You want to see what ensemble is? See and listen to the ACO.
Pekka Kuusisto is the guest director for the current ACO season. Young and friendly, he unfortunately spent a lot of time with his back to the audience. But I assume this was because he was looking, engaging, and communicating with all the players in the ACO. From what I saw, he is an amazing ensemble player and leader, and he should be proud of his results because the ACO were so together last night. Especially during the “long” Sibelius “Voces Intimae”.
The bow lengths, the speed of bowing, the phrasing… all together like one. I’m sure that this high standard of ensemble is the result of spending a lot of time rehearsing + having great players + listening and communicating at performance time. Unfortunately the Sibelius was a bit too long and non-descript for me – I can’t even remember a melody from it now!
I think it was this emphasis on chamber and ensemble that resulted in Pekka not playing as soloistically or loud enough when it was time for him to be the soloist. I would have loved him to actually BE the soloist in the E major, and I’m sure he could have showed off even more in the 2 encore Finnish folk tune pieces they played.
His relaxed yet dynamic playing style contrasted against ACO’s more precision oriented playing. So much so that I thought I heard a few missed notes and one or two questionable passages – almost like he was too casual. But his informal and friendly addresses the audience at the start of the night and before the encores helped us as the audience connect with him even more. Even though the Finnish folk tune encores were crowd pleasers, I’m not sure whether they fit into ACO’s overall music vision and direction. At least it wasn’t like the Kremerata’s encore at their recent Perth concert. Or am I getting too high brow.. hmmm….
Overall, it was a packed house at the PCH and having a youthful and innocent director like Pekka can only help ACO and classical music in general. And boy would I love to be good enough to play in an ensemble like ACO.
Personal opinions – I didn’t buy the fast tempo of the 2nd movement of the Bach E Major, and would have loved to have even more dynamics in both Bach’s. At first I thought it was due to where I was sitting, but the ACO had incredible dynamics during the Sibelius. Maybe it was the drone of the harmonium?