Big 5 v. the Second Tier

Discussion in 'Orchestra / Solo / Chamber Music' started by Jimi Michiel, Nov 26, 2005.

  1. Jimi Michiel

    Jimi Michiel Forte User

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    I've been thinking a lot about this. Is there a "New Big 5"? Personally, having heard Minneapolis Symphony recordings from the heyday of the "Big 5," I would argue that there never was a Big 5. That seems to me like an East Coast bias more than anything else.

    Orchestras can drastically change from year to year. Anyone who has followed the Boston Symphony the last 5 years will tell you that. Also, it seems to me that the talent pool of musicians is deep enough where even "Second Tier" orchestras can have top rate musicians (and even pay them well). I'm sure there are are a few Big 5 orchestras who wouldn't mind picking up a Manny Laureano or Burt Hara. Cleveland already tried (unsuccessfully) to get Doug Wright. In the case of Minnesota, it seems that the musicians are (at least) comperable, and they have one of the "hot" conductors in Osmo Vanska, what seperates them from New York, Philly, etc?

    From what I have heard live, on the radio and on commercial recordings, I would say that Atlanta, Minnesota and San Francisco could, on any given night play as well or better than "The Big 5." I have heard good things about St. Louis as well...

    Thoughts?

    -Jimi
     
  2. dizforprez

    dizforprez Forte User

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    This link would seem to support your idea that there is a new "big 5".


    http://orchestrafacts.org/




    When it comes down to it I cheer for the home team. :-P
     
  3. ebtromba

    ebtromba Pianissimo User

    woops. In my original quote, I clearly mixed up budget and endowment. Clearly Boston's budget is not that much higher than the nearest orchestra, but I had read its endowment was twice that of the next highest orchestra’s endowment. I wish I remembered where I read that.
     
  4. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

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    Yee HAW!
    Why does there have to be a "Big 5", "Big 10", "Top Twenty", "Numero Uno"? On any given evening, any symphony, whether professional or amateur, is capable of entertaining and moving an audience. I have been thinking a bit about live performances for some time now and come to (if not the realization, at least the suspicion) that the reason I prefer live to recorded is that there is a connection between the performers and the audience at a live show. Someone makes a tiny mistake and maybe it goes unnoticed, maybe it doesn't. At any moment a surprise might occur that has never happened before and may never happen again. The point is, every performance is going to be different by the very fact that there is a unique and different connection between the audience and the performers and the performers feed off of the audience.

    Sure, there are orchestras with bigger endowments (hey... wipe those dirty thoughts out of your minds, kids), or bigger audiences, or higher ticket prices, or ... or... or. Some orchestras, just like any other musical performance group, specialize in different types of music; whether it be due to heritage, strength of a different section, current M.D. or Conductor, or even night of the week. But DOES IT MATTER!?

    Some might make more mistakes than others, or play things at what they consider to be a more "correct" tempo. Again, music is DYNAMIC and the interaction with the audience is also DYNAMIC. What I might like or prefer is going to be different than what the guy next door enjoys. So why should my "preferences" be used to make a logical connection with the statement that "This One is better than "That One".

    I'll give you an example... about a year or so ago our community band did a concert that featured a trio of lady singers who reprise the old Doris Day, Patsy Cline, Andrews Sisters, etc. We performed on two consecutive nights and both nights were recorded. In putting together some of our band's archives I was trying to decide which tunes went better on which nights. I decided that, as a member of the band, most of the 2nd night's performances were technically better (not all.. but most). And yet, there was far more excitement on the first night: the audience was clapping along, breaking into spontaneous applause and generally enjoying themselves more. Why?.... That mysterious "something" that happens between the performers and the audience is what happened.

    So I reckon I'm trying to say "Why bother trying to rate them at all... let's just ENJOY them, whether by playing or by attending!"
     
  5. Jimi Michiel

    Jimi Michiel Forte User

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    Tootsall-

    I agree with you on many respects. You don't need to fly to a big city and pay a lot of money to be entertained. And I didn't seem like I was calling for a rankings system. I have had plenty of great musical experiences listening to (and playing in) student or semi-pro ensembles. What I am trying to say, though, is that there are a lot of great orhestras out there that don't get the recognition they deserve. Of course technical facility is not the only criteria for enjoying a concert. If so, I would have to say that I enjoyed every Philly Orchestra concert more than every student orchestra concert I've ever seen. NOT TRUE.

    One thing that I DON'T factor into my assessment of orchestras is their budget. The two major orchestras that I know the best are Minnesota and Boston. Frankly, the only money related differences between the two orchestras that I notice is that (a) MO concerts are affordable to the common man (student) and (b) the MO doesn't have "name brand" soloists quites as often as the BSO. Do either of these affect the product? Not really. Does Boston sound 40 million dollars better than the MO? Absolutely not.

    -Jimi
     
  6. cornetguy

    cornetguy Mezzo Forte User

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    at one time there may have been a such a thing as a big five. i read the cleveland orchestra story and througout the book until the 70's they were loosing players to boston, pittsburgh, philadelphia, new york, chicago (partly becasue of szell in some cases) but also for economic reasons. but the colleges and conservatories have pumped out so many people, that could sit in any orchestra and do a credible job, even groups like elgin or duluth are worth hearing which wasnt the case a generation ago.

    i beg to differ the mn orchestra is not affordable for the average person. i think that a bottom price ticket of $20+ i s a bit much. the spco is much more affordable, they have a 10/11 bottom price, and are playing to full houses, bringing in more $ then they have the previous year and sales are up. the mn orchestra seems to consistantly be 1/2-2/3 full when i have been there the past few years.
     
  7. Jimi Michiel

    Jimi Michiel Forte User

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    Cornetguy-

    I guess I was un clear. I should have said "average student." The MO makes a big effort to make shows available to students. As a UMN student, I get 4 tickets to any show I want for 25 bucks. That works out to 6.25 a show. Not bad!!! Also, if you get on the MO mailing list, they sometimes send out special deals. I've gotten into MO concerts a few times for a hefty sum of $2.50.

    -Jimi
     
  8. cornetguy

    cornetguy Mezzo Forte User

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    when i was a student the mn orchestra also treated student rush tix capriciously. there were several times i got down there, stood in line over an hour only to find out that they decided not to sell student rush tickets and didnt bother to tell any of us until 750. complaints to management accomplished nothing other then a letter spinning the b.s. the student subscriptions did not come into being until after i was done.
     
  9. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

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    I'll bet that was during the Marriner era when they were selling out all the time. They didn't need you so they treated you like crap. Now, since orchestras are in "trouble" they bend over backwards to get the students into the shows.

    ML
     
  10. dizforprez

    dizforprez Forte User

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    Nov 2, 2003


    what kind of recognition are you talking about?

    I would say overall the recognition of groups like ASO, MO, and San Francisco is on the rise since they are the ones putting out recordings these days.
     

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