Thursday, September 07, 2006

Prom 71 Review

Prom 71 RFH Bell/RPO/Gatti***

Khachaturian, I think, remarked that Shostakovich's Tenth was an 'optimistic tragedy'. In the hands of Daniel Gatti, a tyro in this repertoire, there wasn't much optimism, tragedy, or anything. His RPO did sterling work for him, as ever - the strings are now in the Philadelphia class - but this performance was like an Italian's scrapbook of old Soviet postcards, a series of gestures relentlessly exaggerated to the nth degree, and lovingly maintained, but ultimately formless and which are mute on realities.

Ragged ensemble work in the frantic scherzo, not to mention rambling tempi and rubato didn't help. Underemphasising the woodwind solos in the giant opening Passacaglia was also potentially fatal.

Twenty years back almost to the night, Haitink and the LPO played - or rather exploded - this symphony at a Prom . It was a performance that nobody who heard it will ever forget. Gatti has the speeds and bravura not the architecture which are so crucial to the big climaxes. The construction of the pieces (the cues to the demented dances in the third movement, the accelerandos) are jerrybuilt - but he is learning fast. He knows the drill; 'This is one of the great works of art of the 20th century - handle with care'.

Given that the Prommers had been able to get their juices flowing with a delightfully brisk and bashy romp through Bruch's First Violin Concerto by Joshua Bell, long a venue favourite, they found Gatti just fine. But on the night, Bell was the man - grannies and goths alike whooped and hollered for him as they had done for Haitink on that sensational night long ago.

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