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In Reply to: Sounds fine; performance only okay posted by madisonears on April 1, 2007 at 15:32:41:
Well, I like Bruno Walters’ performance (I think with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra) better than I like the Reiner. In fact, I also like Dorati, Kubelik, Toscanini, etc., as much if not more than the Reiner. (Not to mention my dbx recording of Enrique Batiz with the London Philharmonic) For sure, it is a testament to these great conductors and their orchestras that we continually reach back 50-60 years to find a great performance of specific works. I will always appreciate the singular greatness and uniqueness of there work. I will always appreciate the ‘57 Chevy. But Reiner and his contemporaries have got to roll over (and tell Tchaikovsky the news).
Weekend before last I attended a performance of “Shererazade”. At the end of the performance the audience, including yours truly, responded with a heartfelt standing ovation. (In fact, there was a smattering of applause at the end of the first movement-I did not participate in that :). While I will never have an opportunity to hear a recording of that performance I can say with a fair amount of certainty that it was not a *great* performance. It was probably a straightforward, good performance at best. But you’d be hard pressed to find an attendee, most whom seemed quite familiar with this warhorse, who did not think the performance was quintessential. So why did the audience go ga ga over a performance that was competent but not exceptional performance? I would say it’s because we were *there*. We had a special appreciation for the performance, the visuals, and for the sound. And the performance had a great finish.
Likewise, I sure many of us have heard live recordings in which you are startled at the end with a thunderous applause. At times I’ve said to myself, the performance was OK or even good, but it was not *that* good. What got lost in the translation that made the audience so much more impressed than I was (or professionally paid record critics for that matter)? Well, the audience was there, I wasn’t. The Eschenbach/Philadelphia Saint-Saens performance on Ondine may fit this mold where you have a more than OK, though not great performance (as suggested by the early returns), with a flawed 3rd section, but a stupendous finish.
So what does this have to do with Telarc? In the past few years, a few misses not withstanding, Telarc recordings most *consistently*, among recordings in my collection, are successful in transporting the listener to *there* to the concert hall at the time of the performance. The Jarvi 9th, I believe, does this so much more successfully than the 50 year old Reiner recording could ever hope to do. As you say the Reiner recording “sounds a little ragged”. This continually reminds the listener that she/he is listening to a recording and less so a performance before you. On the other hand with the Jarvi Dvorak 9th there are far “less dots to connect” to complete a lifelike portrait of the performance. You are more apt to believe you are there.
From a scholarly perspective the Reiner performance may be superior, (but behind Walter for me). But I don’t find the Jarvi Dvorak 9th to be a slouch. On the contrary, I find it to be a very good to excellent performance and coupled with the sound quality that I agree with you is “beautiful and quite spectacular”, is far more reminecent of a live performance, particularly in multi-channel, and will find far more playing time in my home than Reiner, although he, too get’s his spins. And regarding the Largo, in my comments on SA-CD.net I specifically noted that it was a full two minutes longer than what I was use to. Yes, I would have like it a bit faster, but it nonetheless tightly constructed and in no way spoils the performance for me.
One of these days perhaps we will have a *great* Dvorak 9th in a modern recording, but until then most of the 9ths that you/we have purchased in the 50 years since Reiner probably have a vaulable place in our collections. For me I view the Jarvi Dvorak 9th as excellent in terms of performance and sound, and among modern recorded performances far outstrips the the Fischer/Budapest recording on Philips, and is at the top of the “New World” heap in my collection.
I grew up with that Walter performance on Columbia, and I think that the first time we hear a piece of music, or the first time we "get it", it is imprinted in our minds as the standard. I guess the Reiner is the one available in the "best" sound that comes closest to Walter's classic performance. Jarvi is just too eccentric to be enjoyable, although it sounds very realistic and almost wins on sonics alone. It's a shame that many of the currently active conductors are trying too hard to find something new in the music to justify their new recordings, when all they really need to do is play the music as it's been perfectly played before, with better recording technology, to become the new standard. The only modern recording that moved me comparably was Dohnanyi on Decca.
"What got lost in the translation that made the audience so much more impressed than I was (or professionally paid record critics for that matter)? Well, the audience was there...."
U.S. audiences tend to give standing ovations to performances whether they consider them "quintessential" or "impressive" or not. I think that, in at least some cases, if even just one person stands up following the finale, others feel they have to follow suit lest it be thought that they've missed something or aren't "with it" (or they simply don't want to appear to be discourteous boors)--in other words, the response reflects more on audience members' perception of what others might think than on the performance or the simple fact of their being there.
I will narrow my comments to reflect my personal experiences in the San Francisco Bay Area, where many believe we march to a different drummer:
I have found in a couple of hundred concerts that the polite applause or even a hearty applause is expected at the end of a performance even if the performance is merely OK. You get a "clap for effort".
However, if the audience outwardly expresses its approval between movements (some may consider that uncouth) and then later leaps to its collective feet in a thunderous applause at the conclusion and/or demands a curtain call from the conductor and/or soloist, after which they are abuzz with compliments during intermission or on their way to the parking lot or metro at the concerts conclusion, this is easily distinguishable from the "polite" applause. In my experience this is more heartfelt and is separate and apart from the "obligatory" applause that you describe as the norm.
Do audiences sometimes follow the lead of a few in front of them or the majority? Absolutely! It happen at Mass just yesterday when the priest gave one of his better homily's and and you could "feel" that that many of the parishoners wanted to applaud but it just not "usually done". But after a jump start from a few a heartfelt applause was followed.
Robert C. Lang
occurred in the Bay Area.
I certainly take issue with your characterization of Bay Area audiences of which I am regularly apart. With all due respect I believe that it has been a while since you regularly attended concerts in the San Francisco Bay Area. Based on your description of what you view as the norm here I would say it’s probably been many years, perhaps during a more conservative time; 25 years ago perhaps or longer!
Don’t get me wrong; there can be and there is a certain degree of “lemming” mentality, but this mostly stems from politeness among audiences in response to performances here as elsewhere. But those *same* audiences at the *same* concert will, if the performance rises to a sufficiently high level, show the performers there just due and respect with an enthusiastic and heartfelt applause in appreciation for their hard work that is easily distinguishable from the routinely robotic applauses that you may have experienced in the past.
By the way, I have only attended 2 opera performances in the Bay Area and only a few ballet performances. Audience reactions and culture may be quite different at those performances.
and I wouldn't characterize it as a norm, but rather something I've observed on a number of occasions--and not just a quarter of a century ago. While it's true that I quit attending Bay Area subscription concerts and other musical events regularly when I moved north 16 years ago, I've been back frequently to visit family and friends and taken the opportunity to attend a number of concerts there, most recently a little under two years ago (when I also availed myself of the opportunity to make a pig of myself at both Skates and Fat Apple's). And your own observation that what you considered a journeyman (and much more recent) performance of Scheherezade evoked a thunderous ovation suggests that things haven't changed that much since.
****And your own observation that what you considered a journeyman (and much more recent) performance of Scheherezade evoked a thunderous ovation suggests that things haven't changed that much since.***
"Thunderous ovation" is far overstated on your part and I did not say that. I said that much of audience gave a "heartfelt standing ovation". That is several notches down, I'd say, from the "thunderous" ovation that the audience gave the Philadelphia Orchestra at the conclusion of the recently released Saint-Saens on the Ondine label. The ovation from that audience, of which I was part, for "Sheherazade", I believe, was completely in line with the great effort put out by the orchestra that evening. Also, that same audience gave differing reactions to other parts of the program that same evening.
Importantly, I also said that I would not have an opportunity to listen to any recording of the "Sheherazade" performance. Repeated listens can change how you feel about a performance. The audience in a live setting doesn’t have that luxury. They make their judgment on the spot. (Which by the way, was the initial point I was making). The audience can judge harshly, lightly or anywhere in between. And frequently reactions are mixed! It's up to the audience whether you or I disagree. That't why it does not make a difference what *I* thought about the performance. I could be wrong and the audience could be right. But in this case I thoroughly enjoyed the performance which I wish I could bottle up and bring home.
There are classical performances in many parts of the Bay Area including Marin, Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose. I can tell you that the audiences in these locations have their own "sub culture" so to speak. You can see this in the way they dress, you can see it in the way they react to performances *and* you can see the way audiences have changed over time, certainly during the sixteen years that you moved north. For example, it was definitely an unwritten rule against applauding between movements. That has slowly changed to the point that a fleeting smattering of light applause is occasionally heard if audience members are so moved, but is more likely to happen in Berkeley or Oakland than in San Francisco. And San Francisco varies depending on whether it’s a matinee or evening performance. Plus the program matters.
You were a 800 miles away on the night of the performance. You are simply in no position to judge the merits of the audience’s reaction or its sophistication (which you seem to be questioning) with respect to the performance *or* to what other external factors that may have influenced their reaction that evening.
Again I find your characterization of Bay Area audiences of which I am regularly apart, and which is multifarious, if nothing else, to be inaccurate, broad brushed, perhaps more reflective of what may have occurred 25 years ago.
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