A conductor’s quality should be gauged solely by results
the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Ticciati had conducted a superlative performance of Duru e’s Requiem at the Edinburgh International Festival, with Bell’s angelic NYCoS the choir for the night.
Bell’s rave was about just how good he reckoned Ticciati is, and the extent to which, having now worked with him at the Festival, he believes Ticciati has got everything that it takes to be a premier league conductor. Ergo, his modest and self-effacing comment to the audience. I’ll come back to that comment in a moment, but it did make me realise the nearsaturation coverage on the pages of The Herald that has been focused on conductors ahead of the new winter season.
We’ve run pieces on the RSNO and Stephane Deneve’s nal season, as well as interviews with Robin Ticciati and Donald Runnicles, in which Ticciati, in his cool way, raved about the SCO players while Runnicles, in his broad, very considered, philosophical manner, did much the same about his BBC SSO players; and, as far as I understand, the players in both orchestras reciprocate those feelings to whatever extent.
I would be less than honest if I said the same feelings pertained over at the RSNO with Deneve and his players. Let’s just say opinions are more ambivalent there. I’ve noticed some players drawing me very long looks about my comments on Deneve over the years, where some of the musicians have taken, shall we say, a rather different view.
I’m reminded of the opinion of one chief conductor (Lazarev, perhaps?) on the issue of conductor/ player relationships. I paraphrase: “A principal conductor is popular for the rst 15 minutes of his rst rehearsal, and the last ve minutes of his nal rehearsal three years later, when his contract is over. The rest is just hard, hard work.”
Lazarev didn’t give a proverbial stuff what they thought or said about him. I remember him, on tour with the RSNO in Spain, standing on his platform, leaning over and glowering at his charges as they assembled for a rehearsal.
As far as Deneve is concerned, all I will say is this: whatever the feelings within the RSNO, it would be unfair not to acknowledge the phenomenal – and I do mean phenomenal – rapport that Deneve has built with this country’s audiences, who adore what he does and the musical results from his orchestra. I trust my own instinct: I think it’s been a fantastic appointment that has done no end of good for the RSNO and its stature.
Let’s come back to the starting point, Christopher Bell. I don’t think the great Irishman should defer to any of these guys. Chorus directors always play second ddle to conductors: but it’s the chorus director who does all the hard work, before he has to hand his choir over to the man with the stick. What Bell has achieved throughout Scotland, with the RSNO Junior Chorus and his own otilla of choral groups that culminate in the glorious National Youth Choir of Scotland, is unique and second to none.