The oldest symphony orchestra

St Petersburg Philharmonic are playing Rachmaninov Piano Concerto number 2 and Mahler 4 in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh on Sunday 27 January 2019 at 3pm. Yuri Temirkanov (pictured) conducts; Freddy Kempf sits at the keyboard for the Rachmaninov.

That’s the PR bit out of the way. Now onto the thing I’m pondering since receiving a press release about the said concert.

(For the avoidance of doubt – this is not a thinly veiled criticism of the PR who sent me the press release – I’m not an arsehole, obviously.)

St Petersburg Phil bill themselves as ‘Russia’s oldest and most revered symphony orchestra’.

I see many orchestras assert distinctiveness with superlatives about age. It’s a common thing. But I don’t really understand why they bother. Being the oldest seems irrelevant to me unless there’s a way for me as a punter to discern a better end product because of the ensemble’s age.

What difference does it make that an orchestra is the oldest? What impact does the length of time the brand name has been in existence have on the playing and therefore the experience for the audience? An orchestra is only as old as its oldest current member.

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