Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Chicago

There was a poll done by Gramophone a while ago about the ranking of the world’s greatest orchestras, and taking the number 6 spot was the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, otherwise known as the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (BRSO). The BRSO’s current chief conductor – the brilliant Maestro Mariss Jansons – wrote this about his orchestra for Gramophone’s poll:

“Here is an orchestra that is not only very brilliant – it doesn’t have any weaknesses at all. They are enormously spontaneous and emotional performers, playing every concert like it could be their last. They give everything, more than a hundred per cent.

But the orchestra has a secret to its success.

As a radio orchestra, all of its concerts are recorded. Therefore all the players are at once accustomed to the idea that they must be technically perfect and unfazed by the presence of microphones – so, with the playing quality almost a given, they also concentrate on interesting and involved interpretation. They are trained to do both, which yields enormous results. In addition, they play a lot of contemporary music. That keeps them sharp; their sight-reading, for instance, is phenomenal. For me, as a conductor, it’s like driving a Rolls Royce. The orchestra can cope with everything.”

You might think that this is just a proud conductor boasting about his orchestra, but every word Jansons writes above is entirely true (at least in my opinion 😀 ). Sunday’s BRSO concert at Symphony Center, the second-to-last stop for the BRSO’s US tour, echoes the entirety of Jansons’ sentiment towards his orchestra. Their performance of Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony (Leningrad) was some of the finest orchestral playing I’ve ever heard, and the combination of the BRSO’s finesse and practically perfect execution with Maestro Jansons’ expertise and close familiarity with Shostakovich’s music made for an unforgettable afternoon. I think I was most blown away with how, for lack of a better word, good the BRSO sounded. The sound quality was just different than that of the CSO (maybe it’s a European thing?) and it really did feel like I was listening to a perfectly engineered sound from the recording studio – everything was just so precise and clear. And the BRSO really brought alive and evoked the essence and character of Shostakovich’s Leningrad – just brilliant.

After the concert, I actually got to meet Maestro Jansons, who was also this year’s conductor of the annual New Year’s Concert in Vienna! And…speaking of European things and Vienna…I will be headed to the Salzburg Festival towards the end of the summer to see the famous Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra perform under (you guessed it) Maestro Muti’s baton!! This will be Maestro Muti’s 45th year conducting at the Salzburg Festival and I’m glad that I’ll be able to make it to the concert. It will be my first time visiting Europe, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time – I always thought that I’d visit France first, but alas, plans change and so I’ll be heading to Vienna for a couple of days and then the rest of the time will be spent in Salzburg!

Anyways, going back to the BRSO’s concert – Maestro Muti, who had his open rehearsal with Civic right after the BRSO’s concert, actually stopped by during their preparation for the performance. Maestro Muti, who conducted the BRSO towards the end of last December (if I remember correctly), has also been associated with this orchestra for a long time, and it was nice to see him and Maestro Jansons/BRSO meet up together! There are some nice photos on the BRSO’s FB page. Plus, after the concert was over, Maestro Jansons (and Yo-Yo Ma) stuck around to listen to Maestro Muti’s open rehearsal with Civic. Basically just two of the world’s greatest conductors enjoying a Sunday afternoon/evening by listening to each other do what they do best – and I got to hear (and meet) the both of them 🙂

Next post: Rehearsal(s) with Maestro Muti (Verdi!)




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