Gatti’s Fine Concertgebouw Video Mahler

Review by: Jens F. Laurson

RCO_Live_GATTI_Mahler_1-4_ClassicalCritic_ClassicsToday

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

As with cocaine from a dodgy dealer, you never know what you get with Daniele Gatti: An enormous high or a bum experience. Whereas my information on the former is based on hearsay, the latter is based on repeat exposure, with an array of both head-scratching disappointments and grandiose evenings forever etched into my concert-going memory. Among the latter is the best live performance I’ve heard of Mahler’s Fourth symphony: Gatti and the Munich Philharmonic on a night where the second movement alone was so animated each instrument sounded like a different character or animal (Mahler-as-Peter-and-the-Wolf!), reason enough to check out this Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra’s DVD/Blu-ray release.

Even before popping the discs into the player, the booklet with Gatti’s ideas on these symphonies–generous for a DVD–bodes well. Not so much for the specific ideas or the conclusions that Gatti draws from them, but for that fact that he has these–indeed any–ideas at all. If you ask most conductors about the music they perform in anything but technical terms, you’d be surprised how many blank stares or platitudes you’d get. And certainly only very rarely would you get the playful-imaginative associations and visions that Gatti delivers. Of course that’s worth little if it doesn’t translate into something more tangible.

Fortunately it does, even if the Fourth symphony here isn’t quite as much “casual Friday at the Zoo” as was the Munich performance. The orchestral playing is above average lively and qualitatively superb throughout. The instrumental interplay in the second movement is slow and full of wonderful detail, and the pianissimos and general tenderness that pervades the third exudes serenity. Julia Kleiter’s voice is mature but clean and on point: very satisfying musically if not quite matching the yonder-worldly purity of Christine Schäfer in her recording with the same orchestra (under Haitink; RCO Live). But then, no one really does.

An Easter egg from the video director (Dick Kuijs) comes on a particularly thick portamento where he uses–just once–a perfectly timed, drolly old-fashioned blur/fade transition from Gatti to the strings. Otherwise, the whole affair is a conventional film of a concert–none too fancy but with a good mix of featured instruments, the conductor, and wide shots of the orchestra.

The First symphony impresses with the misty beginning Gatti elicits. It’s generally light and lively and graceful and builds up, steadily and deliberately, over three movements, showcasing the Concertgebouw Orchestra’s gorgeous sheen. Gatti doesn’t shoot any of his bolts prematurely. Only in the finale does the orchestra first unleash elemental power that has grown of the relative calm, before moving to gorgeous sweetness accompanied by luscious, wailing slides. Granted, all this really isn’t much more than Mahler asks for, but it’s very well done and beautifully shaped and reveals itself as terrific in the very end–a bit Blomstedt-like, actually, which is not how one might have predicted the unpredictable Gatti’s performance to go.

For a video format performance, then, this is an easy recommendation and reference; among audio recordings it would be one of many very persuasive performances (see references below).



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Either work on video: This one, Symphony No. 1 (audio): Kubelik (Audite); Suitner (Berlin Classics); Boulez (DG); Honeck (Exton), Symphony No. 4 (audio): Haitink/Schäfer (RCO Live); Maazel/Battle (Sony); Honeck/Im (Exton); Fischer/Persson (Channel Classics)

  • Julia Kleiter (soprano)
  • Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Daniele Gatti


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