London Symphony Orchestra, Ticciati, Barbican Hall | Classical music reviews, news & interviews
London Symphony Orchestra, Ticciati, Barbican Hall
Elemental Sibelius marks out an impressive LSO debut for Robin Ticciati
Opening with rather rarer but more instantly accessible Sibelius – the orchestral suite of incidental music from King Kristian II – it was the phrasal fluidity of Ticciati’s beat that instantly drew such a vocal quality from Sibelius’ songful melodies. Ticciati makes good use of his long arms and fingers – the sound seems to emanate from them; shapeliness and sensitivity to the tiniest nuances come naturally; and he truly understands the meaning of the word sostenuto, which is why the second movement Elegie for strings alone felt so seamless. But above all it is his ability to create atmosphere and have us share in those anticipatory moments where the air around us seems to move differently that singles him out from the crowd.
The quality of sound he coaxed from the LSO strings in the opening to the second movement of Grieg’s Piano Concerto was, one felt, imagined and prepared during the intake of breath before a single note had been played. And in those few bars of music he set down the distillation of mood necessary to make something truly pure and glacial of the soloist’s limpid arabesques. The gifted Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski was that soloist and, between them, he and Ticciati gave us the most beautiful and unhackneyed account of this ubiquitous concerto that I have heard in a very long time.
This was so very far removed from the splashy and overcooked and, yes, vulgar accounts that get trotted out on a far too regular basis. How often keyboard and orchestra seem to pull at Grieg’s well-aired tunes, smothering them with affection, denying them their space? Here they simply emerged as fresh and unassuming as in the moment they were created. Trpceski’s elegant touch produced exquisite sound, nothing forced or over-accentuated, everything attended with the utmost modesty. He echoed rather than endorsed the flute’s unexpected melody in the finale, preserving its innocence and respecting its fragility, and even the grandiose transformation of it in the final bars was all about nobility as opposed to grandstanding.
Magnus Lindberg’s fabulous elaboration of the Bach chorale “Es ist genug” (designed to complement the Berg Violin Concerto) might have seemed like an oddly inflated precursor to Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony, but Ticciati drew some subtle parallels with the solemn chorale-like trombone theme which signposts our way through the uncharted landscapes of this, the last and most inexorable of the Sibelius symphonies. This music seems to come up through the bass lines and Ticciati was ever mindful of them. Conductors tend to work the Seventh far too hard (technically speaking it’s a Catch-22 kind of piece); the trick is to exert control whilst conveying freedom - to convince us, as Ticciati did, of the work’s logic and inevitability. This is music born of the elements and that wonderful polyphony beginning in violas, cellos and basses shortly after the start of the piece is as close to a musicalisation of evolution as anything I know.
The symphony ends with a question mark – the most equivocal C major in all music – but no such doubts exist over Robin Ticciati’s future.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
more Classical music
Three Greek-inspired masterpieces in perfect equilibrium
The cellist and writer on a new book annotating a great composer's wisdom
Biggest and boldest event yet for Scotland's early autumn musical harvest
Imaginative programme delivered with intensity and precision
American modernism, unhinged minimalism and a vibrant disc of piano trios
Panorama of musical history reveals surprising connections
From the human to the cosmic, new works for strings in an atmospheric setting
British minimalism, sacred sounds from a Russian exile and a disc of oboe music
Invigorating early journeys around Cervantes' woeful knight
Feast on our annual parade of bulging eyeballs and windmill arms at the Royal Albert Hall
Prommers delighted by a typically silly and overblown end to the season
Verdi’s choral spectacular showcases impressive youth choir, but period instruments add little