Schumann - The Symphonies
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Cat No: CKR450
Number of Discs: 2
Release Date: 19th January 2018
ArtistsScottish Chamber Orchestra
'Schumann: The Symphonies' sees Robin Ticciati and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra embark upon their first symphonic cycle together in a programme that they performed in concerts across Scotland.
This is music that is very close to Robin Ticciati's heart - he describes Schumann as one of his favourite composers and has often spoken about how important poetry, colour and story are to Schumann's music.
Symphony No.1 'Spring' blazes and sparkles with joy, Symphony No.2 finds its way carefully through to the safe haven of its final movement, the much-loved Symphony No.3 'Rhenish' moves with huge ease and assurance to a resonant and joyful conclusion.
Symphony No.4 is radical in the way each movement attacks the start of the next movement with barely a pause, and in its minute-and-a-half-long, shimmering and horn-call-filled transition to the finale. Under Ticciati and the SCO it is magnificent, the radical, soaring, disturbing and exhilarating symphony Schumann intended.
The SCO's smaller forces bring a lightness of touch and a clarity to the counterpoint. Under Ticciati they achieve a sense of movement that no previous recording has.
Robin Ticciati's recordings have received many accolades: Critics' Choice 'Sound of 2012' (The Independent), 'Classical CD of the Week' (Sunday Times), 'Disc of the Week' (BBC Radio 3 'CD Review'), No.3 in The Sunday Times' Best Classical Albums of 2012 list and 'Recording of the Month' (Gramophone).
Gramophone named Robin one of the top ten young 'conductors on the verge of greatness' and one of 'Tomorrow's Icons'.
‘Ticciati's account of Schumann's Fourth highlighted rare gems of orchestral colour.’ - The Guardian
'Ticciati's conducting is warm and vivid, and his textures translucent...' - BBC Music Magazine
‘One of the striking facets of Ticciati’s conducting and the SCO’s playing is the clarity and detail that spring from the score’ - Gramophone
The Europadisc Review
These are good times for Schumann's symphonies – works that used to be treated with some disdain for allegedly heavy-handed scoring. No longer! Last year we gave an enthusiastic welcome to the late Claudio Abbado's splendid account of the Second Symphony with his Orchestra Mozart, and there have recently been some fascinating complete cycles from Yannick Nezet-Seguin and Simon Rattle, as well as (looking a little further back) Thomas Dausgaard and Fabio Luisi. And now Robin Ticciati and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra join the growing throng in these marvellously detailed and stylish performances, recorded in Perth in November and December 2013.
Despite the sniffiness of many critics, Schumann's orchestral works have never been short of champions on the podium: think of Szell, Kubelík and Sawallisch, to name just the greatest. In recent decades, the adoption of period performance sensibilities has lent transparency and vibrancy to what were once regarded as problematically opaque scores. For many, David Zinman's recordings from over a decade ago with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra paved the way, but the spirit that really hovers over these new performances is that of the SCO's late Conductor Laureate, Sir Charles Mackerras. In 1999 he gave a sensational live cycle of performances with the SCO including not just the Symphonies (including both versions of the Fourth) but the three Concertos (violin, cello and piano) and the Overture, Scherzo and Finale to boot. Sadly those performances has never been released on disc, but Ticciati's rather more contained cycle (just the final version of the Fourth, and no extras) is still a wonderful tribute to the late maestro who, in many respects, was the SCO's spiritual father. (Indeed, these recordings were partly supported by the SCO Sir Charles Mackerras Fund.)
Ticciati is rather more interventionist than Mackerras was wont to be: more liable to indulge in occasional rubato, and even portamento (the string technique of sliding between two notes), to 'shape' phrases or highlight unexpected textural details, pushing cross-rhythms urgently onwards. It's a tribute to the SCO's musicians that they bring off these challenges with such extraordinary stylishness, finesse and agility. With Viennese horns, period brass, gloriously prominent woodwind, and strings making sparing use of vibrato, textures are astonishingly lean, and tempi consistently vital.
The First Symphony (the 'Spring') positively sparkles, as does much of the more introspective Second, in which even the fragile yet ardent Adagio – sublime woodwind solos and all – has an inexorable feel to it, while the closing pages swing along resplendently. In the 'Rhenish' Symphony (No.3) the syncopations of the main theme open out with brilliant clarity: does any other symphony hit the ground running in quite the same way? Brass and timpani cut through the textures like a knife. The rich sounds of the moderately paced Scherzo are relished, and the solemn, brass-led fourth movement has just the right momentum for a processional, before the mood lifts for the sunny finale.
In the Fourth Symphony, Ticciati and his players dispel any thought that Schumann's 1851 revision might have resulted in a thickening of textures. Details of scoring leap out at the listener, and phrasing is vividly shaped. The Scherzo's Trio is delightfully relaxed, and the mysterious introduction to the finale ends with the boldest of timpani thwacks, before launching nimbly into the movement proper, which is whipped up to a thrilling conclusion.
The recording is well up to Linn's customary high standards, and there are useful and extensive notes by D.H. Lawrence expert and Schumann enthusiast John Worthen. All together a fine offering from one of the jewels in Scotland's cultural crown!
1Symphony no.1 in B flat, op.38 - I. Andante un poco maestoso
2Symphony no.1 in B flat, op.38 - II. Larghetto
3Symphony no.1 in B flat, op.38 - III. Scherzo
4Symphony no.1 in B flat, op.38 - IV. Allegro animato e grazioso
5Symphony no.2 in C, op.61 - I. Sostenuto assai
6Symphony no.2 in C, op.61 - II. Scherzo
7Symphony no.2 in C, op.61 - III. Adagio espressivo
8Symphony no.2 in C, op.61 - IV. Allegro molto vivace
9Symphony no.3 in E flat, op.97 - I. Lebhaft
10Symphony no.3 in E flat, op.97 - II. Scherzo
11Symphony no.3 in E flat, op.97 - III. Nicht Schnell
12Symphony no.3 in E flat, op.97 - IV. Feierlich
13Symphony no.3 in E flat, op.97 - V. Lebhaft
14Symphony no.4 in D minor, op.120 - I. Ziemlich langsam
15Symphony no.4 in D minor, op.120 - II. Romanze
16Symphony no.4 in D minor, op.120 - III. Scherzo
17Symphony no.4 in D minor, op.120 - IV. Langsam
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