sun 16/06/2024

Perianes, LPO, Ticciati, RFH | reviews, news & interviews

Perianes, LPO, Ticciati, RFH

Perianes, LPO, Ticciati, RFH

Ticciati’s detailed approach energises Beethoven, but Bruckner needs more

Robin Ticciati - clarity and focusMarco Borggreve

Conductor Robin Ticciati and pianist Javier Perianes are an odd couple. Ticciati is forthright and disciplined, while Perianes is reticent but erratic. But they demonstrated last night that Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto can accommodate those extremes, and even draw on the resulting tensions.

Ticciati brought a decidedly Classical approach to Beethoven’s score. Phrases were carefully shaped, and balances finely judged. Which isn’t to say that the music-making was mechanical; there was plenty of ebb and flow here, and Ticciati was always keenly aware of the shape and direction each phrase. But everything happened within clearly defined limits. It was engaged but orderly conducting, and there was never any question who is in charge.

In comparison, Perianes (pictured left) seemed to deliver the solo part in broad, loose phrases. His interpretation turned out to be more disciplined than it first seemed. It's just that he didn't share Ticciati’s taste for orderly, clipped phrasing. Yet listening to a few minutes of his playing it became clear that he was just as aware of the music’s overall structure and shape.

Beethoven offers many opportunities for this relationship to work. Much of the second movement involves broad, free piano phrases punctuated with disciplined orchestral interjections, and here both pianist and conductor are in there element. But they are often required to work more closely, and that’s when tensions are evident. In the coda of the first movement, just after the cadenza, the piano has a recurring repeated note figure, which Perianes pulled around in seemingly free tempo. But the line is doubled by the oboe, who played it in strict time for Ticciati. Consensus here was desperately lacking.

For all his liberties, Perianes struggled to float a melodic line. His touch was erratic, and too often percussive, when it should have been providing flow, in both melody and accompaniment. But the culprit here may have been the piano, a Yamaha in place of the Royal Festival Hall’s usual Steinway. This instrument had a shallow bass sound, unclear mid-register and a percussive, unyielding top. It conspired with the dry acoustic of the hall to dull any lyrical impulse in Perianes’ playing.

Ticciati’s discipline served him well in Beethoven, but became a hindrance in Bruckner. The Fourth Symphony, which made up the second half, was presented with the same clear orchestral detail and the same immaculate phrasing. The results were revealing, bringing out details of texture, especially in the string writing that are too often missed. And many of the melodies were drawn out with great care. One example was the second subject of the first movement, which begins in the violins but then transfers to the cellos, where it gradually transforms into a plaintive lament: all this was presented by Ticciati and the LPO players in exquisite detail. In fact, the details everywhere were impeccable, including the carefully graded tempo and dynamic changes, and the weight of the climaxes.

But there was no passion here. Everything was carefully paced, clean, and utterly predictable. The Scherzo came closest to providing the excitement and drama that this music requires, but even here it felt like Ticciati was just going through the motions. The orchestra was on excellent form, as it always is in Bruckner, but the players’ virtuosity alone was not enough. The playing had the required scale, but somehow missed its power. And when you leave a Bruckner performance feeling totally unmoved, you know something is wrong.

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