Tom Service on fantasy orchestras

'You could drop in the brazen brilliance of the New York Phil's brass section – and personally, I'd want Claudio Abbado'

Why has nobody invented the classical-music equivalent of fantasy football? Cherry-picking from the world's greatest musicians could result in an all-conquering super-orchestra. At the Royal Festival Hall recently, there was a glimpse of what could be, when the London Philharmonic joined forces with the Russian National Orchestra, under Vladimir Jurowski, for barnstorming performances of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture and Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony.

The playing was spectacular. Sparks flew. The LPO's warmth and precision dovetailed with the blazing intensity and commitment of the Russian players – making a greater performance than either could have achieved alone.

Why doesn't this sort of thing happen more often? If you could fuse, say, the London Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic, you might end up with the world's greatest orchestra – an ensemble capable of sight-reading any 20th- or 21st-century score, as the LSO do so dazzlingly; but also blessed with the warmth and fire of the Berlin Phil's sound. Imagine what such an uber-orchestra's could do with Mahler. Or how about the steely power of the Chicago Symphony mashed up with the sensuous sensitivity of Amsterdam's Concertgebouw? That's a Rite of Spring I want to hear.

It's not just about whole orchestras, however. The Vienna Philharmonic's peerless wind soloists would instantly give any orchestra some echt-Viennese lilt and melancholy; or drop in the brazen brilliance of the New York Phil's brass section for a dose of American glamour. And as for a conductor? Well, naturally, in fantasy-orchestra-fantasy-land, you would have your pick of everyone from Valery Gergiev to Mariss Jansons, from Gustavo Dudamel to Simon Rattle. Personally, I'd want Claudio Abbado, but that's probably just me.

One cliche about today's orchestral music just isn't true: the idea that, in an age of musical globalisation, every orchestra is starting to sound the same, that national and regional differences are somehow being ironed out. Rubbish. There's enough diversity of sound and interpretation to satisfy any number of fantasy leagues. Now, how can we get the Berlin Phil and the LSO together for that Mahler cycle?

Who's in your fantasy orchestra? Tell us in the comments below


Tom Service

The GuardianTramp

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