tue 04/08/2020

Orchestre National de France, Gatti, Royal Albert Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Orchestre National de France, Gatti, Royal Albert Hall

Orchestre National de France, Gatti, Royal Albert Hall

A hit-and-miss Prom for Gatti's French band

Daniele Gatti: An evening he'll not forgetChris Christodoulou

It was one of those moments that every conductor (and orchestra) dreads: “The Procession of the Sage” from Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring is in rip-roaring full cry, percussion grinding and scratching, high trumpet screeching – but Daniele Gatti, it would seem, loses a bar somewhere and gives his Orchestre National de France a premature cut-off, leaving the entire brass section between a rock and a hard place. Stop or play on? An ignominious collapse ensues – as big a blunder as I’ve heard in any professional concert in years. Who says The Rite of Spring no longer has the capacity to shock?

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Just listened to the Rite on iplayer - that moment is indeed awkward! It does rather trail off in an embarrassed way. I have to say though that it doesn’t quite trump a moment from the LSO at last year’s Proms (I think) in Shostakovich 8: right at the end of the first movement when the trumpets recapitulate the first theme, someone in the trumpet section came in at double speed. Half followed him and half followed Gergiev and until the horns came to the rescue a few bars later it sounded like a brass meltdown.

Not spurious, the trumpets, but cut out by Debussy (half-heartedly) in a 1909 revision. Quite a few conductors have put them back, so Gatti is in reasonable company. Incidentally, any disasters on the platform were matched by the BBC presentation, which had the crashing percussion at the Paris premiere matched by "Nijinsky dancing provocatively on the stage" (he choreographed, of course, but wasn't dancing).

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