— At the Festival

Published on July 7 2016

Orchestra life: the FBO at the Festival d'Aix

Louis Langrée dans la fosse d'orchestre du Théâtre de l'Archevêché avec le Freiburger Barockorchester
© Patrick Berger / Artcomart

For the third and final year of their residence at the Aix Festival, the musicians of the Freiburger Barockorchester will be putting their period instruments at the service of Così fan tutte, the most played opera in the Festival's history, and in its most emblematic decor: the Théâtre de l’Archevêché. Just a few days before the premiere, the musicians talked about this unique experience, from the atmosphere in Aix to working with the conductor Louis Langrée…

Smiling faces, scraping chairs, piano chords: during the short break the musicians take between rehearsals, the atmosphere is both exciting and relaxed. A sure sign of the harmonious collaboration between the conductor and the orchestra, in a work that is now a speciality of everyone involved. "Louis knows Mozart particularly well", points out Lorenzo Coppola, a clarinettist. "He works on each nuance, each colour, for each instrument; it really is a very precise way of working with every single one of us – made-to-measure, you might say! Each musician discovers a lot of subtleties in their own part, even though we have already played the work before, of course." The singers are also asked to take advantage of this fruitful collaboration, where the central role of the musicians is recognised even down to the individual accompaniment of the voices. "In the score, there are many moments when an instrument echoes a voice; for these parts, Louis asks the singers to come and sit down with us, near the instrument or instruments."

Such exchanges only go to reinforce the cohesion of all the musicians, from the orchestra pit to the stage, and help forge a good working atmosphere. "With Louis, things don't go in a single direction," says Charlie Fischer, the timpanist. "He's not an autocratic conductor, like some we have already worked with: he is very much open to our feedback, and often asks us what we think of this or that musical idea. You really feel like you are part of a process, that you are participating in a collective work." It is not surprising that this collaborative approach finds a particular echo in an orchestra such as the FBO, which stands out as being run in an unusual way, without an official leader, and with the first violins taking on the role of musical directors… "We seldom feel so close to a conductor. In this respect, he really has understood the spirit of the Freiburger Barockorchester!"

Music, above all... which is not in contradiction with enjoyment of the Aix experience. For Petra Müllejans, the first violin, "being in Aix-en-Provence each year for the past three years has been a wonderful experience, both in terms of music and enjoyment." And Lorenzo Coppola adds: "This is how music should always be made! We are an ancient music ensemble, and here, we really are in an ideal setting: the best that an ancient town has to show." The enthusiasm of everyone involved is now blended with a certain sadness, since this year is the last in the Freiburger Barockorchester’s residence at the Aix Festival… But, admits Petra Müllejans, "it is a good thing for a festival not always to work with the same ensembles. And this is also true in the other direction! Otherwise, after a few years, you risk taking things for granted, and the enchantment may well not be the same. There needs to be movement, life!"

Life and movement: two words that we bet will be perfectly well suited to this Così fan tutte!