Professional to a fault

Violinist-conductor Maggie Faultless performs with the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra in the capital and Tel Aviv.

JBO 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
JBO 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Music, as Maggie Faultless sees it, is far more than just nailing down the notes, tempo, colors, textures and all the other technical elements that comprise a quality performance of a work from the Baroque period.
“The music, the performer and the audience – that triangle is what I am interested in,” says the British violinist-composer who will be on the dais for a couple of performances of the Harmony of Tastes program by the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra (JBO) this week.
“Any aspect of the operation, whether it is the building, the size of the auditorium, anything that gets in the way of that triangular relationship is not good.”
Faultless comes here for a second visit, following her debut with JBO in 2008, with impressive credentials. She is an internationally renowned specialist in historical performance practice as a violinist and director, performing music from Monteverdi to the present day, specializing in 18-century repertoire.
She maintains a busy schedule, alternating between her co-leader position with top British period music ensemble The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, which counts Sir Simon Rattle as one of its principal guest conductors, acting as artistic director of the Devon Baroque chamber orchestra, and is director of studies of the European Union Baroque Orchestra (EUBO). Faultless also led the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra under Ton Koopman, notably participating in a 10-year project which saw the performance and recording of all of J.S Bach’s cantatas, as well as many other professional endeavors.
The forthcoming JBO concerts cover an intriguing spread of demographics and styles from the Baroque world. The program opens with Concerto Grosso No.
1 by Italian violinist-composer Arcangelo Corelli, followed by French composer Francois Couperin’s Huitieme Concert dans le Gout Theatral. Elsewhere in the program there is Italian-born French composer Jean-Baptiste de Lully’s Suite from Atys and the Sonata from Armonico Tributo by Georg Muffat. who was born in Savoy, which was then in Italy, and whose family hailed from Scotland.
The concerts will end in grand style, with Faultless joining forces with Israeli Bach Soloists violinist Noam Schuss in Bach’s Double Violin Concerto. “I wanted to do something with Noam, and I thought, why not go all the way and go straight to the guy who brings the whole of Europe together in its more elaborate flourish and let’s do the Bach Double Violin Concerto,” says Faultless.
It is indeed a rich and expansive program. “Lully was so central to everything that happened in France, and beyond, from the mid-17th century,” explains Faultless, “and I defy anyone with a heart and a soul not to melt when they hear of lot of Couperin’s works. Muffat’s music is incredibly clever, not in an intellectual way, although it is intellectually very sophisticated music, but it is fascinating stuff. In fact, Muffat was one of the people to reconcile some of the differences between the French and the Italians, who were slightly in combat during the 17th century.”
Then again, we’re not exactly talking about a pretext for a declaration of actual hostilities. “They observed their differences, and other people seemed to create the conflict. I don’t think people really kill each other over an Italian ornament or French bowing.”
Harmony of Tastes, which was chosen by JBO musical director David Shemer, appears to be an apt title.
“The idea of having good taste as a musician, in your playing and in your composing, is absolutely key. It was all about refinement, and they knew what refinement was, and what vulgar was, when they heard it.”
And it wasn’t sufficient for musicians to just come to grips with a score. “They had to study the music and read all the books but, in the end, not to play like a trained bird but to bring all their own magical, personal and musical sensibilities to their performance.
That, I think, defines a great performer as opposed to a mediocre one.”
Faultless says she tries to allow the players she conducts to express themselves and their opinions during the rehearsal too. “I believe in an egalitarian approach. It is very important to me to look for variety, which makes both the rehearsal process and the performance more interesting. In the Baroque period, too, it was a matter of learning the rules and then learning how to bend them. I prefer to call them tools rather than rules.”
Then again, we are talking about the Baroque era and not the generational quantum leap energies of the 1950s and 1960s. “The end of the 17th century was a fascinating time when the pooling of resources to create the new and fantastic was what was going on. It was not a time when things were being broken apart.
That was a time when people were looking to produce something shocking.”
With Faultless at the helm this week, the JBO will not be aiming to knock the members of the audience out of their seats but will happily keep them riveted there.
Maggie Faultless and the Jerusalem Baroque Orchestra will perform at the YMCA in Jerusalem on February 1 at 8:30 p.m. and at the Enav Center in Tel Aviv on February 2 at 8:30 p.m. For tickets and more information: (02) 623-7000 and (03) 546-6228 and