CSO is a Great Orchestra

It's hard to believe how good the CSO sounds, considering the beating we've taken the past year.

Tonight we had our first concert back in the Ohio Theater since last May, and we sounded incredible.

Last week we played Holst's The Planets in Vets Memorial Auditorium, a cavernous hall with no stage shell, and we sounded darn good there.

During rehearsals at Vets, without the audience, we could hear just enough acoustical feedback from the hall to taper releases of chords together, something we have not been able to do, or had the acoustical security to accomplish to such high degree, in the Ohio Theater.

I was impressed how the orchestra brought together details of performance after so many months apart. With a near full capacity audience during the concert in Vets, the acoustics were drier, and a bit more difficult to hear across the stage, especially with no shell. But many of the rehearsal details stuck.

Tonight's concert went even better, despite Ohio Theater's overly booming stage acoustics. (think of trying to whisper an intimate poem to a lover in a crowded subway station)

The Ohio Theater stage is a literal "box", since the proscenium of the historical 1920s movie theater is much too narrow to allow complex orchestral sounds to blossom from the stage to the audience. This causes two problems. First, the musicians must constantly filter the roar of all the excess sound on stage in order to play with depth and beauty, rather than "shouting" to be heard over each other. Secondly, since much of the sound remains on stage, bouncing around, the audience receives only a reduced portion of the music making from the stage.

But the orchestra sounded as good in the Ohio Theater as it has in years, even better!

At first I thought is was our guest conductor, David Lockington, who holds his own with a crisp ear and heartfelt, intuitive phrasing. But the reason we sounded good was due to more than Mr. Lockington's care.

It wasn't until after the concert that I realized the inspiration behind the orchestra's crisp and unified style.

After only two years of conducting us as Music Director, our beloved Junichi Hirokami has left his mark. The Columbus Symphony is several notches better than before his appointment as our musical leader.

We now play with more stable internal rhythm, better blending of colors and with more intimate phrasing because of Junich Hirokami's influence.

Junichi Hirokami may not have spoken English very well. He may not have met the ego and image demands of the city's elite. He may not have satisfied the masochistic tendencies of some musicians who feel that orchestra musicians need a tyrant to whip them into playing their best.

Junichi's strategy was different from the start. He invited us, in a fun, lighthearted way, to believe in ourselves, to trust our musical instincts and our natural desire to improve, to play better and to enjoy what we do, no matter what political poison seeps into the well water.

Just think of where we could have gone if he had been invited to continue here! (If only all parties had been able to overcome the petty desire for revenge over unfortunate words, events which now appear tragically selfish compared to the music we could have made!)

The great paradox of making music is that it is, on the one hand, a critically difficult task, yet one which requires an optimistic and eager spirt in order to be accomplished to the highest level.

Not to worry, the musicians will carry forward the torch of high quality music making. Hopefully we won't quickly forget the inspiration behind our step up in quality as an orchestra.

Tonight, the musicians of the Columbus Symphony showed that we have chosen to move to the next level of orchestral quality.

We don't need anyone to understand what we do and what it's worth, because we know as much, and much more.

And it shows.

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5 comments for “CSO is a Great Orchestra

  1. Chuck
    March 23, 2009 at

    Excellent blog. As a long-time CSO concert-goer at the Ohio Theater, I can say that the acoustics are *OK*, as a satisfactory sound is contingent upon where you are seated. Anything further up than the loge results in the strings (especially the violins) virtually disappearing into thin air. Also, DO NOT sit on the extreme sides of the theater as you will believe that you have lost hearing in the ear situated closest to the wall. Finally, the main floor is adequate as long as you do not sit beneath the overhang, as this once again results in a severely compromised sound.

    I have also seen many orchestral seating arrangements displayed by the CSO (especially in the brass and timpani), and though it often depends on the work being performed, I recall that the timpani is not suited to positioned dead center especially in a smaller-scale work.

    I attended the performance of the Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto and the Dvorak 8, and it is my impression that the trumpets were positioned too far back for the Dvorak, and the lower brass were choked off to the side. Granted, this is the somewhat smaller scale #8 and not the “New World”, however during orchestral tuttis the focus of the brass appeared to be lacking.

    As far as the Brahms, the balance was terrific, especially in the woodwinds and horns, though this is always the case with these sections (the best in the orchestra in my opinion!). If I had one criticism of the Brahms, it seemed the balance between the orchestra and the soloist was uneven- as if the two were in a passive battle for attention; but I admit this is nit-picking as Brahms’ scoring is often of the most difficult and detail oriented of the romantic-era repertoire.

    • March 27, 2009 at

      Hello Chuck. Thanks for your comment. Have you been to some acoustically great concert venues, like Severance Hall, or Albert Hall?

  2. January 24, 2009 at

    @Hank Browne: drastic paycuts, 6 months unemployment, fired music director, blame for financial problems we didn’t create

  3. Hank Browne
    January 24, 2009 at

    “It’s hard to believe how good the CSO sounds, considering the beating we’ve taken the past year”

    Please explain “beating.”

  4. Will
    January 17, 2009 at

    Beautifully written

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