previous debuts


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.


12 Replies to “previous debuts”

  1. Amazing how arrogant and dismissive a critic can be. Does anyone know if this critic is still around?  I can see being critical of a performance but the tone of that assessment is very off putting, at least to me.

  2.  Yikes! I never saw this. Well, as I always say, today’s newspaper lines tomorrow’s birdcage. But we probably weren’t that good…

  3. And Daniel Cariaga was the most sympathetic and gentle of the music reviewers at the LA Times in those days.  He was very well-informed and perceptive in addition to be kind and thoughtful.

    1. If he was the nice critic, I would hate to incur the wrath of the mean ones! I was struck by the “merely plays well” comment. Here, I thought that playing well was a good thing. I guess not. His comments regarding second and third tier orchestras reflect a snobbery that I hope is changing. As recent history demonstrates, a regional orchestra like the OSO is important and very capable of delivering an outstanding performance on a national stage.

      1. When you’re coming from out of town as a visiting orchestra. You’re supposed to have your ‘A’ game on and show what you’ve got. Just playing ‘well’ shouldn’t cut it. The critic was clearly disappointed by what he heard, and he reported the concert as he perceived it. That’s what critics are supposed to do. And tiers often refer more to budget size than artistic accomplishment, as well. 

        1. Thanks for the responses, James and Charles. I certainly don’t intend to speak ill of the dead or get bogged down in a review of marginal relevance to today’s orchestra.  It’s just that my impression was of a rather bored critc who was tired of what he seemed to consider a parade of inferior ensembles at the Hollywood Bowl.  Apparently, the ony thing that would impress him was a performance that would “blow him away,” so to speak.  I guess it was his prerogative to apply that standard and tone to his review, but as a reader, I don’t find that to be a  particularly attractive style  or helpful to me in understandng a performance.  That haughty, imperious air that too many critics (James excepted) cultivate does little for me..  Anyway, enough said by me.  Thanks for posting that excerpt, Charles.  It was very interesting. 

  4. having attended MANY hollywood bowl concerts, i can tell you that no place/hall on earth has worse acoustics.

    compared to the H-Bowl, the schnitz sounds like the Berlin Philharmonic’s hall.


  5. A quick look on the web turned up new about  Daniel Cariaga:

    Daniel Cariaga, 71; veteran Times writer chronicled the musical life of the city
    November 03, 2006|Chris Pasles | Times Staff WriterDaniel Cariaga, whose modest but deeply informed reviews and features appeared in the music pages of the Los Angeles Times for decades, has died. He was 71.Cariaga died Wednesday morning of heart failure at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, according to his wife, mezzo-soprano Marvellee Cariaga.”Danny Cariaga was the quiet, careful and profoundly knowledgeable chronicler of Los Angeles’ musical life for more than 40 years,” Times music critic Mark Swed said Thursday. “He was a critic’s critic. His prose was concise, graceful, understated. And his instinct in finding — and his love of sharing — pleasure in all that he heard and witnessed was unique.”

  6. It’s a false comparison, of course: Daniel Cariaga isn’t me, the Hollywood Bowl isn’t Carnegie Hall and the two programs could hardly have been more different. You have no way of knowing what Cariaga would have said about the program I reviewed, or what I would have said about the program he reviewed. Not to mention the more obvious point, which is that I knew the orchestra in its DePreist days from its recordings, and though Delos’s standard was (supposedly) that the recordings not be edited to death, they were still recordings. Cariaga was reviewing a live, outdoor concert. Presenting it as “proof” that great changes have occurred is a bit of sophistry, really. Which is not to say that they haven’t occurred, for people who hear the orchestra on a week to week basis, just that this comparison has too many variables to be proof of anything.

    1. Mr. Kozinn,
      Much has been said about the first paragraph of your review. As a violinist in the orchestra, I would like to take the opportunity to mention how much I enjoyed reading the other five paragraphs as well.
      Greg Ewer

    2. It wasn’t meant to be a direct comparison – I simply noted that his review was quite different, as were the circumstances of that particular debut, as you rightly point out. 

      I was not expecting all of this controversy that has come up in the ensuing days over what was a passing comment in a very glowing review of our performance last week. I, along with all of us in the orchestra, are very grateful that there was a Times critic in attendance, and that we gave a performance that warranted such praise.

      I’m just a violist with a computer and access to the internet, and I, as always, simply aim to honestly present my views on what happens in relation to my orchestra, of which I am very proud to be a member.

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