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Music is International: The YouTube Symphony Orchestra April 16, 2009

Posted by jeffclef in classical music, youtube.
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More videos of the YTSO’s road to Carnegie Hall

Orchestras have so long been speaking
This universal language that the Greek
And the Barbarian have both mastered
Its enigmatic grammar which at last
Says all things well. But who is worthy?

— W.H. Auden, from “Music is International”

The YouTube Symphony Orchestra, that’s who. “Music is International,” as W.H. Auden declared in his 1947 poem, and the YTSO is confirmation. Cutting across age and nation, language and location, the internet has fostered the creation of global communities around common interests from video-sharing to extreme sports to contemporary poetry. The YTSO, which makes its debut at Carnegie Hall this April 15, 2009, comes together through its members’ shared passion for classical music.

Its members, professional and amateur, young and old, hailing from locations around the world, made the cut by submitting a video audition of a piece written for the occasion by the esteemed Chinese composer Tan Dun. Finalists were whittled down by a panel drawn from members of world’s elite orchestras before the public was invited to vote for its favorites online. The winners were flown to New York, where they performed Tan Dun’s new work under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas (conductor for the San Francisco Symphony). The concert took place last night (eta: the NYT review), and YouTube just posted the above mashup of the “Eroica” made from the winning audition videos.

Tan Duns Internet Symphony (Eroica)

While I wait for video of the concert proper, I’ve been watching the participant interviews and other videos which document this historic event. Pianist and blogger extraordinaire, Jeremy Denk, vlogged the rehearsals. Denk, who flushes down the toilet all the stereotypes about classical musicians, is a maverick in his field, and think denk, his blog on the glamorous life and thoughts of a concert pianist,” is sidesplittingly funny. Sarah Palin on Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata is a must read, even if classical music isn’t your cup of coffee.

As a pianist, I was interested to see who would make the cut for piano. The winning pianist was Tino Balsamello from Italy. In addition to nailing the Tan Dun arrangement, he plays a wicked Waldstein. He’s got great dynamic range for Beethoven, and his attack is very clean. Even at this brisk tempo, the sound is crisp, never muddy, all the more amazing given that he is working with a dog-eared upright.

The organs of the piano exposed, you can see just how much life he pumps into the runs and apreggios of the sonata. The only thing that bothers me maybe is the approach to the choral B theme in the expo and recap (1:18-1:42; 5:27-5:52), but that’s a personal preference. I want it more “dolce e molto e legato,” as my score has it. But the rendition has verve, and Mr. Balsamello is more than up to the challenge. And if Mr. Denk is to be believed, so is the dog.

Congratulations to all the musicians who made the cut.

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