Cello Concerto in A minor, Op.129
Symphony No.5 in C sharp minor
Guy Johnston (cello)
The Salomon OrchestraRobin Ticciati
Reviewed by: Edward Clark
Reviewed: 21 June, 2005
Venue: St John's, Smith Square, London
It cannot be very often when a very talented, prize-winning 23-year-old cellist plays alongside a conductor even younger. That is what happened here with the equally talented Robin Ticciati. Supported by Colin Davis and Simon Rattle (whose conducting style he emulates with ease and authority), Ticciati has recently graduated from Cambridge University and, without winning any competitions, is already booked heavily into the future with a range of orchestras in the UK and on the Continent.
Elgar’s Cello Concerto was initially announced but, on the night, it was Schumann’s that was performed. Guy Johnston surveyed this work with lyrical playing that also allowed plenty of contribution from the orchestra, nicely balanced by the conductor. But it was a pity to forgo the Elgar.
The big work was Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, no less. This is one of his most individual creations with plenty of opportunity for conductor and orchestra to stamp a personal imprint on the extraordinary changes to the musical flow. Top-class orchestras often seem to perform this work in their sleep with conductors going through the motions without much effect.
The joy of a good, non-professional orchestra such as the Salomon performing this huge canvas is that the players have to really concentrate on their parts and on what their colleagues are doing in order to make an impression. It also helps to have a guide on the podium with ideas and insights.
Ticciati showed he had plenty of both and he led his players through the myriad emotions from start to finish. Secure trumpet playing launched the great funeral march and the second movement, taken at a sensible pace, had plenty of light and shade; the quiet passage for divided cellos was a highlight. Indeed the overall playing was so heart-felt that the work emerged without the normal gloss of superficiality that afflicts so many interpretations. The final apotheosis had a genuine feeling of triumph after so long a journey through the earlier dark terrain. It was a tribute to this long-standing orchestra to take a chance on so young and relatively little-known a conductor, one who surely has a very bright future.