Friday night I had the good fortune to catch the last of the Sibelius Unbound series at the LA Phil. They played symphonies 5 & 6, beautifully. They're taking all 7 symphonies on tour next week. It's funny, within the same week I've heard two top orchestras play music to which they are most suited while in top form. I mean, Chicago is all about Mahler and always has been, and they'd just returned from a tour when I heard them. LA plays a lot of Sibelius because of their Finnish music director, and they're just about to leave on tour. They're very different orchestras, and I must say the LA Phil has a huge ally in Walt Disney Concert Hall. It has a much warmer sound, and they don't have to struggle to project. Plus I'm a still a little bitter that I had to be on the main floor under the overhang in Symphony Center in Chicago. I wanted to try and move at intermission, but it was too well-sold. I mean, that's a good thing, I suppose, but still, I hate being under the overhang.
Also of interest: both orchestras have recently hired new principal oboists. One was even in the finals for the other. I think Eugene Izotov sounds beautiful and is a great fit with the CSO. I'm not as familiar with LA, but perhaps a younger player suites this youth-obsessed town and its orchestra, while the CSO continues to have a somewhat good-ol'-boys atmosphere to it. Well, they've finally hired a female horn player, which they haven't had since Gail left, but she's the only female brass player. And I was happy to see that their new principal percussionist is a woman, and she got to hit the sledgehammer in Mahler 6 :) The only women in the woodwinds remain concentrated in the flute section, although upper strings have a good gender balance. It will be interesting to see who wins the English horn and principal clarinet positions at the CSO.