Robin Ticciati - Scottish Chamber Orchestra - Berlioz: Les nuits d'ete - Infodad

Intriguing mixtures of vocal and instrumental pieces from the 19th century through the 21st grace all of these new discs. The Berlioz SACD featuring the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under Robin Ticciati is the second Linn Records release of Berlioz' music from this ensemble and conductor, after a very impressive recording of the Symphonie Fantastique. This time, Ticciati shows that he has considerable skill in accompanying a singer, and mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill is a wonderful one to accompany. She has a strong, rich, velvety voice that is particularly impressive in La mort de Cléopâtre, composed in 1829 in Berlioz' second unsuccessful attempt to win the Prix de Rome. This is purely occasional music, to an adequate but uninspired text by Pierre-Ange Viellard de Boismartin, but Berlioz makes a marvelous dramatic scene out of it - too dramatic, heartfelt and unconventional for the jury that year, which did not give him the prize (he won it in 1830). Cargill also brings considerable seriousness to the rather slight and thoroughly Romantic poetry of Théophile Gautier in Les nuits d'été, lending the four somewhat dour middle poems of this six-poem cycle more depth than they really deserve. A touch more of contrasting lightness in the opening and closing poems would have been welcome, but Cargill certainly sings those fluidly and with beautiful tone. And for the non-vocal portion of this disc, there is the love scene from Berlioz' sprawling Roméo et Juliette, performed with such warmth and tenderness that it is easy to forget that this is an orchestra of only 44 players - barely half the size of the ones usually heard in this music. What makes it all work is Ticciati, whose affinity for Berlioz is considerable and whose skill in extracting beauty and even sumptuousness from a relatively small complement of musicians is very impressive indeed.

13 November 2013