Music review: Robin Ticciati and Lars Vogt with the Los Angeles Philharmonic
The young British conductor Robin Ticciati made an immensely satisfying Los Angeles Philharmonic debut Thursday at Walt Disney Concert Hall. His calling cards included two war horses: Grieg’s Piano Concerto, with German pianist Lars Vogt, and Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations.
Ticciati, 26, already principal conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, has a low-key podium presence. He conducts from the score. He doesn’t allow anything, except perhaps his curly dark hair, reminiscent of a younger Simon Rattle, one of his mentors, to call attention to himself. It’s all about the music.
He opened the program with a graceful and perfectly paced account of the “King Christian II” Suite, an early orchestral work by Sibelius. Then Ticciati proved an equal partner in Vogt’s fascinating and gutsy traversal of the concerto. The pianist's unorthodox phrasing, never mannered or willful, made Grieg sound consistently fresh. He brought a powerfully rich tone to the showy outer movements. And his delicately shaded first movement cadenza, a mini-concerto all by itself, held the audience rapt.
Vogt and Ticciati took a risk by stretching the gorgeous central Adagio, but assisted by William Lane’s ravishing horn playing and the orchestra’s sonorous muted strings, they sustained its magic. At the conclusion, the audience stood for conductor and soloist. When Vogt returned for a solo bow, the Phil’s string players joined in by vigorously tapping their bows.
After intermission came Magnus Lindberg’s short “Chorale,” a potentially dense piece that came to clarity in Ticciati’s hands. And he brought plenty of charm and warmth to Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations, a suite of 14 highly idiosyncratic and endearing pieces devoted to people in his life. The ninth, “Nimrod,” variation, expertly shaped by Ticciati, shimmered. And Carrie Dennis’ impassioned viola solo in the sixth variation, “Ysobel,” as well as Ben Hong’s burnished cello playing in the 12th, “B.G.N.,” contributed to an interpretation fully realized in emotional detail. The conductor seamlessly wove Elgar’s various themes and motifs into something more than the sum of its parts in the triumphant Finale. Like Ticciati, it managed to be British to its core, without any need for flag-waving bombast.
-- Rick Schultz
Los Angeles Philharmonic, Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., downtown L.A. 8 p.m. Saturday. $22.50 to $170. (323) 850-2000 or www.laphil.com.
Photos: Robin Ticciati, top, and Lars Vogt. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times