This past Thursday night, the Oregon Symphony was broadcast as part of a new series of local and web-streamed broadcasts on our local public classical music station, allclassical.org. In the past we’d had a series of broadcasts on the local NPR station, which were then shifted over to the home of classical music on the radio here in Portland. Due to funding issues, the broadcasts were phased out, and last year’s simulcast of our Carnegie Hall debut was the first to be heard in Portland in some time. Thankfully, funding was found, and in May and September of this year the OSO will be heard in three additional broadcast concerts.
As a titled player, I seldom get the chance to hear the orchestra from the perspective of the audience – I’m pretty much playing every piece on every concert (and when I get time off, I stay away from the concert hall). I hear a lot more than an audience member might, but especially in the Schnitz, it’s hard to hear the orchestra in its entirety rather than in its multiplicity of component parts. That’s why playing in Carnegie Hall was such a revelation to we musicians in the orchestra: we finally got to hear what we really sounded like without having to sit in the audience.
So, getting to hear what we sound like in our own hall (albeit in the somewhat manipulated circumstances of a multi-channel, multi-miked recording) was a chance to hear where we’ve come in the past ten years. In short, we’ve become an entirely different orchestra. The string sound is lush, but clear. The brass are ferociously powerful, but also sensitive and capable of a burnished tone. The woodwinds are breathtaking in their virtuosity. And the percussion are accurate, musical, and create countless different sonic effects. I think that our Mozart (and other Classical period) performances are unique among North American orchestras, since we play with limited vibrato and with a keen sense of lithe phrasing and unity of ensemble. We’re now a virtuoso ensemble capable of performances that match any in the US, and maybe the world, given the right direction, repertoire, and inspiration. We have a music director who knows music, and how to get what he wants to suit his vision of that music. We have a great staff that works tirelessly for us twelve months of the year, and we have loyal patrons and fans that come out to every concert we give. That’s not such a bad place to work, especially given that we work in Portland, one of the best cities to live in in the world.
Now, can we get started on finding out how to get a new hall, please?