Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique - SCO & Ticciati - The Arts Desk

Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique needs to sound sweaty and vulgar in all the right places. Over-manicured accounts rarely cohere; you need a conductor who's willing to let Berlioz's startling orchestral colours leap vividly off the page. An acid test is to sample the March to the Scaffold. Do the stopped horn notes sizzle at the outset, and do the bass drum thwacks make your speakers shake? Most importantly, how loud are the trombone pedal notes underpinning the cornet-heavy big tune? Robin Ticciati's version hits the spot. Horns snarl, bassoons strut, drums pound and the trombones are suitably leery. In a work usually played by over-upholstered big bands, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra's leaner, crisper sound is a breath of fresh air. They lend the closing Witches Sabbath extra bite and clarity, even if you might crave a bit more wildness in the closing minutes.

Ticciati's patient, expository unwinding of the first movement's opening paragraph is a delight - it's as if you're being drawn into a shaggy-dog story told by an old roué. As is the moment when Berlioz's idée fixé takes wing, clean strings doubled by a wooden flute. Berlioz's ball duly glitters (though without the neat cornet obbligato which he later added), harp glissandi nicely balanced. The central pastorale is expansive but tautly controlled. As a coupling, the overture to Béatrice et Bénédict fizzes as it should. Highly impressive stuff, and the wonderful Julio de Diego painting on the sleeve adds to the fun.

18 August 2012