I was prompted, after a comment by fellow arts blogger James Bash, to look in the Los Angeles Times archives for the text of the review of the Oregon Symphony’s prior debut, that being at the Hollywood Bowl, which took place in September 1992. Written by Times critic Daniel Cariaga, it was quite different from the critical reception we just received this past week in New York. Here are the first couple paragraphs of the review:
The Oregon Symphony does not make a fearsome noise, or a visceral impression. As heard Tuesday night in its Hollywood Bowl debut, it merely plays well, like many another North American orchestra that has visited our outdoor symphonic haven. But certainly not on a par with the best of them.
The last symphonic ensemble in a miniparade of second- (maybe third-) level orchestras playing at the Bowl in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s five-week absence, the Oregon Symphony can boast a small-scale virtuosity. It does not command the listener’s attention with its finesse, or sweep away memories of other orchestras with its authority.
Under longtime music director James DePreist, the Oregon players gave a very clean, usually well-paced, altogether respectable performance of Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique” on the second half of its two-work program. Before that, they proved less successful in a choppy and piecemeal, if courageous, run-through of Brahms’ Second Piano Concerto.
I would say that the Oregon Symphony has made some progress in the intervening 19 years.