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I don't buy the notion of one "greatest" orchestra, but by any standard, they are simply out of this world !
The VPO is absolutely ideal for composers such as Schubert, Brahms, Bruckner, Wagner, Richard Strauss and Johannn Strauss , for example. Not everyone likes them in Mahler, but they do have a quointessentially "Austrian" sound in his music . Their use of special Viennese instruments, such as oboes and horns, etc, gives them an unmistakable timbre .
If you look at any of their concerts on television or DVD, you will see how different the horns look and sound .
They use a completely different valve system . I hear they're even harder to play than standard horns, difficult as those are , but in the hands of a master player, they sound divine . Unfortunatlely, I never got a chance to try one out in my horn playing days .
I will never forget the concert in Carnegie hall I attended years ago with the orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado playing the Bruckner 7th. They did not sound like an earthly orchestra , but one you might expect to hear in heaven, if it existed . The audience cheered so loudly I had to put my hands over my ears !
 
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