Tuesday 15 February 2011

Ticciati and the SCO return for another round of Haydn and Stravinsky

After a first instalment which featured about as big a chamber orchestra as you get, Ticciati and the SCO continued their survey Stravinsky's chamber ballets with something scored for more modest forces, but the more satisfying for it. Indeed, after the stage had been reset, only the strings remained to perform Apollon musagète.

One measure of a good piece for string orchestra, and indeed a well performed one, is whether you miss all the instrumental textures that are absent. Not a trace of such concerts haunted this performance, which showed both the most wonderful range and a first class string sound (and some fine solo work from guest leader Matilda Kaul). Ticciati found plenty of drama in the score, especially the haunting power with which they worked their way towards the quiet ending.

As in the first concert, Stravinsky shared the billing with Haydn but not, in the first half at least, another symphony. Instead things began with his operatic Scena di Berenice. Ticciati and the orchestra once again showed what a fine Haydn team they, giving a crisp and finely played reading laden with drama and panache, the conductor's operatic pedigree stemming from his time with Glyndebourne on Tour clearly showing. My only problem concerned soloist Sally Matthews whose ever present vibrato didn't seem a good fit for Haydn, wonderfully dramatic though she was. She also had a slightly rough edge in one or two moments of extreme volume. Mine was though, it seems, an opinion shared by nobody else, to judge by the cheers that greeted her.

After the interval it was time for a sneaky world premiere (or nearly so, that having happened the previous night in St Andrews), sneaky because Colin Matthews had orchestrated some Fauré, in other words here was some new music possibly smuggled past some of the SCO's more conservative audience members. And what wonderfully coloured orchestrations they were. The orchestra seemed to be having fun with them to, if the way principal bass Nikita Naumov was more or less dancing along during Mandoline was anything to go by. However, once again Matthews' voice simply wasn't to my taste.

They finished with more Haydn, this time the 96th symphony, The Miracle. As with The Hen last time, this bounced along wonderfully, the orchestra on as fine a form as they had been all evening.

If you've missed the first two concerts in this series, make sure not to miss the third and final instalment on 10th March, which features Stravinsky's Orpheus alongside Haydn's 94th symphony and Szymanowski's second violin concerto.

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