lundi 2 août 2010

How long is required to shape and modify an Orchestra Personality ?

On the same Gramophone which I mentioned in my last post was a review of Bruckner's 5t Symphony by the OSR and Marek Janowski. I am not too keen on Bruckner (my fault I know ...) so my friend and excellent colleague Simon Corley did a review on Concertonet here. On Gramophone, the review was done by Richard Osborne who is probably a specialist of German conducting. He knows his stuff and has written a good book on Karajan. He was a little colder to Janowski's reading and mentioned (I quote from memory) that the OSR has more of a Fench culture nurtured by Ansermet and may not be so aligned with German music.

OK, Ansermet passed away in 1969. The orchestra's chief conductors from 1970 to 1985 were no less than Wofgang Sawallich and Horst Stein, definitely right out of the heart of the German tradition. Those in between them and Marek Janowski were Armin Jordan, Pinchas Steinberg and Fabio Luisi who definitely worked on German repertoire. Janowski needless to say comes directly from it. My best evenings at the Victoria Hall were a world-class (really !!!) Schmalzing Schubert 5th Symphony, Mendelssohn's Elias but I was unhappy on the lack of genuine colors in Russian repertory and Ravel's readings was where I found Janowski definitely less convincing.

The Orchestra may sound less German than the Dresden - Vienna - Berlin, .... but is more at home there than in other repertories after so many years of practice.

So has Ansermet's legacy disappeared ? Well, yes and no, the proof is in the curiosity displayed by the musicians themselves, witness their presence standing in the hall when they were not playing when contemporary music was played. But let us be weary of too fast generalisations. Who knows what the Berlin Phil - an orchestra which Boulez used for Ravel recordings - sounds will mean to future generations after a significant renewal of players coming from so many countries and playing under a non German conductor, same elsewhere. And the real question is how does it take for an orchestra to really change colours, style and habits ?

(A quick PS to mention that unlike what was mentioned in the press and commented here by me, the OSR has not appointed the young Kazuki Yamada on July 2nd. Maybe this is just a delay, maybe this is because first impressions need more time to confirm ... Wait and see ....)

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