It’s that time of the season when the first wave of fatigue starts to set in. We’ve had two back-to-back classical series, then the Inside the Score concert, and now we’re on our second back-to-back classical run. It feels like everyone is pretty much running on fumes this week, and with the Stravinsky Symphony in C on the program, we’ve got yet another unfamiliar piece for the orchestra to learn, after last week’s Rachmaninoff Third Symphony OSO premiere.
It’s an interesting ‘perfect storm’ in terms of several factors coming together to make the work especially fatiguing.
The first factor in the last two weeks is the guest conductor. Even though we don’t like to admit it, symphony orchestras have a bit of the “while the cat’s away the mice will play” mentality – when the music director’s out of town, the conductor who is in town gets a bit of the substitute teacher treatment. This treatment escalates exponentially in severity when the conductor is, in the estimation of the orchestra, not up to snuff. Fortunately, our two guest conductors during this period, Christoph Campestrini and Jean-Marie Zeitouni, are both capable and most important, nice gentlemen and good sports. Zeitouni especially has an easy manner, doesn’t put on airs, and has a healthy sense of humor.
The second factor is repertoire. Put a completely unfamiliar work in front of an orchestra and there will be some resistance. Orchestras like just the right ratio of tedium to terror, and new works, regardless of when they were written, tend to require a bit more thought than the lazier of us would like to put into the process. This is when having a patient and persuasive conductor comes in handy.
The third factor is the schedule. Pity the poor guest conductor who comes in to conduct a new work with an orchestra just off of a long vacation period or an extended run of pops concerts. Also, if there have been three major classical concerts in the last four weeks, with one Brahms symphony thrown in for good measure, then the attention span of the orchestra is going to be a bit shorter than usual.
The long and the short of it is that a lot of us are tired (those of us who have to play entire concerts, that is) and are ready for a couple days off. Oh, did I mention we’re doing a run-out to Salem this week, too? Argh…