It’s always refreshing to go to hear another country’s resident orchestra on home ground, and hearing the Concertgebouw orchestra in Amsterdam was no exception. It was a full length Sunday afternoon concert of Kodaly, Dvorak and Brahms stunningly played by an orchestra full of top quality players from the Netherlands, Europe and further afield. Their playing was extraordinarily clean, technically flawless as well as being wonderfully expressive. So often, there is one without the other. Here, we had the luxury of both.
And as ever in the top orchestras, I am always bowled over by the quality of the woodwind and brass players. Each one was a soloist in his/her own right – exquisite playing from them all.
The orchestra works hard. Two or three concerts a week with all the rehearsals and hours of individual practice to make sure they are on top of their parts. The audition process to get into the orchestra is rigorous: demanding solo repertoire plus some of the hardest orchestral excerpts imaginable. And this is all performed in front of a panel, and behind a screen, so that the panel can in no way be swayed by someone’s personality, the way they look or whether they might know them or not. A player dealing with this needs nerves of steel, and it is not for the faint-hearted.
And despite all these rigorous demands, the results are something special: playing of the highest calibre with heart and soul very much in evidence.