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
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.
Photograph of Robin Ticciati © Sussie