Romanticism meets Classicism
From a purely technical point of view, of course, the Academy doesn't really need a conductor in some repertoire. As a chamber orchestra, they're not just smaller than a symphonic orchestra; their players actually perform as chamber musicians, watching each other for cues and taking far more responsibility for their parts. Tellingly, while Bell will stand as the soloist in the concerto, he'll lead from the concertmaster's chair at the front of the violinists for the rest of the program, making him literally first among equals.
Even if Bell and the Academy pull it off technically, Coriolan is an extremely dramatic work with gargantuan dynamic contrasts. Who'll handle the interpretation and make sure the structure coheres? And the Seventh rocks as hard as a roadhouse band on Friday night and needs staying power along with orchestral virtuosity. Who's going to keep the band tight and in the groove, and who's going to keep them rocking when they've blasted through three movements and still have to bash their way through the final Allegro con brio? Who knows? And that's what makes sports events and live musical performances compelling: you never know what'll happen. You may love it. You may hate it. But if you don't show up, you'll never know.
[Originally published in April, 2012.]