Related Reviews
Hi-Fi News
4½ Stars
'...the Linn has more dramatic light and shade, and a natural concert hall balance.'
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The Absolute Sound
'Robin Ticciati is among the most promising conductors of his generation, and he leads the sprawling work with dramatic purpose.'
more >>
American Record Guide
'Ticciati...shows here again that he is a young conductor to watch.'
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ConcertoNet.com
'Sa direction puissante et lyrique, engagée mais sans jamais sombrer dans les effets, fait magnifiquement respirer cette musique.'
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L'Avant Scène Opéra
«Ticciati a quelque chose à nous dire.»
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Limelight
4½ Stars
'Robin Ticciati has proven himself heir to Colin Davis with his Berlioz series on Linn and this last instalment is, if anything, even finer.'
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InfoDad
4 Stars
'Ticciati, who has shown himself an excellent interpreter of Berlioz, once again proves adept at managing his forces and exploring the intricacies and the emotional impact of the music.'
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Audio Video Club of Atlanta
'These scenes capture the essence of the love story and its tragic ending, and are all well-rendered in the present recording.'
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Pizzicato
4 Stars
„Unter der Leitung von Robin Ticciati gelingt auch hier eine technisch ausgefeilte und musikalisch tragende Interpretation...Die Gesangssolisten bereichern die Aufnahme.“
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Crescendo
4½ Stars
« De fait, il parvient, grâce à une baguette souple et expressive, à construire des climats si justes que l'oreille vit la tragédie de l'intérieur. Pour chaque épisode, le soin porté aux et dans les pupitres de l'orchestre ainsi que le choix des dynamiques et des couleurs permettent à Ticciati de développer un travail sonore et d'architecture conséquent. Le chœur présente lui aussi de belles caractéristiques : texte intelligible, intonation qui ne fait jamais défaut, homogénéité, couleurs... »
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MusicWeb International
'Robin Ticciati has a genuine feel for the music of Berlioz and there's freshness and vitality in his conducting. This is a distinguished addition to Robin Ticciati's Berlioz series. More please.'
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Classica
'On entend rarement la Grande fête chez Capulet jouée de manière aussi chorégraphique, avec la légèreté et le sens du mouvement propres au ballet.'
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MusicWeb International
Recording of the Month: 'This is a marvellous set, the finest Roméo et Juliette to appear for several years, and worthy, in very different ways, to stand alongside illustrious competition from the likes of Sir Colin Davis and Sir John Eliot Gardiner.'
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BBC Music Magazine
5 Stars
'Robin Ticciati has proved to be a special Berlioz interpreter, and offers an individual, youthful reading driven by crisp detail and translucent textures and Berlioz's vital rhythmic spring.'
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Classic FM
'What makes this issue competitive is Robin Ticciati...It sounds really well.'
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BBC Radio 3 'Record Review'
'You've probably guessed by now, this is the one of these three newcomers [compared with Gergiev and Andrew Davis's recordings] that I've enjoyed the most for its freshness and vivacity; the way Berlioz's extraordinary orchestra colours spring to life and the intimacy and detail of the Linn recording.'
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Gramophone
'Ticciati from the first, explosive bars finds tauter drama than either [Gergiev or Davis]...'
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The Observer
4 Stars
'...orchestrally superb...Katija Dragojevic is a gorgeously warm mezzo.'
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The Sunday Times
Album of the Week: '...virtuosic and intense string-playing...'
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The Times
'This festival performance was notable for its elegance, even restraint — a feat in itself given how much Berlioz throws into the stew.'
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Robin Ticciati & SRSO - Berlioz: Romeo et Juliette - Audiophile Audition


17 November 2016
Audiophile Audition
Lee Passarella
4 Stars

Berlioz's hybrid masterwork, dubbed by the composer a symphonie dramatique, could be considered an advance on Beethoven's Choral Symphony. Like Beethoven's final symphony, it includes among its forces vocal soloists, chorus, and orchestra. But whereas Beethoven's work is a symphony with an uncommon choral finale (and some boneheaded commentators still take the composer to task for daring to tinker with the basic tenets of symphonic construction), Berlioz's conception is more radical, incorporating as it does set pieces that could only be considered orchestral tone poems (before the fact) along with lengthy narrative-dramatic sections delivered by the soloists and orchestra. Perhaps the only genuinely symphonic movement in a classical sense is the Queen Mab Scherzo, which is, given that this is Berlioz and not Beethoven, a highly Quixotic version of the musical form that Beethoven made a fixture of the symphony as we know it.

Understandably, at its debut the work divided critical reaction, though unlike much of Berlioz, it established itself early as a staple of the repertory and has never be sidelined since then. Roméo  et Juliette may not be quite as earthshaking as Beethoven's Ninth, but in many ways it is just as revolutionary, stretching orchestral technique almost to the breaking point and offering a model that successfully balanced vocal lines against the increasingly burgeoning forces of the nineteenth-century symphony orchestra. Wagner was listening and applied the lessons he'd learned; in fact, some commentators see a direct link between Roméo and Tristan und Isolde.

The genesis of Berlioz's 1839 work goes back to 1827, when the composer attended a performance of Shakespeare's play at the Odéon Theatre in Paris. He experienced the work in what modern folks of any learning would consider a bowdlerized version, but the effect was nonetheless electrifying. It had the side effect of introducing Berlioz to his future wife, the Irish actress Harriet Smithson (who played Juliet), the catalyst for the Symphonie fantastique.

Like the version of Romeo and Juliet that Berlioz saw performed in Paris, the libretto of Roméo et Juliette is not drawn directly from Shakespeare. The version crafted by Émile Deschamps includes some departures from the original, including an expansion of the scene involving the reconciliation of the Montagues and Capulets following the death of the lovers. Since Berlioz's work is not a music drama but a dramatic symphony, much of the vocal writing concentrates on narration rather than outright drama, hence the large role that the chorus plays.

Robin Ticciati is a rising star among English musical figures. And he's also establishing himself as a Berlioz specialist, maybe in the manner of the late Sir Colin Davis? That remains to be seen, yet Ticciati's Sinfonie fantastique, also on the Linn label, was almost universally praised by critics as a fresh approach to this classic score. Then the conductor went on to record a well-received version of Berlioz's L'enfance du Christ, a performance fine enough to grab my attention. And I was not formerly a great fan of Berlioz's gentle Christmastide offering.

As he did in L'enfance, Ticciati works with the Swedish Radio Orchestra and Chorus, and his past experience with these forces pays off in a performance that's clearly of a piece. There's youthful brio in the introductory Combats - Tumulte section that carries on through the remaining numbers, both orchestral and choral. There's much fine playing and singing throughout, and fortunately, that's true of the solo singing, so important in this work. Outstanding for me is Swedish mezzo Katija Dragojevic, whose very first utterances shape the bittersweet narrative that she unfolds. It's a lovely voice and an excellent performance. The other soloists are equally fine, bass Alastair Miles bringing all of the command, mingled with deep regret, that should inform the role of Friar Laurence.

Like Gergiev's, this is a live recording, and a very good one, in fact. However, as with most live recording there are some issues of balance. Strangely, the chamber choir seems to be on stage with the soloists, in front of the orchestra. Is that a true representation of the arrangement of performing forces? I doubt it. In general, there is little sense of depth to the recording, which is powerfully close-up. Also, at the end of the piece, when the large chorus and the full orchestral forces hold forth, the sound is a bit congested, something that doesn't happen in the few studio recordings I've listened to. And yet the musical conception and the performance certainly deserve your consideration.


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Related Links

Alastair MilesAlastair Miles
Andrew StaplesAndrew Staples
Katija DragojevicKatija Dragojevic
Robin TicciatiRobin Ticciati
Swedish Radio Symphony OrchestraSwedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Berlioz: Romeo et JulietteBerlioz: Romeo et Juliette