Characteristic Sound of (Place Orchestra Name Here)

Discussion in 'Orchestra / Solo / Chamber Music' started by DLoeffler, Oct 3, 2005.

  1. DLoeffler

    DLoeffler Pianissimo User

    Jul 16, 2005
    Columbia, South Carolina
    Does anyone have an opinion or a link where I would be able to find the following information about the major orchestras in the US? The orchestras I am trying to get information on are: New York Phil, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Los Angeles Phil, Boston Symph, Dallas, National Symphony, Baltimore, Milwaukee, and any others that I may have left off the list that you believe should be included.

    1) The "characteristic sound" (eg: Chicago has a German sound due to its characteristics of playing large and heavy; New York Phil is more French sounding due its lighter approach) I don't know if that is right or wrong - it is just an example of what I am trying to find out.

    2) The current section and possibly conductor.

    I have been doing some searching and came up with very little regarding the "characteristic sound". What I am trying to find out is, if for some bizarre reason, I was called in to sub in any of the major orchestras (and there is a snowballs chance of that happening because I just don't do that - forte is brass quintet, jazz combo, and solo), in what style would I be expected to play?

    The reason I am looking for this info is because I am completing a MM and need to be able to speak coherently about orchestras in the US. I realized last week that I spent the majority of my time on solo literature and pedagogy and am somewhat lacking in orchestra knowledge. And, if anyone is interested, the recital consisted of:
    Handel -Suite in D
    Bradshaw - Trumpet Sonata
    Mehalovici - Meditation
    Wilson -Masks
    Vogel - The Frog He Fly... Almost.

    Any and all opinions will be greatly appreciated.
    Drew Loeffler
  2. Derek Reaban

    Derek Reaban Mezzo Piano User

    Jun 16, 2005
    Tempe, Arizona

    For your section question please go to a topic called Trumpet Sections of Major Symphony Orchestras. Scroll down to the second post and then choose the orchestra that you are interested in. Click on the blue "link" which will take you to the details that you are looking for.

    For groups that don't yet have a link, you can go back to the first post, click on the link in the first paragraph and then look for the specific page in this very large folder for specific details on groups that aren't quite finished yet. That link takes you to Page 18 of the folder which has a Table of Contents that will give you the page numbers of the orchestras that are in partial completion. It should give you a very good starting point for well over 50 ensembles.

    Good luck!
  3. joey

    joey Pianissimo User

    Nov 19, 2003

    This may sound obvious, but the best place to find the sound of an orchestra is in their performances. All of the orchestras you mention have recorded extensively. Listen to them and you'll find how they play.

    Joey Tartell
  4. dizforprez

    dizforprez Forte User

    Nov 2, 2003
    That is a pretty big question!

    It could take you a long time just to come to a real understanding of the differences between the big 5(Philly, New York, Boston, Chicago, and Cleveland) because you should not just listen to how they sound today but how their sound has changed over the years. The good news is that a lot of what you need is on here or TH but the bad news is that it is often a side part of another thread. So tracking down one post that talks about what you are searching will be almost impossible. I suggest you clear an afternoon and start reading pretty much every topic from the orchestral and special forums.

    Good luck!
  5. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    Mr/Ms. Loeffler,

    I've read, with interest, your posts about the characteristic sounds of the various orchestras and at a different site, you offered your opinion about the NY Philharmonic as having a particularly French sound sound and I wondered how you arrived at that opinion. The last sound I would ever characterize the NY Phil is as French. I would have thought more Russian/Italian but more historically not today. Today it just sounds typically American, like the Chicago Symphony: very accurate with a lot of punch, almost a driven quality. Someone else may hear differently but that's how I hear many American Orchestras.

    The archetypical French sound is arrived at by various means. That sound used to include:

    A quicker vibrato
    Reedy-sounding double reeds, almost "buzzy"
    Pointed articulation
    Warm, unforced string playing

    Now, having said that, that is the way I understood the "French" way of playing as described when I was in school in the 70's. At any rate, that doesn't sound to me like the Philharmonic at any point in it's history. That sounds more like the Boston Symphony of 50 years ago, which happened to have many French players before that and left that sound for quite a while after.

    Anyways, I wondered what you had in mind when you came to that conclusion.

    Hey, I'll tell you what: there is a set of wonderful DVDs you can find called "The art of Conducting" that I think you'd really enjoy as they would answer your questions but more in a historical sense rather than a present day one. That'll explain what I'm trying to say much better than I can.


  6. davidjohnson

    davidjohnson Piano User

    Nov 2, 2003
    old boston sounds frenchy.

    nypo never did so to my ears. they always sounded like they preferred whichever conductor was not in front of them at the moment! sort of free spirits.

    i wonder how much of the 'old sound' we think of was the result of various recording techniques? columbia always seemed to compress the dynamic range of their records too much (nypo, philly, cleveland). rca had some rich sounding recordings (chicago, boston). mercury (chicago, detroit, minnesota) was great, they just set up a mic & left it pretty much alone.

  7. cornetguy

    cornetguy Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 12, 2005
    Saint Paul, MN
    with the chicago symphony most of the post reiner recordings dont sound anything like the orchestra in person. according to the players in the orchestra at the time, particularly the recordings made by decca in Medinah Temple. the wfmt tapes are a better indicator of what the orchestra sounded like.
  8. DLoeffler

    DLoeffler Pianissimo User

    Jul 16, 2005
    Columbia, South Carolina
    I would like to thank everyone for your replies and opinions regarding this subject. It appears that one of the professors on my orals is attempting to "throw a monkey wrench" at me.

    An interesting aspect that I am picking up from everyone at this site is that years ago, there was a noticable difference due, historically, to the conductor(s) and/or the musicians themselves.

    Inevitably, still more research and more listening is required on my part in order for me to speak coherently on the subject.

    Any additional opinions are greatly appreciated

    Thanks everyone, again, for all of your input,
    Drew Loeffler
  9. Mzony

    Mzony Pianissimo User

    Nov 14, 2004
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    Don't forget that it wasn't quite as easy for musicians to hear each other. There were not that many recordings, they were beginning to make the recordings that influenced each other. It was far easier to create your own musical voice and personality without being compared to the guy in another region.
  10. MalinTrumpet

    MalinTrumpet Pianissimo User

    Nov 7, 2004
    New York City
    " An interesting aspect that I am picking up from everyone at this site is that years ago, there was a noticable difference due, historically, to the conductor(s) and/or the musicians themselves."

    Yes, this was absolutely true. As a college student in the 60's I remember listening to recordings on the radio and opining as to which orchestras were playing. I don't think I could do this anymore. Orchestras now play much more consistently but with a more homogeneous sound. There are fewer mistakes but less individuality.

    All the French players in Boston gave it a distinct sound. Philadelphia had a string sound that was like no other. Cleveland had an amazing vertical tranparency with a very bright sounding brass section and amazing woodwinds. Chicago's brass, of course, sounded like no other but their strings also were distinctive to my ears. I remember going to hear them play in Carnegie and recognizing the string sound from my Reiner recordings. I knew New York's sound because I heard it so often. These distinctions are no longer true.

    Oh well,such is the price of more accuracy. Orchestras play concerts nowadays to try to duplicate recordings. It used to be the other way around.

    IMHO, Larry Malin

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