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Interview with Robin Ticciati
James Naughtie interviewed Robin Ticciati for BBC Music Magazine's September 2011 issue. Below is an excerpt of the interview where Robin discusses his upcoming season with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and their next recording with Linn Records, Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique. (Symphonie fantastique will be recorded in October 2011 and released in Spring 2012.)
With the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, intriguingly, his focus is not at all on Mozart. Is this because the orchestra's recordings with Sir Charles Mackerras, of which Ticciati is in awe, are so powerful? Perhaps. He's holding himself back on the Mozart repertoire, doing lots of Haydn and exploring, in particular, Romantic music of the earlier part of the 19th century. The orchestra will open its season in Edinburgh and Glasgow in early October with Berlioz (Symphonie fantastique) partnered with Ligeti, and that's Ticciati's stamp: he wants to use the orchestra to take in 20th-century repertoire, but above all to bring to the early Romantics what he calls the articulation and delicacy of classical playing.
‘I think it's why I felt so excited about this life decision - taking on the SCO - because their understanding of classicism is so profound, and I feel very strongly that confronting, let's say, Schubert minuets, or the phrase structures of Beethoven, or Schumann, it's the foundation. You look at a Mahler symphony, or Bruckner - just look at those pages! It's all there. I feel this is what's going to help me become the musician I really want to be.'
Again there's a near-childlike appetite for what lies ahead, but don't be deceived. This is thoughtful. We talk about Mozart. What is the difficulty for a conductor? ‘There's nothing you need to add. It's beautiful enough. You mustn't put make-up on something that doesn't need it.' But that is difficult. ‘How do you get the balance between space and drive? You know, he changes the characterisation - just like that! - in the course of a bar. His chords are so often simple, but before you know it he's taken off for somewhere else. I suppose you're trying to find the colours and let them shine, not being too obsessed by melody, but trying to make sure that it has a kind of text and rhythm - even in moments of horizontal beauty. Oh dear, does that make any sense at all?' What is clear is that thinking about such questions is what gives him energy. He's almost embarrassed at the admission - which comes so naturally - that he's never happier than when he's conducting...