From Blindingham Hall: which is the best orchestra in the world?

From the blog of Blindingham Hall, jointly written by Catherine Rose and me… I recommend reading from the beginning…

Letters the Nineteenth and Twentieth:

From Rogers to Lady Effingham; and from Lady Effingham to Rogers

Dear Lady Effingham,

We all have football fever! Do you, too? The Village Cup contest is reaching its climax, and Blindingham is all a-tremble to see who will be eventual winners.

Vauxhall is the captain of the servants’ team, and he’s selected the voluptuous Addie Pose to be the twin strikers up front. I think he was trying to persuade Daisy to play in midfield, as I heard him say something about her ball carrying skills and her ability to score from the most surprising positions. He reminded Mr Dawson that he should change ends at half time and Mr Dawson smiled thoughtfully.

Helga has very kindly sewn our football from some spare leather that she had. I don’t know where she got the material from, but she does seem to be walking rather gingerly at the moment.

All the community groups are entering a team, but there have been some notable absentees: the locals at the Brassplayers Arms disappeared into the bar to discuss tactics and haven’t been seen since. The Classic FM team spent the weekend listing their top 100 matches, but only ever played the first half of each match. Mahler’s Symphonic Superstore only named 9 players in their side, saying it was unlucky to have a number 10, and the Wagner Jewellery and Cycle Store (formerly Wagner’s Rings’n’Cycles) was going to enter a team but when it realised that the abbreviated teamsheet would list them as Wagner Jew, it refused to play on the same pitch as itself.

So it got me thinking, your Ladyship. Why don’t we have an international world cup of orchestras? Each week two orchestras play the same pieces, and the audience vote on which was the best. A league table would determine which is the best orchestra in the country, then each country could enter an orchestra into the World Cup!

We’d then know which was the best orchestra in the world, and everyone would agree. That’s a fine plan, isn’t it?

By the way, I’m sure if you look out of your window any evening this week, you’ll see Mr Dawson doing sterling work on the training field. He’s got all the young men from the village to practise their physical fitness routines on the village green just beyond the Suarez Snack’n’Go Fast Food restaurant (near the Robben Diving Academy). He’s so rigorous, he even gets them to exercise with their shirts off, so he can make sure all the muscles are being toned. Some of the young men even get invited into his personal gym for special one to one training.

How lucky we are to have such a dedicated Head Butler as Mr Dawson.

I look forward to your opinions on the World Cup of Orchestras!

Yours, as ever in your debt,

Rogers

 -o-o-0-o-o-

Dear Rogers

While it pains me to dampen your youthful enthusiasm, I must confess your recent letter gave me quite a Spasm, and not just because of the descriptions of Dawson’s training regime. You may have heard my cries from as far away as the shrubbery. The fact that for once I was crying “No! No! No!” might have alerted you to the fact that Something Was Up.

Where do I start? Well, initially I must ask you to refrain from banging on about football. You already know of my unstinting devotion to the Blindingham Cricket XI (we shall not mention the Blindingham Rugby XV, if only because it is the wrong time of year). Football in the summer offends my every aesthetic sensibility. This, Rogers, is the time for the sound of leather on willow – outdoors, of course, and not just from Mr Dawson’s apartments.

I must confess that competition is far from my favourite concept, since, as a child of Nature, it is my instinct to include everyone in everything.  Competitions do exist in the classical music world, but they are mostly for soloists, and in fact they are one of the principal means by which senior musical figures seek out their next young protégé(e). Élite musicians are always in a sense in competition with each other, since even the best player is only as good as his or her most recent performance. However, this “competition” is implicit rather than overt.

Your most egregious mistake is to imagine that one orchestra can be compared with another in terms of prowess. I have written to you before of the different qualities of sound which orchestras from different countries may produce.  An orchestra from the Czech Republic might excel in the works of Dvořàk (such as the Scherzo from the New World Symphony) and yet be unable to make head or tail of a symphony by Elgar.  The horn players of Russia have always cultivated a noticeable vibrato, which the horn players of England or Germany would eschew (but which I have found can add a remarkable piquancy).  These differences are to be celebrated, rather than to be pitted against each other.

It is true that certain orchestras are seen as being among the best: the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, and on a good day when the wind is in the right quarter, even the London Symphony Orchestra.  However the idea of bringing all of these orchestras together to play against each other is so wrong that I simply have to go and have another lie down. Fortunately my yoga instructor is close at hand to help me to relax.

The musical area in which competition is most welcomed is that of the Brass Band. Competition exists at local regional and national levels, and is pursued with a zeal bordering on fanaticism.  I leave you with a link to the Heroic March from Percy Fletcher’s Epic Symphony for Brass Band, which I trust will leave you in a chastened mood.

Yours as ever,

Ophelia, Lady Effingham

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