Scottish Chamber Orchestra - Les nuits d'ete - Limelight
17 September 2013Limelight
Robin Ticciati's outstanding Symphonic Fantastique
a couple of years ago belled the cat about how Berlioz can sound with smaller forces; this emotional roller coaster, where passion so often becomes an extreme sport lacked nothing in drama and, well, passion in their account.
This current super-audio disc represents Ticciati's latest foray into Berlioz. I listened to this release with a Berlioz expert and asked him not to reveal his reaction until after I'd written this review. When he read it, he concurred completely. We loved both the performances and the interpretation.
The early La Morte de Cleopâtre sees the up-and-coming mezzo-soprano Karin Cargill in quite superb voice. There can be no greater praise heaped on her than to say that not since Dame Janet Baker's recording more than 40 years ago has the work been so successfully and graphically sung. It has just the right degree of histrionic agony as well as plenty of poetic sensuality.
The Love Scene from Romeo et Juliet is the only number which could, perhaps, benefit from the traditional larger body of strings but this performance reminds us that, despite being, along with Wagner, the ultimate romantic composer, Berlioz was far more influenced by Classicism than many concede. It also makes Berlioz's music sound even more incredibly modern than usual.
The real gem on this CD, however, is the famous song cycle Les Nuits de'ete. Here is Berlioz at his most interesting and intimate, a world away from the elephantine excesses of the Requiem and the Te Deum. Every song here is shot through with gorgeous half tones and Karen Cargill misses nothing, savouring every phrase to absolute perfection. Her French is also on a par with Dame Janet's, who also recorded a landmark version of this with Sir John Barbirolli at around the same time as La Morte de Cleopâtre. The orchestral accompaniment is similarly exquisite and alert to every detail. I simply cannot imagine even the best chamber orchestra playing with such luxuriance and at the same time, control, in a previous age.
Linn's recording team has brilliantly captured the proceedings in Edinburgh's Usher Hall. This CD is a real revelation.
Related LinksKaren CargillRobin TicciatiScottish Chamber OrchestraBerlioz: Les nuits d'ete