It has been something of a whirlwind romance for Robin Ticciati and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. All it took was a tour of the highlands for players to beat a path to the management's door and suggest they hire him to fill the vacancy that existed in the orchestra's Principal Conductor spot. He took up this post in December. Today, less than a year later, it was announced his initial three year contract will be extended by another three to 2015.
It is not hard to see, or rather to hear why. As I remarked to a friend recently, Ticciati gets a better sound from this orchestra than anyone save Charles Mackerras. His programming has also been interesting, on the one hand bundling in new music, on the other bringing concert opera to the regular season. In short, this is very good news for the SCO and for music making and concert going in Scotland.
Why is Ticciati so well liked? Well, reports from rehearsals of Don Giovanni suggest that he is both charming and extremely knowledgeable. A friend in the chorus recalled to me a moment when he'd asked the orchestra to play a section differently in order that it properly fitted with the ongoing action at the time. Persuasion, rather than a dictatorial demand. That charm was evident the first time I saw him, when he turned to the Queen's Hall audience and addressed us as the real SCO audience. Which leads on to another feather in his cap - he understands the acoustic of that building in a chamber orchestra context (a rare talent).
It's clear that he enjoys working with them as much as they do him, leading me to suspect that we can look forward to some kind of association for many years even after 2015. As Ticciati puts it:
This Orchestra has, in a very short space of time, become my musical family and I have so much excitement as to where we can go together. I would have considered it a failure if this collaboration were not to have been extended. Today, there is a fascination with celebrity culture and a huge emphasis is put on 'hype' and a reliance on instant gratification of the senses. This can often compromise the artistic ideals of a group of musicians: I believe that real and honest work can only take place over a period of years, not weeks. Edinburgh, Glasgow and the audiences further from home who support the Orchestra have welcomed me with such warmth, I'm looking forward to giving them our music in return.
Or, as Roy McEwan, the managing director put it:
We are all now in a position to look forward over the next five years and plan international work, recordings and plenty of great music-making together. This is a wonderful time for the SCO.
Hopefully those recordings will be a continuation of the SCO's excellent collaboration with Linn Records who have this week won a well deserved accolade as Gramophone's Label of the Year. I'd love to know what those recordings are (and can't wait to hear them).