(photo: Sussie Ahlburg)
Coming from this chic-lette who spends her summers in the USA and the other-odd months in Europe, OC knows how insular the two worlds can be when it comes down to classical music, trapped between scary Atlantic Ocean sea monsters, long flights, and booked schedules -- and let's face it, a saucy heaping of bureaucracy and politics, bad taste arbiters and plain ignorance. Great directors, singers, conductors and orchestras remain elusive and vacuumed -- like how if we stand still in Italy, you'll never run into James Levine...although if you hang out in your American cave, you'll never have hte opportunity to hear Daniel Harding.
I mean, how many operas did Claudio Abbado ever conduct in New York?
Carlo Maria Giulini?
And Riccardo Muti will enjoy his Met debut next year at the ripe age of 68.
Which is why OC knew how cool it was for New Yorkers to catch Maestrino Robin Ticciati in his USA premiere, which happened over the weekend in the streamlined & elegant Alice Tully Hall. Never before has this kid (or his Rick James hair, by0tch!) touched-down on USA soil to play a public performance. Ticciati -- MD of Sweden's Gävle Symphony Orchestra and Glyndebourne on Tour, and soon-to-be Principal Conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra -- is part of that insanely sweet new wave of young conductors that has taken hostage of your podiums and smashed your batons to splinters (while simultaneously powering-up Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart on their iPhones).
But when OC reads concert reviews like this from NYC's most prestigious newspaper, she can see why a stunning crop of prodigies who aren't inside of NYC's radar just don't care about breaking in. Why bother when once-in-a-lifetime premieres are omitted from mention, and their performances are mere afterthoughts, relegated to the last paragraphs of critic write-ups? [Ed: Edited for wisdom, word is born: Peter Dobrin at The Philadelphia Inquirer gets it!]
No worries. OC was in attendance for Ticciati's Sunday afternoon's concert at Alice Tully Hall, so she can relay that the British conductor's USA premiere with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment was a rousing success, and we can only hope that he and his Rick James curls make it back to the USA again post haste. And a big thanks to the Mostly Mozart Festival for hosting the young conductor's USA premiere.
In a season that boasts the tenuous links among Mozart's later influences, the Sunday program was refreshingly simple, containing an All-Mozart line-up. The first work, Les petits riens, K.a10 (the Little Nothings) was a sweet foray into 22-year-old Mozart's early diversions, a vaguely-dozen set written for Jean-Georges Noverre's light ballet, performed at the Grand Opera at the end of Niccolò Piccinni's Le finte gemelle. The ballet's score was lost for almost 100 years, and was originally omitted from Köchel catalog.
Ticciati laid it all out with the plaisanteries of Les petits riens, the superb Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, a corps of motley Baroque instrumentalists and their crafted period-pieces, which delivered a sound that hasn't touched OC's little ears since she left Italy. A sound that quite frankly, was exotic in the muggy air of steel-encased, air-conditioned, brashly-styled NYC. It was almost a novelty to hear such a burnished, elegant orchestra in midst of such chaos. The OAE evoked rousing sound from the strings, full of lofty Baroque romance to a lovely effect. Ticciati moved about the podium idiosyncratically, yes, shadows of his mentor Sir Simon Rattle in charming, refined gestures: clean, streamlined, and economized.
Pianist Robert Levin arrived for his fortepiano showdown during Mozart's Piano Concerto No.22 in E-flat major, K.482. He first announced to the audience that he would be improvising his cadenze, ending his methodical lecture with "Pray for me". So after a quick Baruch Atah Adonai, Levin began. The concerto squeaked a bit unbalanced, but transformed quickly into a snappy, driving spirit, with lots initiative. Levin flaunted breathless control over the thin sounds of the fortepiano. He started the first Allegro movement with very small, subtle embellishment to his cadenze, exceedingly teased-out. By the end of the movement, his vision wavered wandered, and became a bit rambling.
Between movements, Levin tuned the pianoforte with repeated strokes, looking for the perfect pitch, which he eventually found. The second movement, Andante, was pensive and unpunished, with lots of room to breathe. It was moody without sentimentality.
The third movement, Allegro, was Levin's crowning glory, his improvisations running amok. His flowing cadenze played over a perfect dynamic and tempi from the OAE & Ticciati, who between Levin's lengthy improvisations, conducted with such minute gestures,expressing barely a fluctuation of his wrist with optimal control of the orchestra.
If the first half of the program was to show Ticciati's elegance, grace, and zen-like control of his baton (which he did o yes he did), the second half's Symphony No. 40 in G minor displayed the silent storm that was brewing inside the young maestro. Molto allegro was balls out. No longer the polite and refined sound we heard during the first half, Ticciati flailed a stormy, dynamic thunder from the orchestra. He was completely unapologetic with the rippling, live riot. For the first time, the reed-thin conductor raised his arms above his shoulders, and a flourishing, grandiose noise exploded from the orchestra.
Andante was sumptuous and feathered, with a clean air. The Menuetto-Trio was similarly full of clarity, with delineated musical lines, and a wholly poetic performance. The final Allegro assai was fiery and crackling. Jolly good!
We can only hope that the next time this wandering Odysseus touches down again in the USA, the proper fête ensues.