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Seen and Heard International Concert Review

 

Berlioz, Bartók, Schubert: Gävle Symphony Orchestra, Robin Ticciati (conductor), Gävle Concert Hall, Sweden, 17 September, 2005 (GF)

 

 

Hector Berlioz, Le Corsaire, Overture Op. 21

Béla Bartók: Divertimento For String Orchestra

Franz Schubert: Symphony No. 3 In D Major (D 200)

 

 

 

Gävle, a seaport about 200 kilometres north of Stockholm, has a symphony orchestra founded as early as 1912, which makes it one of the oldest in Sweden. Since January 1998 its home is in the blue Concert Hall, beautifully situated close to Gavleån, the small river running through the town. The oval shaped 819 seat main hall has wonderful acoustics, adjustable according to the type of music that is played.

 

The orchestra members are a motley crowd of musicians from Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Holland, Poland, Lithuania, Romania, USA and even, as the excellent compère of the evening, Ulf Jönsson said, one or two from Sandviken, the nearest town, twenty kilometres away. Through the years the orchestra has had many distinguished principal conductors: Stig Westerberg, Hannu Koivula and from 2000 Petri Sakari well known also internationally. It has been frequently recorded in later years, not least by Sterling and quite recently Naxos released a much-praised disc of Berwald’s tone poems, conducted by Sakari.

This concert marked the return of the sensational young British conductor Robin Ticciati, who visited the orchestra in the spring and they at once took to each other – so much so in fact that a few weeks ago the orchestra announced that from January the 22-year-old Ticciati will be the new artistic director and from the autumn 2006 also principal conductor for a tenure of three years.

 


It’s a good omen. His choice of programme shows that he likes to walk less often trodden paths and also widely contrasting styles; his first entrance radiated warmth and self-confidence, he possesses a natural authority and his rostrum manners are lithe and elegant with fairly small gestures, none of the flashy gymnastics that many less endowed conductors tend to indulge in. Robin Ticciati – his name indicates Italian ancestry; his grandparents came from Italy – lives in London, took his exam at Clare College in Cambridge as recently as 2004 and has close collaborations with Sir Colin Davis and Sir Simon Rattle. He is already booked years in advance around the world. He also conducts opera: Salzburg and Glyndebourne are due next year. The Gävle audience and orchestra are indeed lucky to have caught such a rare fish and his first appearance this season more than fulfilled the high expectations.

The Berlioz (please note, Ulf Jönsson, that the ‘z’ should be pronounced!) overture was given a dramatic reading, colourful and with impressive contributions from the brass. Rhythmic lilt, precision and a natural feeling for the ebb and flow of the music characterized the playing and conducting and with the Baltic Sea just around the corner it’s not surprising that the orchestra felt at home in this maritime music. Ideally one could have wished for a few more strings to balance the wind.

On their own in Bartók’s Divertimento, together with String Quartet No. 6 the last work he composed in Europe before emigrating to USA, the 31 string players showed their prowess with a homogenous sound and again rhythmic precision. It is a touching composition, balancing between joy and grief, something that Robin Ticciati shed light upon, the stillness of the slow middle movement leaving at least one listener deeply moved.

Franz Schubert wrote his third symphony when he was eighteen and the only marginally older conductor emphasized its youthfulness. It’s a charming work and should be played more often: in Gävle it hasn’t been performed since 1982. “Mozart with a darker tint” was Robin Ticciati’s description of it, although I have always thought that the main theme of the first movement is more Rossinian. Brisk tempos and joyful elegance again characterized the interpretation and the many woodwind solos were excellently played. It is hard to imagine a more winning performance.

There were standing ovations and the orchestra flourished. It seems that Gävle is at the beginning of an uncommonly happy three-part relation: the orchestra, the conductor and the audience visibly and audibly love each other. Gävle is to be congratulated for their new artistic director-to-be.

 

 

Göran Forsling

 

Photograph of Robin Ticciati © Sussie Ahlburg

 

 

 



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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)