Having just heard Bernard Haitink and the Dresden State Orchestra (Click HERE to Read the review) give a wonderfully structured and sounded-blended account of Mozarts Prague, Gattis more measured, more consciously expressed view came as quite a shock a pleasant one, for there was something gloriously old-fashioned about the phrasal moulding and expressive ritardandos (often with ear-catching dynamic reductions); sotto voce strings had a beguiling gentleness.
However, in the Mozart and Elgar, Gatti didnt quite build structures into an overall shape. Thus, in the Prague, while the first two movements were related by generosity of expression and rich sound, the finale sounded harried (never mind that its marked Presto) and somewhat inarticulate. While Mozart would have benefited from more vivid trumpets and drums, Gatti also tended to let lower frequencies merge creating a sort of pulsing legato if you will slightly blurring rhythmic foundations.
There was much that was impressive in the sensitive and eloquent way that Gatti lucidly unfolded Enigma not least a deeply-felt Nimrod yet doubts arose: some phrasal over-emphasis that sat uneasily with much that was elegantly turned; Variation 11 (George Sinclairs bulldog) was rushed along in relation to the whole; the concluding nobilmente didnt quite summate (the diminuendo-crescendo underdone) and the Toscanini-like abrupt cut-off on the final chord (horrid!) was at-odds with the full-value lingering and textual after-glow that was conspicuous elsewhere.
If I appear pernickety its because so much of this beautifully played Enigma was excellent Gattis keenness to elicit internal detail especially rewarding and such misjudgements stood out. Equally the Mozart didnt quite have an all-encompassing line over it - the finales haste slightly diminishing much that was very effective before it (and I liked Gattis attacca between the three movements). Gattis tempos and his observance of repeats (including the finales second half) extended the programmes stated 26 minutes for K504 to 34 (Enigmas suggested 29 was actually, in this performance, 33). While perhaps helpful to the uninitiated, I suggest advising pieces playing-times should be qualified as approximate. A listener not interested in (or aware of) interpretation, or a structures internal construction, might be confused if musicians decisions and printed statements dont coincide.
The Prokofiev was curious. Great that Collard was in London his recordings of the French piano literature, especially Faure, are notable; so too his Rachmaninov concertos with Plasson yet his playing here didnt quite have the personality I anticipated. He was note-perfect, a rendition of the solo part that was technically and musically impressive, yet there was something lacking. Perhaps it was a visual thing at no point during his performance did Collard look up from the keyboard, the only eye-contact between him and Gatti was between movements, Gatti taking tempi by assiduously watching Collards hands. Had this been an aural-only experience I dont think I would have heard any suggestion of what I saw: ultimately, reviewing concerts is about listening, not watching. Therefore, the concerto was fine, Collard giving a model rendition, Gatti relishing Prokofievs brilliant scoring.
If this concert didnt quite scoop the jackpot, theres no doubting that Gattis individual musicianship has a compelling quality, which kept an encouragingly large audience listening intently; no doubting either the RPOs absolute commitment to its Music Director.
- The remaining two RPO Barbican concerts of Mozart/Prokofiev (both with Gatti) are 6 (which adds Ravel) and 29 April
- Box Office 020 7638 8891