Orchestra purrs along under Gatti

November 02, 1997|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Daniele Gatti is traveling fast.

The 35-year-old conductor and his orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, land at the Kennedy Center this afternoon for the final concert in one of the most whirlwind tours in symphonic history. In 22 days, they will have given 19 concerts, featuring six major works on three different programs, as they crisscrossed ,, the United States -- from New York to California and back again.

"Yessss -- verrry big tour," says the Milan-born musician, in whose fluent (if somewhat fractured) English, words tend to receive an Italianate emphasis. "It's a good idea to have more pieces than less -- otherwise it becomes quite boring for the orchestra."

Gatti doesn't seem to be boring anyone -- audiences and critics, least of all.

Almost unknown outside of Italy until only a few years ago, he's become the most-talked-about poster boy on international podiums. In the eight years since he made his conducting debut at La Scala, he's guest-conducted almost every important orchestra in the world, earning reviews in papers from Berlin to London to New York that suggest he's the most recent in the royal lineage of Italian conductors from Arturo Toscanini to Riccardo Chailly.

He's got two of the most visible jobs in Europe -- he's the music director of Bologna's Teatro Communale as well as of London's Royal Philharmonic. His dark good looks make him glamorously photogenic. He's even got a cute nickname -- musicians call him "Signor Cats." And like many of the best conductors of his native land, he's proving that an Italian conductor can beat the Germans at their own game. In Gatti's case, that game happens to be the music of Gustav Mahler.

When Gatti made his New York Philharmonic debut a little less than two years ago, he was permitted to program Mahler's gargantuan Symphony No. 6. Gatti's performance of that work created a near sensation. More recently, his interpretations of the same composer's Symphony No. 5 -- which he performs at the Kennedy Center today -- have been having the same effect.

Which of these Himalayan peaks is tougher to scale?

"The Fifth," Gatti answers without hesitating.

"The Sixth is a big, huge stone, but it's all of one piece. The Fifth seems composed by two different personalities. The first two movements go through hell, then -- from the scherzo to the finale -- the mood of the composer is completely different. It's a very enigmatic work and one that's hard to organize and even harder to play."

One more question -- how did Gatti get to be known as "Signor Cats"?

The conductor laughs.

"That's an easy one," he says. " 'Cat' in Italian is 'gatto' and the plural, or 'cats,' is 'gatti.' "

One thing's for sure: A lot of people think he's the cat's meow.

In concert

What: The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Daniele Gatti

Where: The Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington

When: Today at 3 p.m.

Tickets: $34-$70

Call: 800-444-1324

Pub Date: 11/02/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.