BBC Proms 2017/40: Brahms Tragic Overture / Berg Violin Concerto / Schumann 3 / Scottish Chamber Orchestra / Tetzlaff / Ticciati

Figured I’d take the relatively unusual step of just writing out my notes from last night’s concert, which was utterly brilliant. An easy five stars. Loved it.

Brahms Tragic Overture

Ticciati’s conducting style is efficient. He’s engaged with a seductively smooth technique. Precise when it needs to be.

The scaled down forces of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra mean the band is able to respond to that direction with greater dynamic range. When that’s combined with the delicacy and precision of Brahms’ articulation, the effect is electrifying. It is as though we’re hanging off their every note.

There were some shaky entries from the second violins and horns in places. The balance favoured the bass instruments (which resonated well in the hall), but that also meant I wanted the upper strings to be a little ‘fuller’ in sound in the fortissimos.

That’s reflected in the radio broadcast too – although the resulting ‘rawness’ in sound creates a deliciously visceral sound I rather like in music by Brahms.

Berg Violin Concerto

I adore the mysteriousness of Berg’s Violin Concerto. Studied at A-Level (well, an extract) and found it intimidating, impenetrable, and irritatingly self-important. It was something I needed to understand, but a work the composer didn’t seem to want make very understandable.

Now I hear it and it sounds like a journey into the future. Given that it was written in 1935 makes the sound-world Berg creates (one you’d think we’re all mostly vaguely familiar with by now, 80 years on) still fresh and modern.

During the first movement there are moments when it feels as though we’re wandering through a museum of musical sketches – vague half-forgotten memories emerge and disappear again. An incredibly powerful experience.

The second movement conveys a mild sense of peril (or at the very least, tension). The violin line seems both vulnerable and defiant: a delicate voice that is sure of itself, but way of the world it’s occupying all at the same time.

Tetzlaff plays with panache, adopting a demonstrative style through – necessary for this work – occupying the different character Berg scores for the solo violin.

The SCO plays with an enviable relish. There is passion in their attention to detail, and an infectious self-belief too.

Come the end of the work – the exquisite final chords are to die for – there is a remarkable sense of unity. There’s a palpable sense of resolution, or maybe just resignation?

Thomas Larcher – Nocturne Insomnia

Riveting. Resourceful. Rich. Entertaining. Fun.

Evocative scene-setting. Held my attention throughout. Loved it.

Schumann Symphony No. 3 ‘Rhenish’

A youthful expression of unbridled joy opens the first movement.

Some ensemble issues between the wind and strings in the opening section. Do the wind get ahead or the strings? I can’t quite work it out.

The responsive dynamic contrasts we heard in the Brahms are here again. Ticciati makes the band work hard. The movement has a captivating elegance about it. Ticciati is an incredibly exciting conductor to watch. He creates something really quite life-affirming.

Echoes of Tchaikovsky in the second movement in the main subject played in the wind – silky smooth legato. Effortless pastoral feel.

There is a delicacy to the third movement which is quite remarkable. The bass notes – especially at the end of the phrases – resonate in the hall. There is precision and poise in the playing.

The string players in particular let the acoustic of the hall do the hard work. Not heard many orchestras who make light work of playing in what I’ve always understood to be quite a shitty acoustic.

The darker, subdued fourth movement opens with a gorgeous chorale played by the horns. Rich, warm, and enticing, pulling us into what feels like a more ambiguous musical idea. Orchestration makes me think of Stokowski for some reason.

The concluding fifth movement is sprightly, joyous, and energetic.

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