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Which concert was better, Vienna or Berlin?


bollemanneke
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Vienna Vs. Berlin, which one was better?  

36 members have voted

  1. 1. The Program

  2. 2. John Williams' Speeches

  3. 3. The Performances

  4. 4. Flubs, Timing Issues and Lacklustre Renditions



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1 minute ago, Marian Schedenig said:

 

I had the same feeling. Vienna's video wasn't bad I think, but rather static with a small number of camera angles. Berlin, though live, was more dynamic, with changing angles (e.g. more than one closeup angle on Williams) and good coverage of the orchestra groups. A nice side effect is that you also get to see more of the audience, which is nice (though irrelevant) because I'm in it (I was at both of the Vienna concerts, but there's only one very brief shot of my part of the audience (from Saturday) on the Blu).

Oh, strange, I would have expected they would show more of the audience. God, I want to buy the Berlin concert. NOW!

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5 minutes ago, bollemanneke said:

If that was indeed the reason, it only confirms my beliefs about this whole concert/orchestra/management.

 

It doesn't really. If it's the reason, it just confirms a certain general snobbishness that I've always said has still got a strong hold on Vienna's classical concert scene. I had been slightly worried about how it might affect the concert beforehand, but the musicians were clearly excited to play this concert and very happy with Williams, so it had no relevant impact on the orchestra (at least this time) or the concert.

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Well, I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree. I've just listened to a few Vienna tracks and even the applause is less exuberant compared to Berlin.

 

Also, I'll just say this: a Facebook friend recently repeatedly shared posts by Riccardo Muti about how he laments the fact that the symphony orchestra is less and less valued by younger people. Maybe they can start by being less exclusive and snobbish about their sacred art? Even that Berlin presenter couldn’t get over the fact that so many Williams fans weren’t coughing 70-year-olds. Isn’t that a huge, huge problem?

 

And the fact that people like Maurizio keep posting about how extraordinary historic it is that Williams has been invited to Vienna and Berlin speaks volumes too. No, the world didn’t end with Strauss waltzes, but apparently I'm a minority. Also, one has to wonder why it’s so important for anyone why all these stick-in-the-muds recognise John Williams for what he is. It took them, what, more than 40 years to figure out what we knew back then? They clearly don’t have an eye for culture. They’re so obsessed with protecting their little world against whatever it is that they think the problem is that you can hardly blame young people for bowing out.

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28 minutes ago, Marian Schedenig said:

By the way, if anyone is wondering what Williams is so delighted about in the audience between Marion's Theme and the Raiders' March: There was a very small (and very well behaved) child sitting three seats next to me who Williams obviously spotted at that point.

 

Aww, you almost had your moment of glory. :)

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55 minutes ago, Fabulin said:

Myself, I work for one of the world's most acclaimed classical music institutions (can't say more because of my contract)

 

You're a secret agent at a top music university?

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2 hours ago, bollemanneke said:

Well, I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree. I've just listened to a few Vienna tracks and even the applause is less exuberant compared to Berlin.

 

Nah, Vienna was plenty exuberant too. Especially compared to the first half of the Thursday concert in Berlin (no standing ovation except at the beginning and at the end, if I remember correctly). 

 

Conversely I thought there were too many standing ovations on Saturday in Berlin: basically for every piece. Made it less special. 

 

But obviously those are details.

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26 minutes ago, eitam said:

Nah, Vienna was plenty exuberant too. Especially compared to the first half of the Thursday concert in Berlin (no standing ovation except at the beginning and at the end, if I remember correctly). 

On Wednesday there were no standing ovations at all. At the very end I stood up, but to my ire nobody else joined, so after a few seconds I did sort of an angry hand wave at that crowd of bricks (which made some heads turn towards me) and sat back down. Some 20 seconds of applause later, a few people stood up here and there, but they too stood alone.

 

felt like a pilgrim in an unholy land

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1 hour ago, Fabulin said:

Such attitudes cumulated over the past two decades

 

Are you sure about that? Because at least from the Berliner Konzertbetrieb i can assure you nothing much has changed, let alone to accept something 'lowbrow' as film music as fit for the holy concert arenas. This is strictly considered Waldbühne fare here, and i'm sure without Williams' cleverly playing a double role since 1980 he wouldn't have been considered.

 

Even Morricone had to play in the Mercedes Benz Arena, after all.

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1 hour ago, bollemanneke said:

I guess my opinion is also influenced by JW's truly magnificent speeches in Berlin. I never dreamed he would be that invested.

 

His mortorcycle story gets funnier with each retelling!

 

1 hour ago, Fabulin said:

On Wednesday there were no standing ovations at all. At the very end I stood up, but to my ire nobody else joined, so after a few seconds I did sort of an angry hand wave at that crowd of bricks (which made some heads turn towards me) and sat back down. Some 20 seconds of applause later, a few people stood up here and there, but they too stood alone.

 

felt like a pilgrim in an unholy land

 

Maybe people were keeping their strength for the real thing :D

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6 hours ago, Marian Schedenig said:

 

I had the same feeling. Vienna's video wasn't bad I think, but rather static with a small number of camera angles. Berlin, though live, was more dynamic, with changing angles (e.g. more than one closeup angle on Williams) and good coverage of the orchestra groups.

 

Yes, I feel the same. Berlin's videorecording is more dynamic, more active and more changing. The pictures of playing musicians are more vivid and interesting. IMHO one of the worst and irritating camera angles in Vienna is the one on Anne-Sophie Mutter's back when she is playing violin solos. I want to see the soloist's face and not her (his) back with confused faces of some people in the audience in the background. BTW for my taste the people in the audience are too much visible in Vienna videorecording. Sorry, guys.

 

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6 hours ago, publicist said:

 

Are you sure about that? Because at least from the Berliner Konzertbetrieb i can assure you nothing much has changed, let alone to accept something 'lowbrow' as film music as fit for the holy concert arenas. This is strictly considered Waldbühne fare here, and i'm sure without Williams' cleverly playing a double role since 1980 he wouldn't have been considered.

 

Even Morricone had to play in the Mercedes Benz Arena, after all.

Inviting Williams to Berlin was initially a Waldbühne project, but after Williams diplomatically excused himself with conflict schedules and yet came to Vienna to their hall, they Berliners seem to have gotten the hint and invited him to their main hall as well. It's still better than it used to be. Late Karajan or Abbado would have never performed film music, not even in the Waldbühne the way Rattle did. And back in 1980 there might not have been an audience for an expensive concert of American marches and fanfares in Germany. I also feel that just a decade ago the critics would have slammed ithe Berliner Phil for these concerts instead of writing"nothing bad should be said", or pretending not to see them. The gains might not seem massive, but they are qualitative. Long way to go, sure.

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6 hours ago, Fabulin said:

I also feel that just a decade ago the critics would have slammed ithe Berliner Phil for these concerts instead of writing"nothing bad should be said", or pretending not to see them. The gains might not seem massive, but they are qualitative. Long way to go, sure.

 

Never mind music critics, they are about as relevant as film music fans (and an even smaller group). The real situation is a Catch 22: the film music programs that fill the venues are strictly Pops material, and composers have always been reluctant to re-work their film music into something more substantial (and probably for good reason). On the other hand, concertos like JNH, Elfman or Horner did (and JW, of course) would be suitable but the audiences would stay away in droves. 

 

So even if i agree that film music is the popular concert music of today (up to a point), i wish there was more of an effort to deepen the scores presented beyond end credits reworkings. Case in point: Desplat's 10-minute Ghost Writer arrangement, which took me by surprise.

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9 hours ago, Fabulin said:

Inviting Williams to Berlin was initially a Waldbühne project, but after Williams diplomatically excused himself with conflict schedules and yet came to Vienna to their hall, they Berliners seem to have gotten the hint and invited him to their main hall as well. It's still better than it used to be. Late Karajan or Abbado would have never performed film music, not even in the Waldbühne the way Rattle did. And back in 1980 there might not have been an audience for an expensive concert of American marches and fanfares in Germany. I also feel that just a decade ago the critics would have slammed ithe Berliner Phil for these concerts instead of writing"nothing bad should be said", or pretending not to see them. The gains might not seem massive, but they are qualitative. Long way to go, sure.

I guess you didn't read the "Berliner Zeitung " review...

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3 minutes ago, Steve said:

I guess you didn't read the "Berliner Zeitung " review...

Is anybody able to read the full review? It's hidden behind a subscription for me...

https://www.berliner-zeitung.de/kultur-vergnuegen/musik/john-williams-dirigiert-die-philharmoniker-mit-star-wars-und-harry-potter-li.188919?pid=true

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4 minutes ago, Jurassic Shark said:

Translation, please.

Maybe later. I'm at work at the moment. But this is the most snobbish article you will find about a Williams concert (rivalling Lebrecht)

 

Conclusion is: Williams is only a march composer.

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2 minutes ago, Steve said:

Maybe later. I'm at work at the moment. But this is the most snobbish article you will find about a Williams concert (rivalling Lebrecht)

 

We should make a poll about who's the most snobbish!

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Just now, Jurassic Shark said:

Translation, please.

 

He's basically acknowledging Williams' most influential role in film music but questions the program as never-ending succession of marches, parades and tutti flourishes that end them. It's not remotely in the 'hate review' category of Lebrecht, and co., whatever Steve says.

 

As for cultural differences, german cultural grail keepers are not used to the concept of Pops concerts, so the lack of *proper* classical development of the musical ideas is what turns him off most, and he makes a point that concerts as these are a draw for film fans more than for music lovers.

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8 minutes ago, publicist said:

He's basically acknowledging Williams' most influential role in film music but questions the program as never-ending succession of marches, parades and tutti flourishes that end them. It's not remotely in the 'hate review' category of Lebrecht, and co., whatever Steve says.

Nobody said a word about hatred. The conclusion is that Williams is a bad composer who can only compose fanfares and pomp and if he tries to compose for the concert hall, e.g. Elegy, he fails. 

If you don't see the rejection the writer feels for Williams then maybe you don't want to because you agree with him.

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Really, he's mocking the Elegy?

 

13 minutes ago, publicist said:

As for cultural differences, german cultural grail keepers are not used to the concept of Pops concerts

 

Well, film music has already been performed at the Waldbühne, so it's not unheard of.

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Just now, Steve said:

Nobody said a word about hatred. The conclusion is that Williams is a bad composer who can only compose fanfares and pomp and if he tries to compose for the concert hall, e.g. Elegy, he fails. 

 

Fact: Lebrecht is hate-reviewing, obviously. Which this guy isn't, which makes your 'translations' rather dubious. The guy points out that the elegy piece offered is structurally lacking - well. Bad composer? Not remotely true. It's basically reverse snobbism.

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7 minutes ago, Jurassic Shark said:

Really, he's mocking the Elegy?

Yes, the structure.

He says "If Williams composes concertante like in "Elegy" the progression seems helpless. One thinks how Deleplaire could memorise this back and forth meandering Solo"

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5 minutes ago, Jurassic Shark said:

Really, he's mocking the Elegy?

 

 

Well, film music has already been performed at the Waldbühne, so it's not unheard of.

 

He's not mocking it, he complains about the piece's (to him) lackluster structure.

 

As for the Waldbühne: i doubt that Waldbühne concerts are covered at all in the classical review section.

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5 minutes ago, publicist said:

As for the Waldbühne: i doubt that Waldbühne concerts are covered at all in the classical review section.

 

He surely knows these concerts exist, and that the BPO has performed film music there.

 

5 minutes ago, publicist said:

He's not mocking it, he complains about the piece's (to him) lackluster structure.

 

He probably dislikes all structures that's not found in a textbook.

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Could anyne anyone please explain to me what it is with classical music and its dangerous obsession with structure? I used to listen to baroque music, but upond discovering romanticism and film music, realised it was a completely backwards genre whose first objective is adhering to structure and its second purpose seems to be repeating everything as much as possible and never ever trying something new. Wait, I have an idea: let's all write novels using the exact same structure and plot! And death to anyone who uses words that others don't use! God, these people are out of touch.

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11 minutes ago, Jurassic Shark said:

He surely knows these concerts exist, and that the BPO has performed film music there.

 

Waldbühne concerts mostly look like this. Whatever the BPO is doing there is considered money on the side for starving musicians.

 

image.png

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Thanks @Steve !

 

Just some thoughts on this review:

 

I disagree with almost everything that is said in that review. The headline already makes no sense.. "Too much, too loud, too similar" - Williams work is incredibly diverse, even if he uses marches for Superman or Indiana Jones, they're totally different and associated to different 'topics' (films, themes etc.). It doesn't make sense to leave a march out of the program, just because there is one already in the program, if it is a significant work of the composer.

 

The reviewer also said that Williams'  music is so easy to grasp (and always ends with the same 'boom'), in contrast to classical music, where you have to follow the structure (form?) of the music, to understand it. As soon as you don't have a distinguishable melody, the problem starts. He concludes that the concert documents the dead end, in which symphony orchestras are stuck.

 

Well, I get his point that if audiences are not familiar with the underlying topic of, let's say a classical Beethoven Symphony, they will have a hard time naturally to understand the music. But, to argue that Williams music is "Too much, too loud, too similar" also misses the point that the music presented in the concert are concert arrangements of music originally written for film, and not a classical piece written for the concert hall, in the first place.

 

The concert gives just a grasp of some of the major themes of Williams film music, and actually no idea of how diverse his music already is within each film (f.ex. in Azkaban: Buckbeaks Flight vs. the Knight Bus vs. Window to the Past), and between films (the general tonality of Memoirs vs. Star Wars vs. Far and Away etc.).

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4 minutes ago, bollemanneke said:

Could anyne anyone please explain to me what it is with classical music and its dangerous obsession with structure? I used to listen to baroque music, but upond discovering romanticism and film music, realised it was a completely backwards genre whose first objective is adhering to structure and its second purpose seems to be repeating everything as much as possible and never ever trying something new. Wait, I have an idea: let's all write novels using the exact same structure and plot! And death to anyone who uses words that others don't use! God, these people are out of touch.

 

This is a more in-depth bad review of the elegy from 2002:

 

You didn't have to be John Williams to write this cello concerto. The creator of the film music for "Jaws," ET "and" Star Wars "signs the score with gripping cinematic fanfares at the beginning - only to let Yo-Yo Ma step on the scene, who is certainly not a bad cast for them Main role is.
But then Williams leaves his hero in an impressive, atmospheric orchestral landscape. Introverted, he spins aimless, sour melodies with a much chiseled drive. However, this harsher tonality does not make the work more serious, nor less eclectic. Tonal innovation is not the problem at all. Inventing impressive catchy topics for characteristic stories, creating a romantic atmosphere in a matter of seconds is, after all, an art of its own with its own value. And Williams usually succeeds in combining image, situation and sound so well that he surprisingly knows how to vividly revive film experiences in the concert hall.
But there is no film for his cello concerto - and this is where the lack of structural will to create, the lack of a conflict, a dramatically told story becomes noticeable: it is lost in the display of orchestral and, above all, solo technique. Williams makes his hero look good, but Yo-Yo Ma's dramatic power fizzles out because there is no convincing dialogue for him in the script.
On the other hand, Williams offers a story about the "Elegie" in the booklet: The piece was written as a reaction to the accidental death of a colleague's children. Williams composed "Heartwood" with an illustrated book about gnarled old trees in hand. The smooth string sound worked as film music in both cases. In contrast to Yo-Yo Ma's penetrating cello tone, it suddenly seems cheap - because, unlike the soloist, it seems to distract from himself.
So can we forget John Williams as a composer of absolute music? Not quite. Because there are the three pieces for cello solo. They also have programmatic titles. If one hears the cracking of the whips of the slave drivers and the groans of the mistreated in the first piece, it becomes somewhat trivial. When heard on their own, the beat motif at the beginning and the nervous departure from the keynote, on the other hand, offer musical conflict enough for five and a half minutes of intense tension. One man, one cello, one solution: sometimes even a Williams doesn't need much to be good.

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7 minutes ago, publicist said:

 

Waldbühne concerts mostly look like this. Whatever the BPO is doing there is considered money on the side for starving musicians.

 

image.png

 

So he's certainly used to it happening, he just don't want it in "his" arena.

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Just now, MaxTheHouseelf said:

Williams work is incredibly diverse, even if he uses marches for Superman or Indiana Jones, they're totally different and associated to different 'topics' (films, themes etc.).

 

Excuse me, what? The basic structure of the Superman march and the Star Wars theme (just one example) are strikingly similar. 

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Just now, publicist said:

 

Excuse me, what? The basic structure of the Superman march and the Star Wars theme (just one example) are strikingly similar. 

Might be, but the pieces you mentioned have their own sound and soul. Or do you think Superman March and Star Wars sound the same?

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1 minute ago, bollemanneke said:

I tried to read this review, but it's so tedious. I hear Berg is supposed to a great composer. Had to endure some piece by him recently in a concert and I'll take this elegy any time.

 

Then you should check out his violin concerto.

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Just now, bollemanneke said:

I tried to read this review, but it's so tedious. I hear Berg is supposed to a great composer. Had to endure some piece by him recently in a concert and I'll take this elegy any time.

 

But that's the point: film music fans, by and large, have neither knowledge nor interest in classical musical literature - or, god forbid, trying to educate themselves about the classical catalogue. On the other hand, they dismiss every criticism of a piece (criticism that isn't glowing praise) as snobbish junk, which is rich from someone who, i. e., never even bothered to listen to a cello concerto.

 

The truth is like always somewhere in between. 

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Well, I myself certainly loved some of Haydn's cello material, but I have little patience with people breaking a piece apart into seven different categories when it worked for me upon my first ever listen. What mostly made me shun classical music is its dogged determination to never ever stray from structure and every time it does happen, people refer to its greatness or badness because of it. Take Mozart: 70% of his symphonies are completely interchangable. Take Bach: I'd have been happy with 10 cantatas.

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1 minute ago, publicist said:

 

But that's the point: film music fans, by and large, have neither knowledge nor interest in classical musical literature - or, god forbid, trying to educate themselves about the classical catalogue.

Another thing I disagree with the reviewer who doubts that children find their way to classical music through Williams music. Because for me, Williams music is the reason I started listening, discovering and appreciating more and more of classical music.

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5 minutes ago, MaxTheHouseelf said:

Might be, but the pieces you mentioned have their own sound and soul. Or do you think Superman March and Star Wars sound the same?

 

What i think is that for you every reasoned criticism of Williams' big hits will be infamy. All these charges against Williams popular stuff are nothing new. Many of them go overboard (see Lebrecht), some are on the mark.

 

But what right has a film music fan who only ever listens to film music to judge a music critic with a vast musical repertoire knowledge? (not talking about you, per se, but that's what often seems to transpire from these complaints).

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