The first part of the afternoon session is a tale of three upright men. I’m talking about posture, of course. Rafal Janiak, Mihhail Gerts and Giancarlo Rizzi are on the taller side anyway, but they all stand up straight.
But you shouldn’t imagine that means they are rigid in their movements, and the seriousness of their demeanour doesn’t mean they come across as overly earnest. They even manage to get a laugh or two out of the orchestra once or twice. (If you are looking for laughs, though, best not tap your baton on the stand – naming no names, but it does sound a bit like swearing in church, so rarely do you hear it.)
Their athleticism helps them make broad gestures, kind of like tennis players striking a ball deep into the opposite court, one of them in particular has a relaxed grace. In fact, of all the candidates in this year’s competition, Giancarlo Rizzi, is the one who seems most to allow the music to buoy his movements, shifting his balance from time to time to emphasise some rhythmic feature or other. Everything seems easy, he’s comfortable letting his beating relax to almost nothing when it’s not required, there are no sudden movements and in my opinion has managed the best to synchronise the orchestra – getting them to play a chord together out of the blue, or to fit with the soloist in the concerto.
Having said that, he did pull that conductor’s trick of stopping immediately after a point where the orchestra did come slightly apart to go back to an earlier passage, as if he was going to stop anyway (and not because he might have made a slight mistake). Twice, in fact! It always makes me laugh that one. He’s not the only one to have done it either, but maybe I’ll let him off this time.