IMMEDIATELY after the SCO's concert with Robin Ticciati on Friday night, I bumped into a couple of SCO principals in the street who asked me what I thought of his account of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony.
Without thinking I said it was "exactly what I had expected". As we went our different ways I wondered what I had meant by that spontaneous comment.
The Eroica is a monster. It is an epochal symphony, from the two thunderous chords that launch it, through its funeral march, its whiplash Scherzo and horn-rich Trio, then right on through the boundary-busting finale.
Loading article content
It's the symphony that breaks free from the 18th century and probes the future, in scale, structure, drama and expression. Conductors love it, lavish rhetoric upon it, and give us all a symphonic feast. Robin Ticciati did not do this: by nature he is anti-rhetorical. So what did he do? He took the symphony fast and fleet. Lightness of touch was the order of the night, and he needed an SCO at its most super-articulate to pull it off. He imposed nothing: no persona, no extra weight, no personalised dramatic effects. Everything rose up from within the music itself. What Ticciati did was open it up for his genius orchestra to play it. It was electrifying; one of the young conductor's finest achievements with this amazing band.
The symphony was prefaced by a beguilingly energetic and beautiful performance of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto by Veronika Eberle, along with the potent mix of gravity and volatility that is Berlioz's King Lear Overture. But the night belonged, in equal part, to Robin Ticciati, the SCO, and to Beethoven.