In her hands, a baton is like a magic wand, and with each spirited, passionate move, she brings the music of the masters to life. And when JoAnn Falletta stands before Boise Philharmonic as guest conductor on Friday, Feb. 25, and Saturday, Feb. 26, she and acclaimed guest violinist, Michael Ludwig, will give life to the music of Leonard Bernstein, Edward Elgar and Charles Saint-Saens in Boise Philharmonic's presentation of "Enigma Variations."
Falletta's impressive resume is as long as a career criminal's rap sheet. She has guest conducted hundreds of national and international symphonies, recorded a bounty of releases, is an accomplished classical guitarist and garnered both a Best Classical Vocal Performance and Best Classical Contemporary Composition Grammy in 2009 for her recording of John Corigliano's Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan.
Falletta has also served as music director of Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra--where Boise Philharmonic maestro Robert Franz served as resident conductor--and this season celebrates her 20th anniversary as music director of the Virginia Symphony. Though it sounds like a complicated venture, overseeing more than one orchestra offers Falletta as much as it does the performers.
"I go back and forth all the time between Buffalo, N.Y., and Norfolk, Va., and I've gotten so used to it," Falletta said. "I find it very stimulating, and I've learned a lot from both orchestras, and that helps me grow as a musician."
Falletta's growth comes in part from helping the orchestras grow as well, and her voice as a conductor can be heard as much in what she doesn't do as in what she does.
"I arrive with a strong interpretation of a piece," Falletta said. "But I always leave a lot of space for the orchestra to be themselves ... musicians should be able to be free and be able to have their personalities reflected. Music is ... very flexible, and if I can be flexible, I can help the orchestra bring out its own voice."
Falletta also works to "break down the invisible wall between the audience and the stage" and has been lauded for doing so, receiving an ASCAP award in 2008 that recognized, among other things, her work at building audiences.
"Music directors, soloists, composers ... want to talk to the audience, and audiences are interested," Falletta said. "There's much more of a melding and a meeting of the minds and sharing of information and that's very good."