A remarkable experiment.
The YouTube Symphony Orchestra played again, this morning; 5 AM my time in the east in the US, but it was 8 PM Australian time (Last night or tonight, I’m not sure yet). And it was actually not the same orchestra, but another group of people that applied online and uploaded their videos as did the first group 2 years ago. They were, again, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, who also emceed the event as he did last time.
I have to say, my thoughts about these concerts are somewhat mixed. On paper (Or on laptop, if we must indulge), it looks like an incredible idea. I always liked the idea of auditioning all these people that never met each other, or played with each other, to become an orchestra. If I’m not mistaken, part of the objective of the YouTube Symphony was to get people that weren’t already performing in an orchestra.
I had the good fortune of seeing this presentation when it occurred on April 15th, 2009 at Carnegie Hall. The concert itself looked to me like a classical version of a Laserock event meant for The Hayden Planetarium being put on at the less-practically designed Carnegie Hall. This was designed to be a concert celebrating the technology that brought the musicians together as well as the music, but the music itself was varied. The concert had wonderful original pieces by Mason Bates and Tan Dun, and a very bizarre combo by John Cage (Renga and Aria) that featured soprano Measha Brueggergosman was another highlight.
My only problems were that the orchestra only had 3 days to prepare for this massive event. A regular orchestra usually gets a week to rehearse for a weekly concert (Correct me if I’m wrong), but if these folks had more time, they would have had spectacular readings of Wagner’s “Ride of The Valkyries” or Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #4 (IV:Allegro con fuoco), and having the concert ending with the 85% baked Tchaikovsky (I’ll give it that much, but I liked the Wagner even less), and me walking out of Carnegie thinking “That was it? So what happens to the orchestra now?” left me with a cold feeling.
They only get one concert to prove themselves? What if they played for a month? Wouldn’t they turn out even better after a while longer?
I forgot to mention Yuja Wang was another highlight for me as well!
The Australian concert that was held this morning, our time, on the other hand, sounded much better prepared to me. Even though I was sleep-deprived and got up at 5 AM to watch it streaming live (Had I known YouTube would be streaming it in repeats all day, I would have watched it in the afternoon! That’s how they get you!), I have to say it felt and sounded much more like a concert than an event more-so than the 2009 concert did.
Mason Bates was back with a new piece called Mothership (Didn’t care for the electric guitar solo, it sounded like another concert was interrupting this one), Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to The Orchestra was a great highlight, and Alberto Ginastera’s 2 Movements from Estancia was a lovely treat.
Schubert’s ‘Hirtenmelodien’ from Rosamunde was performed as a beautiful postlude for the victims of the disasters in Japan, New Zealand and Australia.
Visually, it was a feast for the eyes, even more than the floating screens that had the 2009 show looking like Fantasia 2000. The 3-D blue-lit graphics for organist Cameron Carpenter’s performance of the Bach Toccata in F were so nice on the laptop I had to shut the lights to fully enjoy it. The lady with the sand illustrations was impeccable.
I’d like to think I’m no longer a snob for redeeming the YouTube Orchestra on this occasion, but I feel as if I’m the one that needed to be redeemed.