YouTube Symphony Orchestra: Both “Inspiring” and “Gimmicky”

The predominant way to experience YouTube (s GOOG) is and always will be through a computer screen. But the company’s grab bag of offline events — the CNN-YouTube debates, YouTube Live, and last night’s YouTube Symphony Orchestra — are nonetheless worthwhile.

We couldn’t make it to Carnegie Hall to see the first (and only?) performance of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, culled from 3,000 video auditions and 33 countries, with a few ringers brought in by conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, normally the music director of YouTube’s hometown San Francisco Symphony. While most reports praised the show as emotional and inspiring, cynics like our own Liz Shannon Miller pointed out the “glaring PC-ness of the project,” which certainly seems to have held true as well.

We did see one actual review of the show by a music critic, Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times. Tommasini praised the musicians for their performance after just a few days of practice, but called the program “exasperating,” as it used excerpts from 15 different works rather than honing subtle interpretations of just a few. He wrote:

The project is worthy, and in ways inspiring. Still, I wish the concert had been less gimmicky and more substantive.

Though it hardly compares to seeing the live show, YouTube has just posted the full performance. It’s been an excellent soundtrack to my writing of this article.