Related Reviews
MusicWeb International
'...unusual, provocative, and masterfully conceived...an essential acquisition.'
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Serenade Magazine
'...that he should bow out with a performance of such richness and depth showcases many of their finest qualities, and celebrates a recording which is a significant milestone in both their careers.'
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The Herald
5 Stars
'Ticciati has found new ways to approach the phrasing and tempo of these symphonies that produced surprises every step of the way...A top team on top form.'
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Fanfare
'The good news is that overall these performances feel not only Brahmsian but also full of color and variety.'
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Gramophone
A scintillating account of Brahms’s symphonies, in no small part due to the dynamics and detail of the 192kHz/24-bit Linn download.
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American Record Guide
'I think the balances are terrific, as are the Scottish strings and the overall sound of the orchestra. The recording was made in Usher Hall, Edinburgh; that must be part of the reason the sound is so beautiful. And I hear more agility in the playing than I have heard with larger orchestras.'
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ResMusica
'A very beautiful, fascinating, original and audacious interpretation...'
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Hi-Fi News
Sound Quality 85%: 'Ticciati has prepared this cycle as his final SCO project, and these are highly intelligent readings, finely engineered.'
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Classica
Recording of the Month: 'The young British conductor radically revisits Brahms' four symphonies by questioning decades of musical interpretations and rediscoveries.'
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Klassiskmusikk.com
5 Stars
6/6: 'You will, I hope, find these readings exciting and moving in equal measure, and I can hardly recommend them to you strongly enough'
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MusicWeb International
'This, then, is a very fine Brahms symphony cycle from Robin Ticciati and the SCO...a very attractive proposition indeed.'
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All Music
5 Stars
'Robin Ticciati and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra present a fresh take on the symphonies...Linn's pristine sound quality is a perfect complement to Ticciati's transparent readings. Highly recommended.'
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BR Klassik
CD-Tipp: 'The result is an unbelievably exciting journey through the symphonic world of this composer.'
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BBC Music Magazine
5 Stars
Recording of the Month: 'These are revelatory performances that make you listen afresh to this wonderful life-enhancing music.'
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BRF
'Schlanker, lebhafter und klanglich klarer kann man sich die Brahms-Symphonien kaum wünschen als in dieser neuen Aufnahme des Scottish Chamber Orchestra.'
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The Arts Desk
'Magical moments abound...this is the best recent recording of [No. 3] I've heard.'
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Online Merker
'This new recording with the SCO is no less than THE Brahms of our day.'
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Gramophone
'Ticciati's is lean and quite dazzlingly transparent. Listening with score in hand, I marvelled at the conductor's meticulous observance of Brahms's markings. Nearly every instruction regarding dynamics, phrasing and articulation is accounted for.'
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The Guardian
5 Stars
CD of the Week: 'What stands out is the sheer range of sound and colour Ticciati has at his disposal...the playing is unfailingly vivid.'
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The Scotsman
5 Stars
'There is enticing detail in these performances...and there is a truly natural sense of expression that highlights the genuine beauty in Brahms.'
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Kulturradio RBB
CD der Woche: Robin Ticciati liefert eine schöne und raue Interpretation, flott, glasklar und trotzdem schön warm in der Anmutung.
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Spiegel
'Alles fließt, alles strömt, diese Fülle präparieren Ticciati und das Scottish Chamber Orchester detailfreudig und präzise heraus.'
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BBC Radio Scotland 'Classics Unwrapped'
Album of the Week: '...as always the playing is first class from the SCO...It’s a delight to listen to from start to finish.'
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The Herald
'I predict universal praise for the new double set...the whole package takes us through the story of Brahms and his relationship with symphonic form in a way that is a real joy.'
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BBC Radio 3 'Record Review'
Disc of the Week: '...think about what you gain in the clarity of texture...brighter, lighter sounds balanced against the smaller string sections...'
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NDR
'Bei ihm klingen die Sinfonien nicht herbstlich und düster - die Betonung liegt auf dem rauen, romantischen Fieber, das in der Partitur steckt.'
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The Times
5 Stars
'...this is a set that sweeps aside recent rivals, brilliantly illuminating Brahms's inner textures and making the familiar new.'
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iTunes
'...marvel at the delicacy of his phrasing and the litheness of his lines...this is Brahms to savor.'
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Radio Classique
'Un souci d’allègement et de transparence des textures préside à cette lecture...'
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Financial Times
4 Stars
'...they have every slightest detail at their fingertips, illuminating phrase after phrase with new meaning...this is a highly rewarding set of the symphonies, well played and well recorded.'
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CD Choice
'...this Brahms cycle is a worthy successor to his earlier much-acclaimed readings of the symphonies of Schumann...the sound is still highly impressive, the performances top-drawer.'
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Classic FM
'...that should certainly be in our Hall of Fame.'
more >>
Presto Classical
'A classy leaving-present from one of today’s great conductor-orchestra partnerships as Robin Ticciati says goodbye to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.'
more >>

Robin Ticciati & SCO - Brahms: The Symphonies - Europadisc


23 March 2018
Europadisc

As a parting gift in his last season as the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s principal conductor, Robin Ticciati has set down one of the cornerstones of the repertoire: the four symphonies of Johannes Brahms. These are works the orchestra knows well, not least from a series of concerts before these studio-condition recordings in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall, and it shows in performances that combines youthful vigour with matchless musicianship.

The SCO last recorded these symphonies as part of a benchmark Brahms cycle with their conductor laureate, Sir Charles Mackerras, a full twenty years ago, and the new set builds on his achievement by delivering performances close in scale and sound to those Brahms himself is known to have favoured. Like Mackerras, Ticciati employs a string section of just 34 players (10 first violins, 8 seconds, 6 violas, 6 cellos and 4 double basses), slightly larger than the 30 regularly used by the Meiningen Court Orchestra, with whom Brahms had a particularly special relationship in this music. Trombones are narrow bore, the horns are late 19th-century Viennese, and the hand-tuned timpani have calfskin heads and are played with hard sticks, cutting through the beautifully transparent textures to thrilling effect. Combined with the small string section, this means that there’s no need for recourse to doublings for the woodwind section – one of the set’s many glories – to be fully audible even in the scores’ busier passages.

Unlike Mackerras and other more recent conductors, Ticciati omits the exposition repeats in the First and Second symphonies (but not the Third), following to the letter the approach of the great Brahms conductor and director of the Meiningen orchestra Fritz Steinbach (1855-1916), whose conducting of these works Brahms greatly admired. It also enables Linn to present the works in chronological order, with Symphonies 1 and 2 on CD1, and 3 and 4 on disc 2, so that the listener can readily savour Brahms’s steady growth from the titanic struggle of the First Symphony, through the pastoral landscapes of the Second and the intensely personal Third to the assured reforging of the past in the Fourth.

Antiphonally divided violins are nothing new in Brahms symphony recordings these days, but the SCO players are really on their mettle in those passages – notably in the First and Fourth symphonies – where Brahms exploits this, and it is in these more forthright outer works that Ticciati is arguably at his strongest. (There are few more magical moments in music than the sound of a period Viennese F horn in the Alphorn melody that crowns the slow introduction to the finale of the First Symphony.) That’s not to say that the Second and Third are lesser performances: the SCO players clearly relish their colours and the opportunities for more individual expressivity, and there is much to admire here, not least in glorious, intermezzo-like middle movements of the Third.

Again like Mackerras before him, Ticciati has clearly learnt much from the performance practice of Steinbach, as transmitted by Steinbach’s pupil Walter Blume, although he focuses on different details, such as the imprecation to press onwards at the closing cadential passage that ends the exposition and recapitulation of the First Symphony’s finale. Other localised instances of ‘elastic’ tempi, many worked out in collaboration with the SCO players in the course of rehearsals and performances, serve as ample demonstration that Ticciati has embraced the principle of expressive tempo modification that Brahms is known to have advocated.

Where this set will perhaps divide opinion – and in clear distinction from the Mackerras cycle – is the use of minimal vibrato by the strings, combined with frequent use of portamento: the technique of sliding between certain notes on the string. Both techniques are idiomatic to historically informed Brahms performance, and Ticciati has clearly learned much about the former in particular from the pioneering work of Sir Roger Norrington. This gives a decidedly ‘period’ feel to these modern-instrument performances, as does the ‘shaping’ of the timpani pulse at the outset of the First (the hand of Norrington again). Passages like the opening of the Fourth Symphony, where the SCO violins most clearly apply portamento, will certainly prove ‘Marmite’ moments for many: you’ll either love them or hate them. Yet it’s definitely worth taking time to live with these performances, which consolidate the achievements of Mackerras and Norrington – two of recent musical history’s most significant Brahmsians – and combine them with the SCO’s superb musicianship and Ticciati’s unmistakable imagination and energy, to create a cycle that really is worth celebrating.


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