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Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique - SCO & Ticciati - SA-CD.net


02 June 2012
SA-CD.net
Polly Nomial
5 Stars

 

Another outstanding release from this astonishingly talented young conductor.

Those fearing that the Scottish Chamber Orchestra forces are too meagre for such an orchestral extravaganza can rest easier, for this is not their ordinary scale (strings are 9, 8, 6, 6, 4) and they strike a good balance between power and transparency. Naturally the string tone is somewhat smaller than in Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique - Davis or Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Le Roi Lear - Janowski but Ticciati elicits wonderful sensitivity from his players throughout the orchestra.

The first movement exemplifies much of what is so exciting about the whole disc: highly flexible and responsive sections, woodwind & horns that aren't afraid of sounding raucous (in a musical way of course) and a tremendous sweep that carries the details into the longer line in a highly natural way. So it is that as the horns enter with their dotted motifs before the allegro, draw attention to the seeming nod that Berlioz is giving to Schubert's (then unpublished & not premiered) "Great" symphony. The dialogue between violin sections is very satisfying too, making the ears giddy at times when trying to keep up the majesty of Berlioz's writing.

The waltz is taken at a conventional tempo but Ticciati grabs every opportunity possible to emphasise the nightmare that lurks behind the scenes of this superficially tranquil movement. The only disappointment is the lack of the optional cornet parts but this is a relatively small matter. The central slow movement is very effectively paced and balanced; after the initial scenes of pastoral stillness, the closer the storm rages, the pulse quickens and together with some inspired restraint the impact of comparatively small forces is astonishing.

The March to the Scaffold gains enormously from the wide dynamic range and the vivid characterisation from the horns and the rest of the woodwind. The bells toll ominously and even the bright fugal section has supernatural undertones evoked by the shrill flutes & piccolos, rasping horns and gnawing oboes & clarinets. The brass and percussion interjections threaten to destabilise at every turn before finally contributing to the extraordinarily odd coda that pits the Dies Irae against the "cheerful" fugue motifs. Unlike many, Ticciati does not push the final bars so the brass argpeggios in the final bars can be heard clearly whilst retaining vigour and excitement. Magnificent.

As an encore, they present the overture to Beatrice et Benedict which shares the same characteristics of performance that make the account of Symphonie Fantastique so vivid and enjoyable. A word on the strings: Ticciati has got them to use vibrato selectively - in tunes it can be found but in tutti chords (and especially accompaniments that are chordal) it is more often than not absent, an effect that allows woodwind to speak easily (crucial in Berlioz). A wonderful alternative to Sir Colin Davis' rightly acclaimed account(s) but in altogether better sound a rather more engaging orchestral palette.

The sound is one of Linn's best efforts too date in the Usher Hall and has a wonderful sense of location for each and every instrument whilst knitting a coherent whole with consummate ease. The transparency of sound allows for the offstage oboe in the Scene aux Champs to be very vivid (not placed to the sides or behind for MCH listeners) as well as the tonal spice that the woodwind and horns offer. The only downside are a couple of moments when the exhortations of Ticciati are caught by the microphones - this will only detract from the enjoyment of the most po-faced listeners though.

Enormously recommended & one of those recordings that makes one listen to a masterpiece in a new light.


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Related Links

Scottish Chamber OrchestraScottish Chamber Orchestra
Berlioz: Symphonie FantastiqueBerlioz: Symphonie Fantastique