The Naxos Interview: JoAnn Falletta
April 6, 2017
Continuing a relationship that began in 2002 with an all-Frederick Shepherd Converse CD, and has continued in recent years with Glière’s Il’ya Muromets, Florent Schmitt’s Anthony & Cleopatra, Bartók’s Kossuth and in January, the world première recording of D. Wilson Ochoa’s symphonic suite from Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, Naxos’s new release sheet for April is headed by JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic in recordings of music by Vítězslav Novak: In the Tatra Mountains, Op. 26, Lady Godiva, Op. 41, and Eternal Longing, Op. 33.
In June, Falletta will return to California, where the Long Beach Symphony, which was the first regional orchestra to hire a woman music director when they appointed Falletta in 1989, has planned a gala show of affection for their former music director. The marquee for the concert will read A JoAnn Falletta Homecoming, and Falletta will lead the Symphony and pianist George Li in Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky, after which Falletta will lead a toast to music, the orchestra and the community.
I spoke to Falletta from Buffalo.
LV: How did the Strauss project come about?
JoAnn Falletta: The pairing of the two Strauss pieces was my idea. I had always loved the Bourgeois Gentilhomme Suite and had done it a number of times. When our associate librarian Travis Hendra introduced to me to the Symphony-Suite D. Wilson Ochoa had arranged from Ariadne, I thought it was spectacular. Travis knew Mr. Ochoa, who is the Principal Librarian of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Klaus loved the idea, particularly that it would be the first recording of the Symphony-Suite.
LV: It’s a virtuoso piece, for both the orchestra and the recording team. In fact, Wilson scored it for another virtuoso orchestra: the Nashville Symphony and its music director Giancarlo Guerrero. What was the recording setup?
JoAnn Falletta: Naxos brought in Tim Handley from London to produce, as he always does; and the equipment was brought up from Nashville, where Naxos of America is headquartered. We performed first in concert, then recorded afterwards, so we lived for a week with the music. Everything we do takes place in Kleinhans Music Hall, which is both our home and a beautiful acoustical environment. Tim’s approach is not micromanaging or manipulating; he likes long swathes of music which means we are able to go for the dynamic drive and shape of the music.
LV: What makes the Buffalo Philharmonic such an authentically Romantic orchestra?
JoAnn Falletta: It developed that way over the years, the legacy of past music directors certainly, and of Kleinhans Hall itself. It’s a beautiful, bass-friendly acoustical environment, and the musicians love it.
LV: What has the effect of working for Naxos been for the Philharmonic?
JoAnn Falletta: The musicians hadn’t made a disc for decades before we started with Naxos. After making one or two discs a year for Naxos, they’ve grown in strength, focus and stamina; they know how to listen, and they go into recording sessions calm and fearless. Klaus has also really helped the orchestra by recording difficult music that we know is going to be critically evaluated in the world press.
LV: How do you manage to record so much, and what’s the long-term payoff?
JoAnn Falletta: We can record because we have an electronic media guarantee as part of everybody’s paycheck. As to payoff, the musicians seem thrilled that their recordings are heard by musicians and people in other cities. We have also noted that the applications for auditions have grown larger and larger.
LV: What lies ahead with Naxos?
JoAnn Falletta: An evening of Wagner that Klaus asked for: the seven big set pieces which we first presented in concert with a scripted narration read by a local actor. We will be going on to do three discs of Scriabin, Florent Schmitt’s Salome plus two or three other pieces (we’ve already released his Anthony and Cleopatra Suites and The Haunted Palace), and Respighi’s Roman trilogy.
Also ahead from Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic: Zoltan Kodaly’s Concerto for Orchestra, Galánta and Marosszék Dances, and Peacock Variations. Ahead from Falletta in Europe: music by Joseph Marx, with the Berlin Radio Symphony, and Kenneth Fuchs with the London Symphony. All on Naxos.
JoAnn Falletta Background & Discography