sun 05/12/2021

Tamestit, LSO, Ticciati, LSO St Luke's review - viola as chameleon, palpitating Brahms | reviews, news & interviews

Tamestit, LSO, Ticciati, LSO St Luke's review - viola as chameleon, palpitating Brahms

Tamestit, LSO, Ticciati, LSO St Luke's review - viola as chameleon, palpitating Brahms

Razor-sharp Walton complements an airborne, detailed account of a great symphony

Philippe Matsas

Returning to LSO St Luke’s, formerly a beacon in the darkness of semi-lockdown for the lucky few allowed to feast upon the London Symphony Orchestra from the gallery, felt the same, yet different, like so much since most of the rules were relaxed.

Players were now closer together, sharing stands; the sound felt denser too (it’s bound to be loud in such a space, however handsome). A decided plus was that one of the great communicators among soloists, LSO featured artist and viola champion extraordinaire Antoine Tamestit, faced the players – and most of us upstairs – as he stood alongside conductor Robin Ticciati. The razor-sharp payoff added to the electricity.

It should always be there in the Walton Viola Concerto, a typically personable blend of the lyrical, the jazzy and the dissonant. But I wonder if a soloist has ever pulled more voices out of the hat than Tamestit. In addition to the familiar, smoky sound we know and love from this gorgeous, still-underrated member of the string family, there was violinistic soaring into the stratosphere, nimble wise-cracking, chameleon-like colouration adapted to a range of unusual orchestral combinations, and the switching-on of power in the finale to sound like an entire orchestral viola section.

The work is surprising in that it seems content to coast along on the Waltonian bag of tricks – always beguiling – until it explodes in the finale, to leave a very wistful but also disturbing dying fall – a measured response, perhaps, to the deep seriousness in the finale of Britten’s Violin Concerto Ticciati allowed the orchestra its head of steam, knowing that whenever the thicker textures involve the soloist, Tamestit would always be left waving and dancing vividly, never drowning in the sound. Robin TicciatiThis was Ticciati’s second performance of Brahms’s towering Fourth Symphony within a week – he was reunited with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in Brighton’s Dome on Saturday, not long after their love-in with Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at Glyndebourne (the conductor pictured above by Giorgia Bertazzi). And there were some clear personality-traits shared with the Tristan here: not least the enhanced sense of tense, release, move on, relax in a masterfully paced slow movement. The crucial air needed to let the sad but transcendental main theme of the opening movement coast was there from the start; martial responses proved taut, the keeping-down of hair-tearing grief so that the final outburst in the coda would explode, and cut off instantly, was as interesting to watch in the conductor’s motions as it was powerful to hear.

While the Allegro non troppo is a test of a conductor’s key asset, rubato – and not all of the so-called greats have it – the finale’s Passacaglia, a set of swift variations above a figure mostly kept in the bass, has to hit the heights with supreme control. Ticciati made sure of that with fierce determination at the start, trombones entering grimly for the first time – they’d looked a bit bored at times during the previous movements – and strings sweeping along with world-class sonority, including ideal depth from the double-basses. Prominent among the generals of a magnificent wind section, Gareth Davies was given free rein with the poignant flute solo at the still heart of the sequence before trombones now in valedictory, major-key mode, took the opportunity, rare for their ilk, of bringing tears to the eyes.

The closing stages, as in the first movement, were lacerating but terraced, the whole thing again slammed shut immediately having exerted its terse, magnificent fury. I’m tempted to go and hear the Barbican performance: it’s not often this cornerstone of the repertoire has sounded so fresh and thoughtful.

I wonder if a soloist has ever pulled more voices out of the hat than viola-player Antoine Tamestit

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters