wed 19/06/2024

Mozart's Last Symphonies, SCO, Ticciati, Usher Hall, Edinburgh | reviews, news & interviews

Mozart's Last Symphonies, SCO, Ticciati, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Mozart's Last Symphonies, SCO, Ticciati, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

A mighty trilogy transfigured

Robin Ticciati: back with renewed energy and purposeGiorgia Bertazzi

His transformational Brahms series with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra may have been truncated by slipped disc troubles - he was much missed at Glyndebourne too - but Robin Ticciati is back with renewed energy and purpose. To judge from the brilliant but focused party they seemed to be having with Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony last night, the players are as overjoyed as he is.

There was much to celebrate just in the evening alone: the last symphony came as the cathartic third act of an opera for orchestra which had led us from the majestic 39th into the woods of the radical 40th and out into the light again. Without that startling central departure from the major-key norm, I doubt if the odyssey would have worked as well as it did, though the fresh approach to articulation and style would have left us happy even with three mostly bright symphonies, too.

Manucript of Mozart's 41st Symphony Mackerras, Mozart's greatest champion and one-time tutor to Ticciati towards the end of his life, bequeathed an SCO in fine shape as an ensemble giving us the best of both worlds, the attack and the mostly brisk tempi of the authentic-movement approach alongside the sheen of modern instruments (whiplash timpani apart). Ticciati has gone one stage further with gut strings - all the more amazingly transformed when they put the mutes on in the 41st's slow movement (page from the original manuscript of the first movement pictured above) - and natural horns, wielded with revelatory clarity by the amazing Alec Frank-Gemmill and Patrick Broderick.

Worth their weight in gold, they scythed home the shock of sudden pain in the E flat major 39th's Andante con moto - premonition, in this context, of anguish to come in the next masterpiece - and foregrounded in finale fireworks. The SCO wind, too, even with some new faces this time, are among the world's most characterful. Ticciati always gave them space even at generally fast but never over-pressed speeds, and creatively so in exposition repeats, which always managed to sound different; Ticciati makes much of the drama in a pause for silence, and accentuated that speciality last night. The three minuets' trios all came at a slightly slower speed for expressive space, both clarinets outstanding in No. 39's; when the minuet proper returned, in all three cases, it seemed cause for extra joy, all departments bristling with extra energy held in perfect balance.

Ticcati drives home that Andante is never Largo

The glow, if never the lingering, of a more romantic approach to Mozart than was ever known in the authentic movement's books came in the subtlest of rubato, and lovely violin portamenti to gild phrases in first movements. It struck me for the first time how the G minor work is a proto-Tristan revolution before the great C major's Meistersingerish reassertion of a tradition (Wagner no doubt got the idea of superimposing three themes in that opera's prelude from the astonishing coda of the "Jupiter" finale). Chromatics were effortlessly but still startlingly embraced within the flow of the whole, and when the finale's second theme comes back in the minor, the smoky colours of violas duly amazed.

You wanted to hear that a second time, and with all repeats intact, we got it. Even without them, there are some big-band performances where the conductor takes the lovely slow-movement ideas so lingeringly that you tire of hearing them a second, a third time. Never so with Ticciati, who unlike Bychkov in the disastrously-paced Royal Opera Così fan tutte, drives home that Andante is never Largo.

Always bright-eyed, the playing made us hear the final symphony afresh: not just looking back to Mozart's beloved Bach and his counterpoint, transfigured through the later composer's dazzling individuality, but also forward to the primal energy of Beethoven's Seventh, which Ticciati will be conducting next May. More Mozart's to come, too, in the shape of four masterly piano concertos; but already Ticciati and the SCO have done enough at the start of this season to show that they remain one of the best musical partnerships in the world.


 wot a Bravura review...mille grazie !

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