06 May 2011

Michael Fuller writes: When I got home from playing Mahler's Fifth last night in the Royal Festival Hall, I was still charged with energy after playing this incredible music. I thought there was a lot of spontaneity that Maestro Maazel brought to the performance tonight, taking time in certain places that he hadn't done before. There were some spots in the third movement where he got the strings to play with a quietness that was almost spooky. It was like we stepped out of time in those split-seconds while everyone focused in to get the next downbeat. But even as you're watching, your ears have to be open to everything that's happening around you. It's really magical to have these moments when 100-plus people are all completely concentrating together. It's even more exciting when it has that spontaneous element, when it goes a little outside of the way things have been rehearsed. Of course that can also be dangerous!

Playing these concerts with Maestro Maazel has been really interesting to see how he always brings something extra to the performance. With some conductors, you'll find that they basically rehearse a piece the same way they will perform it, with the idea being that a performance would be like a really well-played rehearsal, done without stopping and in front of an audience. With Maazel the process is a bit different. In the rehearsals he's giving us the basic outline of what he's going to do, the skeleton of his interpretation. It's almost as if he temporarily takes all the emotion out of it. He's just taking care of the business of showing how he's going to conduct this part or that. But what's really amazing is that in the performance he brings the emotion back in, and also he'll do some things that are spontaneous. We can respond to this right away because we have a clear sense of the overall picture of his interpretation. Of course it helps that Maazel has such a commanding technique, so we can easily read his gestures and react quickly to some nuance that he's added in the moment of performance.