On conducting: Bernard Labadie is all Mozart this week in L.A.
French Canadian conductor Bernard Labadie gained international notice leading performances of Baroque music, but he has never limited himself to such scores alone. This weekend at Walt Disney Concert Hall, he's scheduled to conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic and piano soloist Benedetto Lupo in three performances of an all-Mozart program.
Labadie has received much acclaim for applying aspects of period performance practice to modern instruments -– an approach exemplified by Les Violins du Roy, an ensemble he founded in Quebec City in 1984. "There was the thought of switching to period instruments after we started," he said. "Instead, we switched to Baroque bows, and we got stuck there, because that became our signature."
The combination fused modern power with antique clarity and precision. "It’s an option, an experiment," Labadie said of the decision. "If I started another group, would I do it this way? Not necessarily."
The conductor rejects the notion of an ideal in performing music from centuries past in the present. "We might be in for a shock were we to go back to Bach's weekly cantata performances," he said. "We're here not to re-create the music of the past, but to re-create its essence. This allows us to approach music so that it speaks to modern audiences."
Informed musicians should seek deeper truths, he suggested. "We re-creators must discover the essence of the music and make sure it's not hidden by traditions and layers of decisions made by other people," he said. "You might do something considered historically wrong but which is still musical. But regardless, it's your mistake. You own it. And you're proud of it."
-- David Mermelstein
Photo: Conductor Bernard Labadie in 2007. Credit: David Cannon