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Saturday, October 19, 2013

More for the serious music aficionados

I didn't get finished the last time I posted one of these entries on serious music. I promise this time it won't be so lengthy.

Why do I do this? Because I am convinced that if Americans are to salvage what's left of our disintegrating culture, we must study history, the classics of great literature, Constitutional law with an emphasis on original intent, and the great music of the centuries, among other things.

There is a reason why the works of Bach, for example, are still revered and played to this day. His music was timeless. As with all classical works, there are layer after layer of pleasures to be had, which leads to a rich listening experience.

So, let's review what we have discussed so far.

All time best symphony orchestra:
The Philadelphia Orchestra, especially during the years of Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy, the latter of which served for 44 years, the longest tenure of any orchestra conductor in the world.

All time best conductor: Eugene Ormandy

All time best string musician: Itzhak Perlman -- solo violin 

All time best pianist: three-way tie with Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, and Sergei Rachmaninoff

Now we shall turn our attention to other instruments and vocalists within the classical music genre. 

Best performance of a classical choral group:
a. Robert Shaw Chorale
b. Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Shaw's tenure as choral conductor for the Atlanta Symphony was most remarkable. He was a relentless perfectionist and insisted that his vocalists sing a Capella. Anything you can find by Robert Shaw will be the best of the best in choral singing.

All time best trumpet in a symphony orchestra:
Frank Kaderabek of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Hand picked by Eugene Ormandy, this musician was in a class all his own. Ormandy required a lot out of the trumpets and horns due to his emphasis on strings. It is perhaps more difficult for a good trumpeteer to hold back in deference to balance than to play full blast. But there are many pieces of music that call for the full volume of the trumpet section, and when Kaderabek, the first chair, was allowed to shine, he did so with amazing precision and emotion. Ormandy's insistence on balance and blend was always there, but Kaderabek never failed to deliver when it was time for the trumpets to hold forth. He was, simply, amazing.

All time best clarinet:
Anthony M. Gigliotti, Philadelphia Orchestra -- another musician hand picked by Ormandy and who played with the Philadelphia from 1949 to 1996. Again, an amazing musician.

All time best oboe:
Richard Woodhams, Philadelphia Orchestra, another Ormandy pick, 1977 to present.

All time best bassoonist:
Bernard Howard Garfield, Philadelphia Orchestra, 1957 - 1999

All time best horn:
Nolan Miller, Philadelphia Orchestra, 1978 - 2008 
Jennifer Montone, Philadelphia Orchestra, 2008 - present

All time best solo vocalist:
Female: Beverly Sills, Metropolitan Opera
Male: Luciano Pavarotti
Honorable mention: Robert Merrill, Metropolitan Opera

You will note that most of the best musicians within the realm of serious music were or are presently part of the Philadelphia Orchestra. This is not by accident. The orchestra was considered the best in the world under Ormandy because he made sure he hired the best musicians. An orchestra is only as strong as its weakest musician. And Ormandy never had an inferior artist in the bunch, yet another reason that attests to his genius and his status as the best orchestra conductor of all time.

I am following some young musicians who have come along who show great promise in this regard, some who play at Philadelphia, some at Chicago, some in the great Chinese orchestras, and others at Vienna. Time will tell if they will rise to the level of greatness portrayed by the stellar musicians listed above, who played during the golden era of classical music in America.

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