Tuesday 15 March 2011

Haydn, Szymanowski and Stravinsky from Ticciati and the SCO

Last week, Robin Ticciati drew to a close the Scottish Chamber Orchestra's series pairing Stravinsky and Haydn. This time, the two composers were joined by Karol Szymanowski for his 2nd violin concerto (the same one, incidentally, that Stéphane Denève and the RSNO treated us to back in November). It is a piece that pushes a chamber orchestra to the limits of its definition and yet Ticciati controlled his forces such that it remained intimate. It's an interesting and compelling piece, and there can't be too many violin concertos that open with a piano. It is cast in a single movement and provides a wonderful platform for the soloist to showcase his technical prowess. In this case, the job fell to Renaud Capuçon who provided an interesting contrast with the RSNO's choice of Frank Peter Zimmerman, having a much warmer and more romantic sound to his interpretation, yet lacking nothing in technical finesse. This was especially apparent during his treatment of the long cadenza at the work's centre. Personally I think I'd chose Zimmerman's style, almost clinical in its clarity and precision but without actually being cold and emotionless, as it seemed to suit the work slightly better, but that's not to argue it was in anyway superior - just different. The fine solo playing was matched by the orchestra whose accompaniment was well judged, particularly in the work's several large and emotive climaxes.

Stravinsky's Orpheus rounded off the evening. The piece is gentle and beautiful, rather that the turbulence one might expect. It also has some great moments for the brass, so it was fortunate that they were on fine form, from the trombones and the quietly muted trumpet near the outset to the emotionally devastating horn theme towards the end. But to single the brass out would be unfair, from ominous descent of Pippa Tunnell's opening harp notes, through the winds and the strings, to her return at the start of the short final scene, you could not complain.

Which leaves only the Haydn. His symphonies have possibly been my highlight of this series. As principal cellist David Watkin remarked to me via twitter recently: "Despite many years, finding it very hard to think of anyone I'd rather be playing a Haydn Symph under than Robin #Ticciati". Similarly, I find it very difficult to think of anyone under whose baton I'd rather hear one (sadly I'll never hear one live from some of the greatest interpreters). So, as with The Miracle and the The Hen before it, The Surprise was full of joy, life and bounce. Ticciati had plenty of fun too with the eponymous second movement and together they brought out a nice weight and intricacy in the minuet, before rounding it off with an energetic finale. I've said it before, and I'll say it again and continue saying it until someone does it, but some enterprising record label (I'm looking at your Linn Records) really should entice this team into the studio, or the City Halls, and set down the London and / or Paris symphonies in lovely lossless flac.

For me it was probably the most satisfying concert in the series, which itself has proved one of the gems of this season. Speaking of which, the next one is revealed in two weeks, so watch this space.

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