City Halls, Glasgow

Michael Tumelty

Five Stars

I WONDER if Friday night’s Brahms and Berg programme by Robin Ticciati and the SCO might have been one of the conductor’s finest concerts with his Scottish band? Such things are matters of personal taste, of course, but it did seem to me there were some very special characteristics that set it apart from his regular, high-quality interpretations. And as good a conductor as Ticciati is, I felt he rose above himself on Friday night, in several critical respects.

As a musical dramatist he excelled in his interpretation of Brahms’ Tragic Overture, with which he opened the programme: it’s too dark; it’s too heavy; it doesn’t establish any comfort zone for the listener; and, though we don’t hear it often these days (the very title is not exactly good box office) it’s often too fat. Ticciati and the SCO, in splendid form, stripped it to the bone, made it lean, low-calorie and very Beethovenian in its drama and excitement, and delivered an account of the Overture that seemed whiplash and incisive in its immediacy.

At another extreme, conductor and orchestra provided a lush, high-Romantic accompaniment to soprano Dorothea Roschmann’s voluptuous performance of Berg’s Seven Early Songs, where her singing of two key songs, The Night and The Nightingale, stopped my heart, and where the playing of the SCO was so rich it was like music in oils. It was utterly beautiful.

And Ticciati’s forensic account of Brahms’ Third Symphony, played with stunning responsiveness by an SCO in mind-bendingly innovatory mode (chamber music and symphonic drama to the life) demonstrated an altogether-fresh approach to one of classical music’s most familiar and taken-for-granted evergreens.