My worse-case-scenario, which perhaps I should have specified as containing a reductio ad absurdum, caused a ruckus. Well, of course it did. The point one was intended to draw from it was that there are qualities that seem to be missing from the equation which, if added, might give clout to the players position. One cannot negotiate from a position of arrogance, or entitlement, but one can definitely do so from a position of appreciation and even <sigh> humility. How does that translate to a best-case-scenario? Here’s how:
Suppose everyone begins with the attitude that all parties involved are doing their best (even though one of them may be doing a terrible job). They anticipate that of course, everyone wants the best for them and the organization (even when facts may seem to dictate the opposite). The primary objective is to find a way to a common vocabulary; to include rather than exclude.
Is this unrealistic? I hope not. Is it professional? I hope so.
@Allison said, “I’m shocked at how you’ve made assumption after assumption of how all musicians play (not to mention think) based entirely on the specific jobs that they hold.”
You are shocked that I make a distinction between a conductor, a player and a soloist? Am I not entitled to my opinion that these are different genres? Oh wait — I don’t have the right ‘resume’?
I have heard many players and Principals performing solo pieces. I attended every performance where my teacher performed. For the most part, it is not easy for those not trained as soloists to toss the solo pieces off. Sometimes the piece and the player do not seem to be a good match.
Please don’t misunderstand me; I am always delighted to be mistaken. Just recently I heard Manny Laureano perform the Arutiunian Trumpet Concerto with the Wayzata Symphony Orchestra. It was a beautiful performance.
I so much appreciate your taking the time to articulate your positions on these issues, and I acknowledge that we see things very differently. I have no desire to argue — I hope we can simply agree-to-disagree and move on.
@Anonymous said, “Pamela, I can either give my name or I can give my honest assessments of conductors, but I can’t do both! Given that I’ve already shared my thoughts on Hans Graf (nice enough as he might be) I’ll have to remain anonymous for now. I am a titled string player in a major orchestra, but as I’m still relatively young and “climbing the ladder” I will keep my name off this board.”
I do understand.
I simply intended to point out the irony of one choosing to remain anonymous and criticizing v one who chooses to post their name and criticize. Nobody should be risking anything to post our opinions. Hmmm…maybe I should go anonymous too! :-0
Based on the points of discussion so far, we have as a worse-case-scenario, orchestra players who have convinced themselves that they are equal to nearly all the soloists (who earn much more than the players), Do they also believe they ‘don’t really need a conductor’ (who earns more than they) either? They may also dismiss management, who happen to be the ones going out and getting their hands dirty raising funds and doing advertising, as being callous and worldly.
So how can this mindset be used to negotiate in the current MO situation?
Why is the concept of the Emperor’s New Clothes starting to come to my mind? :-0
P.S. This post seems to be causing something of a ruckus; at least one response seems to me to be entirely off the subject; more ‘kill the messenger’ than ‘let’s discuss’. <sigh>
Not sure why I seem to cause such outrage just by asking questions? Isn’t that what Socrates did? What is wrong with attempting to define the actual issues? It is almost as though the players were a part of some cult which could not be discussed nor criticized, for fear that everything would come apart. I know that sounds silly, but so is this reaction. I am also being told, it seems, that I don’t appear to have the right ‘resume’ to criticize or ask questions. That, of course, raises another red flag.
What is actually going on here? If this were a for-profit company, just how much tolerance would be given to sassy prima donna’s who seem to want to take credit for everything that works right and no responsibility for anything that doesn’t? Hmmm…:-0
@Allison said:”So when someone says that one of the country’s very best orchestra plays so much worse than another that they seem to be in a different line of work, and gives as reason for such judgement such subjective issues as the color and richness of sound, I think it says much much more about the speaker than the orchestra.”
It is your opinion that the MO is one of the best in the US and you are entitled. However, apparently not all of us are persuaded of that. I count myself as one. I grew up on the sounds of the NYPhil and have no choice but to compare everything else I hear to them. The NYP has a voice, a consistency, a tradition. It can play great Mahler.
The MO, to me, has no discernible voice yet. If it does, it is a strangled one. They play the music alright, but only on a rare occasion have I been persuaded by their interpretation. Nevertheless, I always hope to be mistaken, for I have a stake in the MO. I studied with its Principal Flute, have experienced countless performances and a number of rehearsals and have practiced on its stage.
@Allison said: “I’lll go out on a limb here, and say that most orchestral players can play as well as most –not all, but most–of the soloists who solo with the orchestra.”
There is a bit more to being a soloist that simply playing the notes correctly, or even with artistry, don’t you think? To have any value, should not the soloist have a voice that is inimitably their own? For the most part, isn’t that why people flock to return to hear them, not just the technical mastery? How about Heifetz? Who else has the same mixture of calm clarity and gypsy heart?
In addition, how can one not pity the poor soloist who not only has to perform perfectly, usually from memory, but to do so surrounded by players who have convinced themselves that they could do at least as well, if not better, and who may have undisguised contempt for them? My teacher, a Minnesota Orchestra Principal Flute, objected to having to play a duet with Rampal. He had disdain for this great soloist with the magnificent fluid sound that he could only wish for. I find that a devastating example of the destructiveness of this sort of mindset.
@Allison — you make a number of good points for discussion; let me take them one at a time. First, you said:
“@Pamela, the top 15 or 20 orchestras in the US pretty much have the same level of extremely high talent in their ranks. The same small group of superb players travels from audition to audition in search of a job. One who didn’t play his best in the Chicago audition might hit his stride in Detroit, or vice versa. We take the first job we’re offered, as there are usually college loans and instrument loans to pay off.”
With all due respect, orchestral players are extremely good readers, able to correctly perform music from any period in the history of music. Their value, just the same, lies in terms of their working well in an ensemble. Some of them do rise to the level of artists, performing as soloists from time to time, but that’s usually not what they are paid for, is it?
In different orchestras, the players come under the baton of different conductors, as you well know. If the players were equal to the conductors, would they not be able to command the same salary? If players were equal to the world-class soloists, would they not be able to hire a hall and fill it individually? So, finding a mindset for the players that is not hindered by misconceptions can be a difficult thing. In addition, these good music schools are churning out new ‘superb’ graduates every year, are they not, also eager for work and with tons of youthful energy?
@Allison, surely it is implied that preference happens for a reason? One could also use the term ‘unsatisfying’, ‘lame’, ‘bland’, ‘superficial’, ‘unbalanced’, to indicate why one orchestra would be preferred to another, or one recording of the same piece to another.
The MO press machine has taken favorable comments from very good performances and attempted to use them as blanket statements to cover all performances. That is imo the equivalent of trying to put lipstick on a pig. The MO can be great, it can also be awful. I am still trying to find its voice.
Anyone who chooses to endure the angst needed to listen with their ears instead of their heads can determine for themselves which works and which performances of those works are of value and which are not.
What ‘qualifications’ does any of us need to determine what orchestras we consider great? Some may simply prefer European orchestras over American, those who perform works of a composer they like with eloquence v those who do not.
Do any of us ‘dare’ to not like an orchestra even when at times critics have given them good reviews?
If you have been through the angst of listening to the sam orchestra over the years with different conductors, do you not have preferences of one concert over another?
Reply to a thread at SD blog:
With all due respect, trying to instruct anybody in what to think about the MO based on the statements of ‘critics’ is called an ‘appeal to authority.’ That is a fallacy of logic.
In addition, such statements beg the question that the MO PR does have a tendency to try to tell people what to think about the orchestra. It is almost as though they want everyone to listen with their heads rather than with their ears.