Just back from il maestrino Robin Ticciati's konzert @ la Scala with the Filarmonica, where he bravely brought a program that goes against the grain of this most conservative of audiences (an audience ready, of course, to bYotch in public about how lame routine opera seasons and Beethoven-Mozart-heavy concert programs are, but then capable to freeze, perplexed, when confronted by any trace of innovation: play 'em Varèse, Sam, at your own risk. Oldtimey friends tell OC that when in the early 1990s poor Maestro Sinopoli brought our beloved Zemlinsky at la Scala, he was greeted with polite applause, half-hidden yawns, & empty seats).
Tonight -- far from being a perfect concert, we'll explain tomorrow in OC's full review why -- the audience was confronted by stuff that, thankfully, is not part of the same tired repertoire of 50 pieces that, as sublime as they are (mostly), is always the same mix of, you know, Pastorale and Ma Mère L'Oye and Symphonie Fantastique and Pictures At An Exhibition and K467 and the Pathetique, Beethoven IX, rinse, repeat.
Ticciati had the youthful temerity to show up with a bagful of Arvo Pärt (Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten), Britten's Four Sea Interludes, and Sibelius's Symphony n. 7 (only the second performance ever of this work in Milan, the first at la Scala). The only piece of candy thrown in was Mozart Piano Concerto n. 25 in C, K503, but even that piece had a surprise in store -- an early Easter egg, so to speak -- for the Scala audience.
Because gawky rangy Ticciati, looking like a suave skateboarder in white tie, tails and -- we're afraid, our palco seats were pretty high up -- what looked dangerously like black suede slippers, started out with a delicate, multilayered, sublimely phrased Pärt -- with that ghostly bell -- that he used to immediately crank up the emotional gauge of the night; but then he had in store a small-orchestra, lightning fast, nervous, legato-deprived, HIP-inspired Mozart concerto that really announced that -- even in its most famous, most recognizable piece -- the night was going to be not your mom's Scala concert, like, at all.
But Rudolf Buchbinder was there. The former piano prodigy (he entered the Musikhochschule in Vienna when he had barely learned to walk or something) who eerily looks like the half-Austrian guy who waxes Opera Chic's skis in Borca di Cadore (Cortina d'Ampezzo is so over, guys), showed up ready to burn the haus down with some classy, light-as-air, speedy keyboard work. And as the weird-sounding -- for a nice chunk of the audience evidently unaccustomed to that style-- orchestra parts left many of the Filarmonica abbonati quite baffled, Buchbinder's elegant work got him a standing ovation at the end, cries of bravo, and requests of encores that he obliged with a delicious, super-Viennese showoff transcription from Johan Strauss (in OC's head the words from her ski guy echoed instead: "U neet sharp etgees fuhr gut kontrol ant waxt bottoms to glite bettar and bettar turnink, OK"?).
Suffice to say that an elegant Britten -- conducted with a veteran's confidence -- and a ballZ-out, very fast, hot (almost as much as the dang hall whose cranked-up heating turned it into a sauna as usual) brassy Sibelius that was galaxies away from the frozen-landscape stuff we're accustomed to, suffice to say that these two works in the second part were awarded with polite applause (people here like Ticciati a lot, they sure recognize talent, no one denies that) but very perfunctory ovations, a quickly-emptying audience.
And no encores.
Oh, and most people, unfamiliar with the Sibelius didn't know that the piece was over -- they thought there was another movement. So nobody clapped until Ticciati shook the first violin's hand. Bit embarrassing, that.