Different Orchestra's Sounds/Playing Style

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by anonymous12251111, Jun 22, 2008.

  1. anonymous12251111

    anonymous12251111 Inactive

    Apr 6, 2007
    Just curious as to what you find as the different sounds of specific orchestras. Vienna phil...very fast bow strokes, lots of hair, fairly over the fingerboard, nice round warm sound. Please comment!
  2. NY Phil - Very crisp and articulate. Can sound edgy.

    Philadelphia - Warm, rich, long, lush, dark. I love Philly's sound. The whole orchestra has a very homogenous sound.

    Berlin Phil - Fast bow, close to the fingerboard. They play steel string the way gut strings are played. They don't have the heavy bass that you hear in their recordings with Karajan.

    Baltimore - Very rough. Not much depth to the string sound. The brass overblow like crazy. At least for their hall.

    National - Very clean and focused sound. Everybody in that bass section can really play.
  3. Mitchthebassplayer


    Jan 7, 2008
    Queens, NY
    Endorsing Artist: Olinto, La Bella, JuleAmps, Epifani
    I think the NY phil is a lot cleaner sounding than Vienna but Vienna's bass section is by far the fattest sounding in my opinion
  4. anonymous12251111

    anonymous12251111 Inactive

    Apr 6, 2007
    I just love how the Europeon orchestra's, like Vienna and Berlin REALLY get into the music. The way you see the violins sway is beautiful, and just seeing the bass section physically move really brings energy to the performance. I personally wish that trend of musicality was apparent in North America...it seems that so many bass players here are concerned with the utmost perfection, sitting perfectly still and not showing any emotional connection to the music. Thank God Joel Quarrington is around, that guy has a REAL connection with the music!!
  5. mheintz


    Nov 18, 2004
    I think generalizations are a bit hard to make because so much is dependent on the hall and the conductor. The two with which I am most familiar are NY and Boston. The clean, articulate Boston sound is closely connected with the acoustics of Symphony Hall. They have a different sound when at Tanglewood. I've never liked the acoustics of Lincoln Center, particularly center orchestra, but the hall seems to lend itself to a more expansive, rich sound. (I wish Carnegie was their home!) Ozawa was in Boston for so long that many of the string players developed principally under his baton, so what we think of the Boston string sound may in large part be the Ozawa sound.
  6. Dr Rod

    Dr Rod

    Aug 19, 2005
    Funny, I completely agree but I don't find many people that think this way.

    Perhaps because they are super-musicians, they can be so subtle and fluffy, and incredibly fat as well. There is a tendency to worship bass sections that play loudly all the time, and the Vienna guys know better.

    I think also that they have a lot of bass players that they rotate (Opera, Vienna Phil, Oratorios, tours etc...) and depending on who is playing they will sound different.
  7. Dr Rod

    Dr Rod

    Aug 19, 2005
    They used to have that fat Karajan sound but they lost it. I hold Sir Simon accountable for it.
  8. Dr Rod

    Dr Rod

    Aug 19, 2005
    Very true, the whole orchestra is full of great musicians, not just great technicians.

    Some say that they developed the sound because of their crappy sounding hall, but I have heard plenty of orchestras that play in crappy halls and didn't develop that sound. It's too simplistic a claim.
  9. BMason


    Oct 1, 2006
    Houston, TX
    Boston is often characterized as "short," probably because they use spiccato more often than not, but the vibrations carry over each bow change, so the sound is very full and very clean. Sections known more for keeping it all on the string choke the end of each note.
  10. Jon Stefaniak

    Jon Stefaniak Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2000
    Tokyo, Japan
    I got to talk with Jurek Dybal, one of the co-principal basses in the Vienna Phil. His opinion was that the style of playing in Vienna is more different from the rest of Europe than any other European playing style. He said, in general, that Vienna phil plays much more concentrated pressure and speed than German orchestras. This concentrated bowing style comes from sightreading in the opera pit where bow distribution is not certain.

    Having gone to school in Chicago, I tend to agree with the idea that the nature of the hall has a strong influence on the sound of the orchestra. I've heard the Boston Symphony in concert in once in Chicago and once in Boston. In Chicago their playing was always clean, clear, well balanced.... but - in my opinion- lacked range and power in its dynamics. When I saw them in Boston, they sounded amazing. When I heard Philly in Chicago it was a different story. They kicked ass. A bit of a simplification, I know, but it makes sense to me that if an orchestra spends all its time in a dryer hall, they learn to play with a heavier more sustained sound that suits that acoustic. I'm sure when Chicago goes to Carnegie they sound like they're blasting... its just way more reflective then Orchestra Hall in Chicago.
  11. I just heard the MET Orchestra at Carnegie this spring and it was exquisite.
    Does anyone have sources for how these various sounds of bass sections developed (other than what hall they use)? Like did Koussevitzky at Boston impact that section, Roger Scott at Philadelphia, etc?
  12. JayR


    Nov 9, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    I know Koussevitzky was responsible for introducing steel strings to the BSO bass section, which I'm sure quickened the spread of their use across the rest of the US.
  13. jlehmberg


    Jan 21, 2006
    Hong Kong
    If I'm right, at least half of the Met section are Roger Scott students, but I definitely don't think of them as having a Philly sound. Whenever I've heard the Met--either live or on recording--they've sound incredibly crisp and clear, and I've also heard that Levine likes really short, crisp playing. I guess the different role of an opera orchestra might make it hard to compare to other symphony orchestras.
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I am looking forward to seeing the Berlin and Chicago orchestras at the Proms this summer in the Albert Hall - I might comment on how they sound! ;)
  15. Hemispheres85


    Jun 15, 2006
    That would be interesting. My teacher played at Royal Albert during the proms years ago with philly.

    He said it was an awful place to play as it was so huge it sounded as if the orchestra was playing in a soccer stadium!
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I've been to the Proms/Albert Hall many times before and it is an imposing edifice - although not as big as a stadium!

    I think most of the European Orchestras are used to it and make a good job - I have heard some wonderful sounds there - although I do remember seeing Shostakovich's 11th Symhony and there is an all-percussion section in the middle which represents the Russian army and it was echoing off the back of the hall and coming back louder!! :eek:

    I like the Albert Hall as a concert-goer - although I expect it does present problems to the players. I've seen the Berlin with Rattle before and it was a great sound - but it might be interesting to see how the Chicago symphony cope - especially in the great "Hammer Blows" of Mahler 6's finale!! ;)

    But Haitink is a very experienced campaigner here.
  17. Dr Rod

    Dr Rod

    Aug 19, 2005
    As long as they keep building halls where you can have the truck show, the mud wrestling, AND THE SYMPHONY.....

    It seems that we know how to build halls that sound good for a symphony (shoebox shape, less than 2000 seats, thick heavy walls), but the priorities are clearly not what we -orchestral musicians- would like them to be.

    I guess this is material for a new thread.
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    It does look pretty though :