But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
The soloist for the evening was the young Argentinean cellist, Sol Gabetta. A little googling reveals that she and Urbański have collaborated before – with the Berlin Philharmonic, no less – and I suspect that they came to the TSO as a “package deal.” These days, Gabetta is so highly touted and so much in demand with major orchestras that I can only assume she was a little off her game in Toronto.
She played the Dvořák Cello Concerto, with a sound that was both warm and penetrating. Her best moments were in legato passages, with smooth, elegant phrasing, and a sumptuous tone. For this reason, the second movement was the most successful.
But in the dramatic and virtuosic outer sections of the concerto, she looked and sounded like she was struggling – not in a good way, but as though she wasn’t quite on top of technical challenges. The result was a concerto that was a little disappointing in the places where it should have been most exciting.
Were Urbański’s tempi a little too fast? Not for the concerto, per se, but maybe they weren’t what Gabetta had in mind. He also did a fine job of controlling orchestral balance, and keeping “pantomime passages” – when the soloist can be seen to be playing, but is acoustically overwhelmed by the orchestra – to a minimum.
For Urbański, the big piece of the evening was, of course, The Rite. Impressively, he led the TSO from memory, and his conducting had a fluid, balletic quality. This was, I think, both a good and a not-so-good thing: it made the piece sound spontaneous and organic, but less sharp and edgy than it can and should be. His approach also seemed to leave his players fending for themselves, in need of more detailed instruction.
Urbański’s Rite was certainly weighty and substantial – like a thick, juicy steak. However, a little more sizzle would have been welcome.
© Colin Eatock 2015