Tuesday, January 27, 2015

concert review: Budapest Festival Orchestra

It was close to the last minute that I was asked to cover this visiting orchestra's meal of Brahms. Can you tell that I have a book of scores of the Brahms symphonies at home? If I'd remembered that beforehand, I'd have taken it with me to the concert (it's small-format), but I didn't really need to. I don't need a score to tell me if the conductor is taking the first-movement repeat or not, or otherwise how he's treating a work as canonical as a Brahms symphony.

I've reviewed the Vienna Philharmonic twice, and both times skirted around the problem of their (by now, in today's world) conspicuous dearth of female members, feeling it was a complicated question not easily dealt with in an 800-word review that's mostly supposed to discuss the music. (Basically, the Vienna Philharmonic doesn't conduct open auditions, but recruits its members through a long and elaborate apprenticeship system, and the way to get more women in there is to insert them into the apprenticeships from the beginning, not to impose them from outside at the end of it, but that not only takes a long time, it depends on women willing to go through what is undoubtably a testosterone-heavy process.)

So I was passingly amused that this middle-European orchestra had lots of women, though of course it doesn't have that storied VPO history, having been invented by its own music director to have somebody to conduct (not an uncommon practice in Europe - the Royal Philharmonic was created by Beecham the same way). But I couldn't think of a reason to mention this until the delight of a choral encore - something I'd never heard an orchestra do before - and a four-part mixed chorus at that, something you can't sing without a reasonable approach to equality between the sexes. So, hah, they read my mind.

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