Debussy, Le Martyre de Saint Sébastien, I. Huppert, Orchestre National de France, D. Gatti (Radio France, 2012)
Debussy, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (inter alia), Orchestre National de France, D. Gatti (Sony Classics, 2012)
Some cities on the tour heard Alexandre Tharaud play a Mozart concerto, which was probably nice enough, but in Washington it was violinist Julian Rachlin who offered a gloomy, mordant, utterly compelling rendition of Shostakovich's first violin concerto. He gave the solo part an intense but whispered tone in the first movement, with Gatti covering the dissonant string chords in a deep shadow, with glimmers of celesta shining through, the rumble of double bass pedal notes, colored with whoosh of the gong and growls of contrabassoon. It could be risky, trying to sustain the listener's interest over this extended movement, but Gatti and Rachlin did so, down to the last floating high note.
Anne Midgette, Biting Russian music from a French orchestra (Washington Post, February 1)
Simon Chin, Daniele Gatti and the Orchestre National de France Perform Debussy, Shostakovich, and Tchaikovsky (Chin Up, February 1)
Jeffrey Gantz, Daniele Gatti, Orchestre National de France shine in Tchaikovsky (Boston Globe, January 26)
David Wright, Gatti, Orchestra National de France bring fresh insights to familiar music (The Classical Review, January 26)
Natasha Gauthier, Violinist Julian Rachlin lets the audience share in his physical, mental performance (Ottawa Citizen, January 25)
The Burlesca quivered with anxiety, as Rachlin appeared to rush and jump ahead just slightly here and there, but Gatti recalibrated the ensemble imperceptibly, so it ended up being an impressive tour de force. Sadly, the applause was not sufficient to elicit the encore Rachlin had in store, an Ysaÿe movement he played at Carnegie Hall (which the New York Times apparently did not review). The missed encore may have had something to do with the lack of bodies in the hall: the sales were apparently so tepid that the Kennedy Center closed the upper balcony and had patrons relocate to the floor. For the concert opener, Gatti and the musicians shaped Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune with remarkable freedom, without the tempo dragging as it does so often. The result was languorous but not soporific, and along with a pretty flute solo, breathy and sensuous, an orchestra of immense proportions produced a range of delicate, pastel hues. The second half consisted of a performance of Tchaikovsky's fifth symphony (not reviewed).
Next on the Washington Performing Arts visiting orchestra series is the Budapest Festival Orchestra (February 15), at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.