Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Gatti Julian Rachlin – Brahms & Richard Strauss

Tragic Overture, Op.81
Violin Concerto in D, Op.77
Also sprach Zarathustra, Op.30

Julian Rachlin (violin)

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Daniele Gatti

Reviewed by: Colin Clarke

Reviewed: 23 May, 2008
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall

Daniele GattiDaniele Gatti brings out the best in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Having been indisposed for the two previous concerts of Brahms and Richard Strauss, Gatti here presided over a confident orchestra producing a rounded sound. A very portentiously-paced Tragic Overture revealed many felicities – pulsating lower strings underpinning woodwind solos, a well-judged climax and telling realisation of structural logic. If technically all was not perfect, including a muffed trombone chorale, this was not disappointing.

I have enjoyed some of Julian Rachlin’s playing as recorded, but he impressed less here. He plays a Guarneri that, in his hands at least, lacks any real sweetness in the upper registers. This was good but not great playing. The first-movement cadenza, not Joachim’s, and not identified, contained some excellent moments, but emerged as rather bitty. In fact, the most memorable moments came from the orchestra. There was some lovely mezza voce accompanying from the strings, and beautiful clarinet-playing. But too often orchestral balance was confused, and the woodwind ensemble at the start of the Adagio was, to put it mildly, terrible. Rachlin impressed most here, with soaring lines. His first entry was remarkably quiet. Was this a ploy to make us strain to hear or a quirk of the acoustic? The approach to the finale tended to the stately rather than the earthy. Quite fitting, then, as this was a generally under-whelming that lacked spontaneity. One severe miscalculation in tuning at an exposed entry and a damp squib of a coda set the seal.

Also sprach Zarathustra, despite some marked orchestral imperfections, at least confirmed Gatti’s status as a Richard Strauss interpreter of the first rank. He had the full measure of the piece’s structure, expertly guiding us through Strauss‘s huge canvas; ebb and flow was finely gauged, and the light touch of the ‘Tanzlied‘ was most effective. Mention should be made not only of the leader’s solos (Tamás András) but also of the contributions of the lead viola (Andrew Williams). Alas, the trumpets brought a resounding ‘thunk’ to their first entry, robbing it of its grandeur, and an over-enthusiastic bass trombone was distracting at several points. Neither was blight enough to erase memories of a generally noble account.Unbelievably, there was some applause during the piece (quickly dampened by a gesture from Gatti). I would like to hear more of Gatti’s Strauss.

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