A few days ago I was thinking of writing a post on how difficult it is for a good orchestra to maintain its "chops" when performing "real" music only 8-10 weeks in a season. But I would have been wrong.
Tonight's concert of Frank, Debussy and Ravel was a stunning performance. Last night was good, but tonight was 15% better.
Much of tonight's success is due to Maestro Fischer's vivid reading of the scores and his excellent preparation of the orchestra during rehearsals. Also, there was some "je ne sais quois", perhaps a bit more trust of us, or of himself.
Whatever the reason, a great performance boils down to excellent players tuning themselves to the highest standards; to laser focus, to subtle cooperation and an almost clairvoyant sense of timing. None of this was lost on Maestro Fischer, who let us breathe together and taper note endings, sensing that our ability in those areas did not require over-control on his part.
I like Thierry Fischer's tempos. As a woodwind player, he knows we (woodwind and brass players) only have so much breath. His airy tempos were a bit more organic tonight, flexing here and there to allow just a touch of whimsy.
Yet his overall interpretation stuck to the score with adamant focus. Fischer's style follows the radical tradition of Nikolaus Harnoncourt, who re-invented classical musical interpretation by harking back to historical performance practices based on extensive research. (When I first heard Harnoncourt's Beethoven 9 symphonies, it was like hearing them for the first time; the fresh vigor of the music had been restored from the creaky, wheezy, over-interpreted traditions of the 60-70's.)
On a side note, it was a pleasure to have the woodwind section "whole" again after so many months of lacking several key players. Notably, Jennifer Parker-Harley was back in town this week to play second flute. It was good to have the team together to play again, even if only for one program.