I want to applaud Mr. Rossman for the courage of his convictions – also mine – in regard to his Vienna Philharmonic review. I too, felt the "perfection" of this orchestra, but also its chilly, soulless quality in the Schubert – a most un-Romantic, and even nearly martial, rendering, at times – despite, as he well notes, exquisite turns in all solo categories – for me it was the concertmaster, and the oboe in particular. I thought they fared better in the Schoenberg. The tacked on Strauss seemed a strangely inappropriate note for the encore. I wondered if this disciplined, rigorous feeling had something to do with the nearly all-male line up (in the pre-performance lecture, I learned women were only admitted beginning in 1997, and they comprise but 10% of the orchestra).
Mr, Rossman wonders of the set-up of extra violin and viola – my guess is that is in case of a broken string or fallen bridge – the players can quickly access an instrument already set up if necessary.
In addition in the pre-performance talk, I was personally quite disappointed to see the orchestra historians completely gloss over the role of convicted Nazi war criminals – in particular, Baldur von Schirach – who they presented in a slide and lauded for having "saved" the Vienna Philharmonic during the Nazi era. As Gauleiter of Vienna, he not only failed to save the lives of five Jewish members of the Philharmonic, he also sent thousands of Viennese Jews out of Vienna, to their ultimate deaths in Nazi concentration camps. He was convicted and served 20 years for his part – and also received the Philharmonic's highest honor – their ring of honor – lost during his imprisonment but restored with a replacement after his release. The Philharmonic also has a history of letting former Nazi party members back into the orchestra after the war. What a pity that they came to our state's oldest institution of higher learning to obfuscate their dark, shameful past. It's best if these facts come to light, so that this history will never be repeated again.
PS In all fairness, I should note there was a longer program devoted to the questions of the Vienna Philharmonic during WWII that was held from 4 to 5:30 at UNC's Global FedEx building that I was unable to attend. Perhaps the matter of Nazi complicity was dealt with in this talk – however, still not an excuse to at least mention that von Schirach et al. were ultimately convicted and served time for their part during WWII, which could have been made in a sentence or two, during the obviously shorter pre-performance lecture.