British conductor Harry Bicket, who will be leading the Israel Philharmonic in an early music program this week, has his own explanation of the popularity of Baroque pieces.
"It has an order which can be very easily grasped, but within this structure there is almost an infinite number of variations in rhythm and color. In this sense, the music is very appealing - whenever you hear a Baroque piece for the first time, it feels like you have heard it before," he says.
Today Bicket is an internationally acclaimed maestro, but he actually never intended to be a conductor. In the early Eighties, London was a center of the early music revival and, as a harpsichordist, Bicket worked with leading ensembles. Although his solo career was a success, he came to the realization that "what I loved to do more than anything else was working with singers. After working for five years as a coach for an opera company, I learned a huge repertoire of different periods. So people started to ask me to do early operas."
Bicket conducts both operas and orchestra pieces.
"The experience of working with singers is a big advantage which many conductors don't have, so I am regarded as a 'singer-friendly' conductor. I am also thought to be rather successful in moving modern orchestras into the direction of playing with a different sound, [but] without annoying them," he laughs.
What kind of adjustments does he make when working with a new orchestra?
"For string players, it's partly a technical question. Even if one plays a 17th or 18th-century violin, the instrument has been so overhauled that playing loud 20th-century music on it is like carrying a Ferrari in your hand. And the music we are doing was never intended to sound like that. It's like asking people to drive a Ferrari slowly through a narrow and winding street," he says. "It is also a question of imagination - the 17th-century scores look like sketches as compared to those of 19th and 20th century. So the individual player has to create the idea of phrasing, he has to imagine what this music means. This can be quite difficult for modern orchestras, which are not used to making decisions by themselves."
Harry Bick leads the IPO on June 23, 24 and 25 in pieces by Rameau, Vivaldi, Purcell and Handel. All concerts take place at Tel Aviv's Mann Auditorium. Call 1-700-70-30-30 or visit www.ipo.co.il.