The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra does not go for short-term flings. Bernard Haitink, Riccardo Chailly and Mariss Jansons have all held long tenures as its chief conductor in recent years. Now, Daniele Gatti has taken the reins, and while he is just over a year into the job he has not wasted time making his mark. The recently-released recording of Mahler 2 paints a strikingly alternative picture of the work to that previously recorded with this orchestra by Riccardo Chailly, and early in September Gatti the orchestra embarked on a tour to high profile venues in London, Lucerne and Berlin. Now their sights have turned further afield: Gatti will take two programmes of Haydn, Mahler, Beethoven and Brahms on tour South Korea and Japan later this month.

Daniele Gatti © Pablo Faccinetto
Daniele Gatti
© Pablo Faccinetto

Both of these were first played on home territory in Amsterdam, and the second showed off the orchestra's talent in contrasting repertoire. In Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major, it played with especial fizz and vim, and Gatti's characteristic attention to detail made this a performance replete with detail, even if the conductor felt slightly too keen to find drama in every phrase when this sublime music should unravel at its own natural pace. Regardless, coordination between orchestra and soloist was especially fine, the orchestra weaving in and out of focus with almost imperceptible grace.

The violinist articulates his lines in arching, coherent statements, but finds freshness, timbral nuance and complexity of expression in between to make playing feel personal and extemporised. In the rustic Rondo, Frank Peter Zimmermann would ease the pedal before surging into new phrases, and in the first movement cadenza he attacked his lines with bombastic relish. Most enjoyable of all was the simplicity with which he weaved around twilight winds and horns at the start of the second movement.

Such set us up nicely for the second instalment in this evening of contrasts. True to form, Gatti gave Brahms's Symphony no. 1 in C minor a reading of high drama: the RCO flared its nostrils in the brooding opening, and the fate motif was made to sound especially muscular, almost savage. The warmer second theme was syrupy, though it never took much for the orchestra to plunge back into the depths. At times playing was overcooked – attempts to give a monumental aspect to the build up from murky basses in the development section felt slightly forced – but this was overall an exciting rendition of the opening movement, not least in the rollicking return to the first theme in the recapitulation in which the orchestra flew.

Clearly, the Concertgebouw's distinctive sound, forged over decades by Gatti's predecessors, has remained intact. Ripe lower strings meld with limpid winds, sculpted horns emerge slowly into the foreground all gleaming and glistening and peachy violins spin unbroken lines replete with myriad inflections that wind like a gentle alpine path seen from above. The various parts coagulate to form sonorities that delight the ear, such as the blanket of sound that followed the oboe's lovingly shaped second movement solo, or the joyous outpouring that spilled over in the third movement. But it was in the finale that everything cohered most convincingly. The shape shifting introduction gave way to playing with in-built drive, and strings came into their own in a glowing rendition of the main Beethovenian melody. Here, the climb to the summit was all the sweeter for the hard battles Gatti had pitched earlier on.