by big black metal railings.  Also, you couldn't really hear the low voices very well. 

The acoustics problem was a big issue in the second piece.  The Mahler piece was a collection of songs sunch by two singers.  The soprano, Dorothea Roschmann, I could hear.  She sang quite nicely.  The Tenor, Ian Bostridge, I couldn't really hear!  I could hear his high notes, but not his low notes.

When I got home, I did some research on Avery Fischer Hall.  It turns out that the Hall does have acoustical problems.  It wasn't Mr. Bostridge's fault that I couldn't hear him.  The Hall was made too big, and the acoustics for the low voices aren't very good.

Also, the hall was ugly.  It was all brown.  The seats were brown.  The stage was brown.  The walls were brown.  It was like watching a concert in a big brown box.  On the walls, a bunch of brightly lit exit signs were glaring.  It was unpleasant.

When the Mahler was going on, they had a projector flashing a translation of the german up.  It was hard to concentrate on the orchestra, because the words were always distracting you.

On a postive note, I really liked principal clarinetist, Mark Nuccio, who had a lot of solos in the Mahler.  The horns stood out too, especially in the Beethoven.

Another problem was the audience.  At the end of the performance, while we were applauding, about one fourth of them got up and left.  How could they do that?!  The performers were trying to come back for their ovations, but it was awkward with all the people leaving at the same time.  I'm glad Chicago audiences don't act like that!

I would like to see the New York Philharmonic play in Carnegie Hall or the Chicago Symphony Center so I can actually hear them perform.  I'm sure they're great.

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