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Thread: 10 best orchestras?

  1. #1
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    Default 10 best orchestras?

    I'm sure someone has already posed this question in the past, but I'm new here, so

    What do you think are the ten best orchestras?

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    To me it all depends on who the conducter is,as each brings out diffrent qualities of orchestral sound.(my fav though is amsterdam)

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Before this thread gets out of hand, I would like to make a suggestion:

    Can we change this to 10 favourite orchestras instead of "best"?

    Because there is absolutely no way to define the "best" orchestra without starting that whole criteria mess all over again, and there is really no equal ground on which to compare orchestras at any one given point in time (like now, for instance).

    So let's just list our Favourites, OK?

    Mine are:

    Present
    Lahti Symphony Orchestra - Osmo Vanska, Music Director
    Past
    Chicago Symphony - Solti era
    All-time
    Vienna Philharmonic - all eras

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    The trouble with merely listing one’s personal favourites is that no one else is really all that interested. It is far more exciting to consider whether there is a more objective list, so that we as individuals can compare our personal assessments against it, and possibly learn something worthwhile rather than merely engage in futile personal opinion exchanging.

    There is nothing wrong in principle with using words like “best”, “greatest”, finest” provided people are able to give precise definitions of what they mean, and provided that such definitions command wide respect and acceptance. The trouble is that such definitions in the music world are usually very difficult, whether in respect of assessing the music itself, composers, conductors, artists, orchestras or whatever.

    Wherever I have seen any kind of definition of “best” or “greatest” they are generally very vague, and merely list a few attributes like “aesthetic quality”, “influence”, “innovation”. They sound better than nothing at all, but in practice the results usually boil down to a hodgepodge of personal opinion and the furtherance of personal favourites, and all objectivity gets thrown out of the window or is very opaque.

    For this reason, I came to the view that the only sensible objective criteria for “best” in a music context is one based on mass appeal, or popularity. I do not see how this can be improved upon as any other system has even bigger problems, like identifying the various criteria, measuring performance, and weighting the results together. People who reckon this can be done cannot deliver when asked for a proper explanation. They merely waffle and revert to criticism of popularity. Some waffling is often quite spectacular, and very amusing indeed. I have endless fun delving into it wherever I come across it.

    I conclude that “best” can be given an interpretation and it means the result you would expect to see if it were possible to ask a large, unbiased sample of the relevant public what their preferences are. I realise that short-term fluctuations and other seasonal irregularities have to be discounted. Such a measure can only be guessed at because exercises of this nature do not exist. We therefore have to use various proxies, like the number of versions of the material available. This concept of "best" is entirely empirical, and what's "best" now may not be best in, say, 20 years time. This procedure should be distinguished from one’s own personal preferences, which may be different. I think it is interesting to set out both if they differ. There is, of course, no reason why one's personal opinion should necessarily align with the overall market's. Mine often do, however.
    Last edited by Topaz; Jan-25-2007 at 14:44.

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Jebus, am I disagreeing with Topaz? Well, not really, but just a few points for the sake of this thread...

    Quote Originally Posted by Topaz View Post
    The trouble with merely listing one’s personal favourites is that no one else is really all that interested.
    To be perfectly honest, I am interested in hearing subjective and descriptive accounts as to what members of this forum like about their certain favourite orchestras. I am not in the least bit interested in what most of the members here feel are the best orchestras based on some set of half-baked criteria, simply because in the end this amounts to a list of favourites anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by Topaz View Post
    Wherever I have seen any kind of definition of “best” or “greatest” they are generally very vague, and merely list a few attributes like “aesthetic quality”, “influence”, “innovation”. They sound better than nothing at all, but in practice the results usually boil down to a hodgepodge of personal opinion and the furtherance of personal favourites, and all objectivity gets thrown out of the window or is very opaque.
    I agree. So let's make it an expression of personal opinions and tastes rather than striving for in-depth objective analysis, something that very few people here or anywhere are truly capable of, myself included.

    Quote Originally Posted by Topaz View Post
    For this reason, I came to the view that the only sensible objective criteria for “best” in a music context is one based on mass appeal, or popularity.
    This is a recurring topic, and I agree with Topaz's general tenet that over a long enough period of time, the market is the best measure of "what is best". In that case, there is no need for each and everyone of us to "List the 10 best orchestras", as orquesta tipica suggests. More appropriate to the task would be an in-depth analysis of this question by a certain jewel-named member, with a factual presentation of the results. But where is the fun in that?

    Which is why I say, lets list a few orchestras that we like, doesn't have to be 10, and talk about their qualities. Personally, I eagerly await everyone's responses with baited breath and pants around my ankles.
    _____________________________________________
    P.S. Look out, Topaz's next post will be #300.
    Make it a big one.
    Last edited by Kurkikohtaus; Jan-25-2007 at 15:04.

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    topaz, the man is just saying who should be the best orchestra to listen to,through our experience of the bloody music, not a delve in our own personel likes/dislikes,you make it so complicated and to be honest ,so god dammed illiterate in just hearing the music for him.Im getting a little pissed off with the attitudes to this site,even I feel like sometimes i havn't the vocabulary to express my views in what i feel,as i know is ,what the music does to me.I don't answer, now,I will.Because,all i get from you lot is an illitrate attitude to people who 's discovered this wonderful music for their first time ,and look down on them with a sense of dislocation.

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    3rd planet....Which "man" are you referring to you? Why don't you answer the first poster's question if you think it's that simple? Often people ask questions without making themselves clear what they mean. Even more often, people answer vague questions without making it clear what they mean either. Kurki first reacted to this issue, and I chose to reflect on it. What's the problem with that?
    Last edited by Topaz; Jan-25-2007 at 17:10.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kurkikohtaus View Post
    [snipped] Which is why I say, lets list a few orchestras that we like, doesn't have to be 10, and talk about their qualities. Personally, I eagerly await everyone's responses with baited breath and pants around my ankles.
    _____________________________________________
    P.S. Look out, Topaz's next post will be #300.
    Make it a big one.
    I see the replies have been flooding in since you posted the above about 10 hours ago.

    To answer the question, I do not have a favourite orchestra. I used to but not any more. I am the opposite of being a snob. I think all the big ones are good, or as good as make no difference to me in terms of the way I listen to music these days, either by radio or CD through my hi-fi. I usually go with a few decent conductors but I am not bothered which orchestra they conduct, because I know they would not choose a duff one.

    Out of habit, I still mainly go with the London Symphony, Concertgebouw, Vienna Phil, Berlin Phil, Staatskapelle, Montreal, Boston SO, Chicago SO or San Francisco, but they all sound OK to me. I bet in a blind test most people couldn't tell the difference these days. They might like to think they can but I reckon not, provided we are talking about recorded music and we stick to the big name orchestras. The truth is that such orchestras cannot afford to be that far out of line with the competition in overall quality. I stress that I am only talking about the current or recent situation (say since 1980 onwards). In the dim and distant past there were probably bigger differences, but a lot of these have been ironed out by the growth of recorded material in which market they all need to compete.

    Furthermore, since I prefer lieder, solo piano and chamber music, the choice of orchestra is less important. The main things I‘m fussy about in music are pianist, singer, chamber ensemble, and most important of all composer. I often gasp in amazement reading some people’s posts admiring all sorts of material by weird composers. I would not give any of them a second thought when there is all this wonderful material by the top 20 composers. I especially hate all this talk about so-called forgotten composers. It is the one thing in life that really gets me down. I can listen to much of it without too much problem if it’s on radio, but boy is it nice to put something decent on later: some Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, and Schumann etc.

    There ought to be a rule that every time someone mentions a so-called under–valued or forgotten composer they should at least be required to state which of the more famous composers should be displaced to allow these lesser nerds to be pushed up the hierachy. The simple fact seems to escape most folk that you cannot get a quart in a pint pot, as there is only so much time that can be devoted to listening to music. Another irritation is when someone just mentions a forgotten’s name like Berwald, and leaves it that. It’s quite amazing. They must think we all have amazing powers of telepathy or something, and know who this bloke is, what he wrote, and why we should consider him any good. What a joke. He could be a brand of contraceptive for all I know!
    Last edited by Topaz; Jan-25-2007 at 23:40.

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    It's an extremely difficult question. For chamber orchestras using modern instruments I very much rate the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in their recordings from the 70's and 80's under Neville Marriner. Also the great Philharmonia Orchestra created by EMI. The Chicago Philharmonic. The New York Philharmonic. In recent years (since I just love the music of JS Bach) I must say the achievements of the English Baroque Soloists under John Eliot Gardiner have amazed me time after time with the Monteverdi Choir. Some orchestras from Eastern Europe are simply tremendous. The Japanese have phenomenal choirs these days.

    The standard of musicianship these days, internationally, is so very high that I can hardly decide any in particular. The ones above have played the music I love wonderfully.

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3rdplanetsounds View Post
    topaz, the man is just saying ... [edit] ... so god dammed illiterate ... [edit] ... Im getting a little pissed off with the attitudes to this site ... [edit] ... sense of dislocation.
    3rdplanetsounds, I am also not sure who you are referring to, and I don't quite understand the point you are trying to make beyond stating your general disgrunt. If you are not a native english speaker, that's ok, but please don't call other people illiterate when you yourself have trouble expressing your views.

    Quote Originally Posted by Topaz View Post
    I see the replies have been flooding in since you posted the above about 10 hours ago.
    Ha, good point. Not many people seem to want to have a go at this...

    Quote Originally Posted by Topaz View Post
    I bet in a blind test most people couldn't tell the difference these days. They might like to think they can but I reckon not, provided we are talking about recorded music and we stick to the big name orchestras.
    Very true. The days of the instantly recognizable sounds of Ormandy's Philadelphia, Karajan's Berlin and Solti's Chicago are long gone. I'm sure people can "blindly" identify recordings that they know, but that's different than just identifying the sound of an orchestra. Perhaps the Vienna Philharmonic is the only orchestra left that truly strives to preserve the sound that they played with from their inception.

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    Being the one who started this thread, I meant it in the most informal manner.

    We have this Academy Awards thing coming up, and the Grammys and all that, and over time I've taken the opinion that it's neither unnecessary or important. There's the fashion do's and don'ts, and the pageantry, and the funny moments--it's really a lot of fun, and that's all it should be. That they make such a tremendous deal over its importance is laughable.

    I'm not asking anyone to agonize over what ten orchestras are the best, as though this will be cemented in journals as the final say for all time.

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