Robin Ticciati & SCO - Brahms: The Symphonies - Financial Times
Brahms: The Symphonies — ‘highly rewarding’ The Scottish Chamber Orchestra revisits Brahms’ symphonies 20 years later with a new-found flexibility.
It is 20 years since Charles Mackerras made his groundbreaking recordings of the Brahms Symphonies with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. That kind of lean and hungry Brahms, influenced by ideas from period performance, was controversial then and still sounds quite hard-driven now. As his parting gift after nearly a decade in Scotland, Robin Ticciati has decided to take the SCO back to Brahms. A set of the four symphonies is the result — how considerate of Brahms to ensure that they fit so neatly on to two discs — and these recordings take Mackerras’s clarity forward with a new-found flexibility and affection. Elements of period performance style in Brahms have become more frequent in the past 20 years, so what we get here is no longer cutting-edge. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra uses traditional instruments, albeit with 19th-century Viennese horns and small-bore trombones, and it is primarily the smaller number of strings that gives these performances their lithe vitality. In place of autumnal Brahms tinted with deep reds and russet browns we have Brahms in the springtime, lit by light, fresh beams of sunshine. By this point in their relationship, Ticciati and the SCO know each other so well that they have every slightest detail at their fingertips, illuminating phrase after phrase with new meaning. For anybody who is open to an alternative view of Brahms this is a highly rewarding set of the symphonies, well played and well recorded. Ticciati’s willingness to let the music breathe is his key virtue and it is that which ultimately gives his performances their distinctive character — a living, breathing, younger man’s Brahms, ready to win new hearts.