Wednesday, April 15, 2009
New York City
Conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas and Edwin Outwater
The Cliff Notes version. YouTube/Google sponsor an orchestra to workshop then perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The open call YouTube audition videos were judged by a distinguished panel of orchestral musicians. Many thousands were received. Two hundred were selected by the audition panel and the orchestra winners voted on by the YouTube community. Voila! An orchestra of 90 plus members from over thirty countries.
The results? Mixed. If judging the performance as a group of music students and gifted amateurs playing a concert after a few days rehearsal, I’d say the concert was a smashing success. A great hall, a good conductor, a fun, but focused atmosphere, and most competent groups could muster good results. The YTSO did. But, if judging the orchestra as a truly artistic entity, the results were less gratifying.
At the same time in London, the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra with Gustavo Dudamel were entrenched in open rehearsals (5000 people showed up) and a series of concerts. The Venezuelan youth orchestra as well as other youth orchestras from Britain, Germany, Australia can create music in a far more ‘professional’ and profound manner. The YTSO gave us bleeding chunks of Brahms, Dvorak, Wagner, and sundry other works. They were well played; in tune with very good ensemble. But the orchestra showed little character of its own, admittedly a difficult proposition with only a weekend to meet and greet. I should add, that I reviewed the concert from the YouTube video on an Apple TV fed through a good sound system. Not a good stall seat in Carnegie, but I could figure it out pretty quickly.
That said, Google is to be applauded for getting this project off the ground. We need more classical music opportunities. Yet, how times have changed. Toscanini had NBC, Bruno Walter, CBS. Tilson Thomas has Google. Where it goes from here? Probably nowhere, but A for effort.
Check out all the videos at the orchestra’s YouTube channel