Student and Youth Symphony Orchestras

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Jack Kelso
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Student and Youth Symphony Orchestras

Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Oct 18, 2006 1:29 am

"Thank heaven for little girls" said Maurice Chevallier once, and could have continued with "and boys---who play symphonies together!"

I still remember Zubin's father, Mehli Mehta, with his American Youth Symphony Orchestra back in the early 1960's playing (among other works) Schumann's Fourth Symphony---with more verve than many highly-regarded recordings of the time.

My recording (on tape) of Bruckner's Eighth by the Deutsches Jugend-Sinfonieorchester is a tough work for folks under 18 years----but they turn in a more-than-credible performance.

This morning on radio was Beethoven's Seventh---performed by a Venezuelan youth orchestra, and according to the commentator released just four days ago on DGG. It sounded terrific at 120km per hour on the Autobahn!

And---last evening---we attended a Mannheim concert with the Sinfonieorchester der Musikhochschule with these works:

BRAHMS: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-Flat, opus 83
*** Intermission ***
SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat, opus 97 ("Rheinische")

Pianist was superb---Yukako Morikawa, who has played with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra and internationally as well. She played with power and finesse. Conductor was Klaus Arp, who brought his young orchestra to great heights in the "Feierlich" movement of the Schumann Third (the second time this year we've heard it live). The orchestra was fantastic----great string tone, they played with vigor and enthusiasm----a real gem of an evening---probably the best young orchestra I've heard to date in a live concert. Interestingly, about 30% of the orchestra was made up of Asian students.

It seems to me, old Maurice Chevallier nothwithstanding, youth and student orchestras are on the rise---and if the quality of playing and interpreting is anything in other cities and countries like in Mannheim, then we have nothing to fear for the future of our great musical heritage.

Are these fine youth/student orchestras in your "neck o' the woods"?

Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

jserraglio
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Post by jserraglio » Wed Oct 18, 2006 4:10 am

The CIM (Cleveland Institute of Music) Orchestra
Riveting in all kinds of repertoire, including big Mahler and Nielsen symphonies. Under the baton of Louis Lane, these players really catch fire. I once heard Lane from the podium very quietly but firmly declare that this ensemble was one of the best in America, the equal of many professional groups he has conducted. The faces of the "kids" in the orchestra glowed at the encomium. Franz Welser Most, after conducting them in Haydn, stated his surprised amazement at the level of their playing. Just last week, an alum, Theodore Kuchar, conducted the CIM in the Beethoven PC Number 3 and the Prokofieff Fifth Symphony. Carl Topilow, he also leads the professional Cleveland Pops Orchestra, is CIM's fine regular conductor--every year he gives free concerts at Severance Hall--two years ago there, Frederic Rzewski soloed in the Beethoven PC Number Four, playing his own fascinating cadenzas.

The Oberlin Conservatory Orchestra:
They are superb. Ive heard Louis Lane conduct them in the Brahms First and found little wanting. Last year Simon Rattle conducted them in a performance of the Mahler Fourth the Plain Dealer music critic praised extravagantly. Stephen Simon is their regular conductor, excellent both in opera and orchestral.

Baldwin Wallace Conservatory Orchestra
While not quite at the level of the first two, their performances are very satisfying.

Additionally, there are priceless moments you almost never get with a professional band, like the time the percussionist oversleeps for a work he had an essential part in. When he finally shows up redfaced, the audience gives him a standing O. I usually sit near the front and sometimes talk to the musicians at intermission, they often hang around on stage during. There's also the pleasure of seeing a first-chair CIM student violist one year show up the next in the back-chair section of the Cleveland Orchestra.

All three lie w/i a 30-mile radius of my home.

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Post by jbuck919 » Wed Oct 18, 2006 5:55 am

Years ago over the radio in Maryland I heard a boy who won whatever prize play the Opus 111 as though he were the composer, and I am not exagggerating. His second task was a concerto with the Maryland youth symphony, and they tackled a Liszt concerto, I can't even remember which one now. He was, of course, his same brilliant self, but those kids were mediocre at best.

Not being a music teacher but of course a musician, I've had brilliant musical moments with kids that have moved me to tears. But it is a bit of hit or miss. I tell people who are in an in-between situation that it is easier to make one hundred foul shots in a row in basketball than it is to play a violin consiistently in tune. That's an exaggeration, but not much of one.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Jack Kelso
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Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Oct 18, 2006 8:04 am

I rather expected that Cleveland would have a great conservatory with lots of young musicians maturing into future conductors, composers or soloists---not to mention orchestra members. Most large U.S. metropolitan centers probably have that, too---but how about smaller cities?

Our concert yesterday evening was by no means full, perhaps 400 attended---and capacity is about 1,000. All tickets were a flat rate of 10€, with seating first-come-first serve. We chose front-row center, natch!

Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

Jack Kelso
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Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Oct 18, 2006 8:08 am

jbuck919 wrote:Years ago over the radio in Maryland I heard a boy who won whatever prize play the Opus 111 as though he were the composer, and I am not exagggerating.
I'm assuming you're referring to the Beethoven sonata---and not the Schumann Phantasiestücke (trio), opus 111.

Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Post by Ralph » Wed Oct 18, 2006 9:23 am

We have both the Juilliard Orchestra and various Juilliard chamber ensembles. Concerts during the school year are frequent, free and well-attended. Leading conductors guest direct and the performances are often on a par with top orchestras.

The Mannes School of Music also presents fine student performances.
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Post by jbuck919 » Wed Oct 18, 2006 11:12 am

If we're talking about college/conservatory orchestras, of course I was a grad student att Yale, which has a little known but excellent (grad school only) school of music that manages to produce a near professional level orchestra (maybe not Juililiard, but not outside that box). It also has, in the main college, what is probably the best undergraduate orchestra in the world outside a conservatory, because for years they had a now deceased professor who insisted on cultivating this. When I was there, they were both conducted by one Otto-Werner Muehler, who went on to become the conducter at Juillard. He is/was not, in my opinion, much of a conductor, but I guess he's good with that kind of group.

My greatest sadness as a teacher is that literally the best student I ever had, a brilliant boy in every respect, should have gone there. He was an outstanding percussionist and absolutely brilliant in every other respect as well. Even in this day and age with high selectivity, there is no doubt in my mind that he would have been accepted by Yale. But his narrow-minded provincial parents could not be convinced even to let him apply. He ended up going to Towson, an obscure but popular former normal school in Maryland, and his career has suffered ever since. I'm getting off topic here, but my equally provinicial and non-cognizant parents had enough sense to understand Princeton, and I've been deeply grateful to them ever since.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

ironchefrm
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Post by ironchefrm » Wed Oct 18, 2006 3:45 pm

No, dear Maestro Mueller was not the best of conductors - and I think part of the reason he took the Juilliard gig was because there was a hint that he might have a chance to conduct some major local orchestras (hint hint hint) while there. He was, however, a master musician and a scholar of scores like no other. He knew more about the Brahms Haydn Variations than I will ever know about anything. Unfortuately, his lack of prowess as a professional conductor, I believe, hurt his teaching of conductors as well. That's why I'm delighted that Jimmy DePreist is there now - a very good conductor and a real pro for his students to learn from. Young conductors should work with people who understand Da Biz.

When I went to Juilliard, I couldn't find a single composer who knew any of the conductors. They were all in the back of the library learning how to bow. When I finally met them, a lot of them couldn't look me in the eye. The ones that could, though, went on to fine careers.

Don't forget the New York Youth Symphony! A fine group of high school kids and younger (and the occasional Juilliard frosh) who do a world premiere and a Mahler-size symphony with every concert. A worthwhile enterprise, even if they only perform three-four times a season.

Ralph, are you in some way a member, faculty, student body associate of Juilliard? If this is too personal, no worries :)

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Post by moldyoldie » Wed Oct 18, 2006 4:06 pm

Listening to the World Youth Symphony Orchestra of Michigan's Interlochen Center for the Arts, whether in person or on public radio, always amazes me as to their talent and accomplishment.

Outgoing Detroit Symphony Orchestra Music Director Neeme Järvi has conducted this fine young ensemble on numerous occasions and always heaps abundant praise on their level of musical attainment.

aurora
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Post by aurora » Thu Oct 19, 2006 8:46 am

The Venezuelan orchestra mentioned in the original post is the Simon Bolivar Orchestra & it deserves special mention. I saw a programme about them a while ago & it was quite impressive as many of these kids came from extremely poor areas, living in tiny houses ...shacks, actually.... with dirt floors. When the orchestra was traveling to areas with cooler climates, they had to rely on donations of warm clothing from sponsors as the kids didn’t have any.

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Post by MaestroDJS » Thu Oct 19, 2006 9:38 am

We in Chicago are especially lucky to such a fine student orchestra right here. I've heard the Civic Orchestra of Chicago at least as often as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and it compares very well.

Civic Orchestra of Chicago
http://www.cso.org/main.taf?p=2,4,6,1
Recruited from the best music schools in the country and around the world, these diverse young musicians are given the incredible opportunity to be mentored by musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Principal Conductor, Cliff Colnot. They are committed to developing their ensemble playing at the highest level. You can hear their dedication in what the Chicago Tribune calls "remarkable, even stunning" performances.

Founded in 1919, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago is the only training orchestra affiliated with a major American orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Its principal goal is to recruit a diverse group of the very best pre-professional musicians and train them at the highest level as orchestra players committed to their craft and to the community. Their talent and enthusiasm has engendered great praise among critics. A recent review in the Chicago Tribune called the Civic "such an accomplished ensemble of young musicians that it no longer seems appropriate to call them a training orchestra . . ."

Highlights of the 2006/07 season include full orchestra concerts under the direction of Myung-Whun Chung, Ludovic Morlot, Alan Gilbert, and Principal Conductor Cliff Colnot. The Civic Orchestra will also present a series of community chamber concerts throughout Chicago as well as a full orchestra concert at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Pilsen. These performances are presented free of charge.

Civic alumni have joined orchestras such as: the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; the Cleveland, Philadelphia, Minnesota and Louisville orchestras; the Los Angeles Philharmonic; the San Francisco, Boston, Pittsburgh, Houston, Baltimore, Saint Louis and National symphonies; the Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago orchestras; and many other symphony orchestras around the world.

MusiCorps, the Civic Orchestra's education and community engagement program, forms partnerships in the Chicago community with schools, churches, and community centers. As a training experience for Civic members, the program seeks to expand the role of the musicians as teacher, advocate and ambassador committed to interacting with his or her community.

You can hear Civic Orchestra concerts in Chicago on WFMT (98.7), which are also syndicated nationally on more than ninety broadcast outlets in twenty-five states, from Massachusetts to Oregon. These broadcasts are made possible through a generous gift from the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation.

Although free, tickets are required for all Symphony Center performances. Tickets are not required for community concert performances.
Dave

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pizza
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Post by pizza » Thu Oct 19, 2006 9:47 am

One of the most remarkable performances I ever heard is the recording of Mahler's 5th by the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie conducted by Rudolf Barshai. It first appeared a few years ago on Laurel Records (905), and has since been reissued by Brilliant Classics (92205) together with Barshai's performing version of Mahler 10. The 5th, recorded in 1999 in the Philharmonie, Berlin, and the 10th, recorded in 2001 in the Konzerthaus, Berlin show what amazing heights student orchestras can attain with complex orchestral material under the direction of a master conductor. This performance of the 5th has to be heard to be believed.

Another superb recording of a student orchestra, the New World Symphony conducted by MTT was issued by Argo (436 737-2) a few years ago, called "Tangazo". They play works by Chavez: Sinfonia India; Copland: Danzon Cubano; Roldan: Suite de "La Rebambaramba;" Revueltas: Sensamaya; Caturla: Tres danzas Cubanas; Roldan: Ritmica V; Piazzolla: Tangazo; and Ginastera: Danzas del ballet Estancia.

The rhythmic problems inherent in the music of all these composers are incredible and the orchestra handles them easily. Student orchestras can be quite impressive and I marvel at the fact that they often can play as well as a permanent group of seasoned veterans.

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Post by ironchefrm » Thu Oct 19, 2006 5:21 pm

Here, here to the New World Symphony! A recording that should be in everyone's library is a compilation of symphonic jazz works entitled "New World Jazz." Beyond the silly joy of having works like John Adam's "Lollapalooza" and Antheil's "Jazz Symphony" performed by precise and electric young musicians, the more familiar works sound almost newly-discovered. "Creation du Monde" is well represented, and the "Rhapsody in Blue," (with MTT at the piano) is surprisingly UN-Bernsteiny. It has its own MTT idiosyncrisies, but it's that original Paul Whitman arrangement that makes it worth hearing (if for no other reason but the banjo). The Stravinsky "Ebony" Concerto does feel a little bit like the odd-man out.

But the track that makes it a must-own is the blistering performance of Bernstein's "Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs." This MUST be the definitive performance. That final jam during the last three minutes, rimshots and all?.....as Samuel L. Jackson said in Jurassic Park, "Hold on to your butts."

Can't recommend it enough. Get thyself to ITunes and get ahold of it.

Huh - never realized how closely related MTT's Latin music album is to Bernstein's "Latin American Fiesta" album....interesting.

jserraglio
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Post by jserraglio » Thu Oct 19, 2006 5:47 pm

maybe the grandest of them all, Stokowski and the All American Youth Orchestra.
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  • Dvorak: Symphony # 9, Op. 95 ("From the New World")
    Sibelius: Symphony # 7, Op. 105
    Ravel: Bolero
    Music & Arts CD 841
  • Brahms: Symphony # 4, Op. 98
    Strauss: Death and Transfiguration
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  • Beethoven: Symphony # 5, Op. 67
    Brahms: Symphony # 1, Op. 68
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Post by Dalibor » Fri Nov 03, 2006 5:05 pm

jbuck919 wrote: I tell people who are in an in-between situation that it is easier to make one hundred foul shots in a row in basketball than it is to play a violin consiistently in tune. That's an exaggeration, but not much of one.
What a bad instrument, that violin.

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Post by Lance » Fri Nov 03, 2006 11:15 pm

Dalibor wrote:
jbuck919 wrote: I tell people who are in an in-between situation that it is easier to make one hundred foul shots in a row in basketball than it is to play a violin consiistently in tune. That's an exaggeration, but not much of one.
What a bad instrument, that violin.
Dalibor, I simply can't believe you as I go from post-to-post to read what you write. At first, I was interested in your views on those of us at CMG who you deem hypocrites. You form opinions and want to heap them upon us ... you're doing the same thing that you said you didn't like about us here on CMG. Shame on you! :cry:
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Post by Dalibor » Sat Nov 04, 2006 12:43 am

What I ment is that there shouldn't be an instrument that is difficult to be played in tune, and expecially that that is not something to kind of be proud about

I also personaly don't like the sound of a violin - unlike violonchelo which has such a beautifull and noble timbre

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Post by Lance » Sat Nov 04, 2006 1:11 am

Dalibor wrote:What I ment is that there shouldn't be an instrument that is difficult to be played in tune, and expecially that that is not something to kind of be proud about

I also personaly don't like the sound of a violin - unlike violonchelo which has such a beautifull and noble timbre
Well, any stringed instrument has to be tuned, even if it's between movements. But there are people, such as me, who love both, the violin and the cello sound, not to mention the viola and double bass. They have served their purpose very well over the last many hundred years.
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Post by Novitiate » Mon Nov 06, 2006 8:49 am

We don't have a local youth orchestra (that I know of anyway) and I'm basing my comments most scientifically :wink: on all of the TWO youth performances I've attended in the past year.

But in your experience, do you find that these groups are more willing to perform a less standard repertoire? The two performances I heard included Webern's 6 Orchestral Pieces (Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester) and Messiaen's Des Canyons aux Etoiles (NJO Summer Academy). Having said that, it could just be that our local groups tend to focus on more standard pieces, with which, at this moment in time, I have no problem. I concede that if I were a more seasoned listener, I might not get that excited about the old warhorses though.

Jack Kelso
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Post by Jack Kelso » Mon Nov 06, 2006 9:22 am

Perhaps many youth orchestra directors would rather choose to play less-known works to avoid unwanted comparisons with the top-notch recordings of professional ensembles that its audience would know. They might select an unknown Romantic Era symphony (Volkmann, Gade, Raff?) or a newly-commissioned modern work (to make the audience gasp with delight or fear!).

But not always.....

The last concerto in Mannheim (Studentenorchester der Musikschule) played Brahms' 2nd Piano Concerto and Schumann's Third Symphony. They did a wonderful job----enthusiasm, fine string-tone, discipline---it was all there. And playing one of the most best-known symphonies in the repertoire at that!

Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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