When Daniele Gatti arrives next week to conduct the first of three closely watched programs this season with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he will do so under very different circumstances from his last BSO appearance. That was in 2009, when Gatti, who was rehearsing Verdi’s “Aida” at the Metropolitan Opera, was tapped as a last-minute substitute for an ailing James Levine to lead the opening concert of the Carnegie Hall season. According to a New York Times article, he learned one piece — John Williams’s “On Willows and Birches” — during a car ride between New York and Boston the day before the concert.
A dramatic event, and certainly a memorable one, you might think. Yet when asked about it recently, Gatti seemed almost to shy away from the extraordinary nature of that event. Speaking by phone last week from his native Milan, he allowed that while that performance was “quite a dramatic moment, the memories are really strongly about all the musical experiences I had with the orchestra,” going back to his 2002 BSO debut. That bond is what’s important; everything else he finds “sometimes not so easy to talk about.” That is the impression the conductor projects: focused with great seriousness on the music itself, uninterested in things peripheral to it.