Cleveland Orchestra with Robin Ticciati
and pianist Simon Trpčeski (October 25)
Sometimes a performance will be loaded with passionate intensity at the expense of discipline and precision. Sometimes precision will win out over depth of feeling. Thursday night's audience at Severance Hall got the special gift of both qualities in equal measure as visiting British conductor Robin Ticciati, Macedonian pianist Simon Trpčeski and The Cleveland Orchestra sculpted robust — and refined — performances of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 and Sibelius's Symphony No. 2 that will live long in the collective memory. In my row, and surely throughout the hall, people turned to each other after each of those pieces and simply said, “Wow!”
Not that a five-minute prelude to the splendor that followed was really necessary, but Anatoli Liadov's Enchanted Lake settled the audience in with a magically serene tone painting of a lake whose surface was ruffled only toward the end by the quiet birdcalls of a pair of flutes. The work began just on the edge of silence in the low strings, drifted through a haze of beautiful, soft orchestral colors, and floated away at the end as though everything had merely been a mirage.
Simon Trpčeski presaged the excitement to come by playing Rachmaninoff's opening bass notes and chords with a perfectly managed crescendo full of drama waiting to be slowly released. Playing brilliantly with a dark, muscular tone which he could instantly lighten up for glittering passage work, Trpčeski always managed to project through the orchestra even though Ticciati encouraged his colleagues to play out luxuriantly. As the first movement progressed, pianist, conductor and orchestra created long elegantly shaped phrases, passionate surges and expressive pullbacks, and a feeling of spacious grandeur. The wonderful horn solo by Michael Mayhew was warmed with just enough vibrato to sound Russian, and the final chords were so controlled that for the first time in a long while, the extra, penultimate note in the piano came through clearly.
The unhurried slow movement featured gorgeous solos by flutist Marisela Seger and Daniel McKelway and more elegant orchestral ebb and flow. Trpčeski and Ticciati respected Rachmaninoff's meaningful silences by pointing up their structural importance. The pianist's ultimate phrase was exquisitely wrought and he turned his left hand palm up as if to cherish the final notes.
The finale began deliberately, then heated up quickly before settling into a mood of meticulous spaciousness. Trpčeski dashed off crystalline runs while keeping close eye contact with the orchestra and partnering with Ticciati to create clean, instantaneous transitions. The audience rose to its feet at the end, whooping and cheering. Before playing an encore, Simon Trpčeski gave a charming little speech about how much he felt at home in Severance Hall, and dedicated a wistful Chopin waltz (a minor, opus posthumous) to The Cleveland Orchestra.
Robin Ticciati will become music director of the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 2014. If he had already shown his vocal sensibilities by creating long, singing lines in the Rachmaninoff concerto, he brought his strong dramatic proclivities to his interpretation of Sibelius's second symphony. Often played with a restrained leanness meant to sound Scandinavian, the work was cast in an entirely new light in Ticciati's hands: full of healthy, robust tone and color, neither Russian or German but somewhere ineluctably inbetween.
He began the symphony by shaping beautiful, full-bodied, surging phrases elegantly tapering off at the ends, punctuated by a cheerful oboe solo and chords from the noble-sounding horn section. The pizzicatos that began the second movement emerged almost out of silence, rose through every dynamic level and returned to near inaudibility. Strong, colorful wind solos (including the bassoon section) dotted the landscape and made other impressive contributions throughout the symphony. Ticciati is comfortable with rests, and again underlined their structural importance by keeping an internal beat going when the music was silent. The third movement scherzo was commodious, its middle section oboe solo slow and grand, and Ticciati brought the opening material back with a sudden dynamic upbeat as if from a coiled spring. That led without pause to an expansive and heroic finale whose episodes Ticciati shaped into a compelling narrative with smooth and natural-sounding transitions.
Two highly impressive young guest artists who engaged in a special chemical reaction with The Cleveland Orchestra made Thursday a memorable evening at Severance Hall.
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Published on ClevelandClassical.com October 27, 2012
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