The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra concluded its first visit to New York with Daniele Gatti, coupling two late-nineteenth-century ‘Firsts’.
Janine Jansen gave a highly romantic performance of Max Bruch’s G-minor Violin Concerto, drawing dark, rich tones from the 1707 ‘Rivaz, Baron Gutmann’ Stradivarius, brilliantly dashing off the technical challenges. Gatti was a sure-handed partner, masterfully managing the subtle transition to the Adagio where Jansen’s instrument sang out sweetly with one of Bruch’s most gorgeous melodies, complemented later by flute and horn solos. The Gypsy-influenced Finale was played with spirit and virtuosity. For an encore, Jansen was joined by two members of the orchestra in an arrangement for violin, clarinet and cello of ‘Nana’ from Manuel de Falla’s Seven Popular Spanish Songs.
Following intermission, the Mahler began auspiciously as the strings gradually emerged from silence, then joined by the birdsong of the woodwinds and finally the cellos’ glowing portrayal of the beauties of nature as adapted from the composer’s ‘Wayfarer’ songs. Gatti swayed in terpsichorean passages and skillfully managed changes of tempo and dynamics. The second-movement Ländler was a rustic peasant dance, the graceful Trio set off by fine horn solos. Then Gatti made the dubious decision of having the macabre funeral march’s opening ‘Frère Jacques’ melody played by tutti double basses, but he brought vigor to the klezmer-influenced passages. The Finale began and ended with ferocity, but in another departure from Mahler’s instructions, Gatti did not have the horn-players stand in the triumphant coda.