Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Montgomery Symphony Orchestra

Last week I attend a concert of the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra. It was without a doubt the worst classical music performance I have ever heard. Half the instruments were out of tune, the string playing sounded like cats being thrown into a fire, mistakes galore, etc. I was wincing non-stop throughout the performance. I really tried not to, but I couldn't help myself -- every time the violins played it felt like I was getting kicked in the balls.

If the local newspaper were to have written a review of the concert, I don't know what they would have done. If you have any kind of integrity as a journalist you would have to point out just how mediocre the orchestra is, but doing so would probably make you pretty unpopular in a small town.

The only hope for the Orchestra is to fold and regroup as a chamber orchestra. Being a smaller sized ensemble will allow them to ditch most of the bad musicians, perform in a smaller hall that has better acoustics (the Orchestra plays in a 1930s movie palace that makes The Academy of Music sound like the Amsterdam Concertgebouw), and provide more rehearsal time.

A lot of what the Orchestra plays is "pops" music, and in some ways that does a bigger disservice to listeners than butchering Beethoven and Brahms. Gershwin requires the same virtuosity as Mahler (a real treat are the Cleveland Orchestra's three Gershwin recordings -- one, two and three -- the best being Maazel conducting the tone poems). I really wish these small town bands would stick with crapping on Mozart and Dvorak -- at least there are many excellent recordings that you can quickly cleanse your ears with.

The fact that people live in denial of the Montgomery Orchestra's mediocrity is a testament to how desirable having an orchestra is -- it's one of the marks that you're a major city. Philadelphians should be a little more appreciative and supportive of their orchestra, especially considering it is one of the best in the world.


  1. How about I was surprised to find out that Montgomery even HAD a symphony orchestra because of you!

  2. How about I didn't even know Montgomery HAD a symphony orchestra until you!