Having won acclaim for his recent recordings of French repertoire, Robin Ticciati now turns to the music of Anton Bruckner.
Ticciati is well suited to conducting Bruckner with an approach that is both “expansive and revelatory” (The Guardian).
Having already performed this work with the Bergen Philharmonic and Vienna Symphony Orchestras, Ticciati returned to Berlin to continue his recording series with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester.
Bruckner broke new ground with his Sixth Symphony; its meandering harmonies, intricate rhythms and imaginative instrumentation are coupled with contrasting moods and a theme that moves satisfyingly from dark to light.
Occasionally overshadowed by the more familiar Fifth and Seventh symphonies, the Sixth has many extraordinary moments, including the astonishing Scherzo.
Notably this was the first work that the self-doubting composer did not seek to revise.
Ticciati describes this symphony as “wild, daring and risky”, a perfect pairing for this engaging and charismatic conductor.
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A young man's Bruckner for the Millennials
Robin Ticcicati (British by birth, but of Italian background) is a young international conductor whose every new recording is of interest, as in "What will he do next"? (Others include Gustavo Dudamel and Teodor Currentzis).
Ticcicati's recording career kicked off with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (of which he was Principal Conductor from 2009 to 2018), in a well-received Berlioz series and the symphonies of Schumann and Brahms. Since taking over the Deutsche Symphony Orchestra of Berlin in 2017 he has made lovely recordings of French repertoire with them (mainly Debussy and Ravel). Now he enters the hallowed world of Anton Bruckner.
Bruckner's symphonies are regarded as music to be left to elder statesmen: men of the Klemperer and Karajan variety, whose authority underlines the grandeur and solemnity of these monumental works. Bruckner left few indications of expression in his scores, so rubato has been laid on thickly over the years. Recently a younger school has eschewed this tendency, choosing to speed up the pace (even in the adagios) and clarify textures.
There is something to be said for a less reverent Bruckner, and Ticcicati is saying it. Following the wistful opening passage he launches into the allegro of the first movement as if it were an opera overture, and predictably does not dawdle over the strings' lyrical second theme. The later brass fanfare figures are more about urgency then grandeur: Ticcicati presses forward where others sit back. I compared this to my favourite version of the symphony (Riccardo Chailly conducting the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam): Ticcicati's first movement runs 14:23 to Chailly's 17:05 - a huge discrepancy. Ticcicati is also a minute faster in the Scherzo (the shortest movement in all Bruckner's symphonic output), but swiftness suits this strangely off-kilter march. Perhaps he misses the spiritual depth of the Adagio, but he moulds it with care and the Berlin strings are suitably tender. His faster Adagio is at least consistent.
Overall, this is a performance for the busy 21st Century listener. Ticcicati makes a convincing case and was no fool to start with Symphony No. 6, the least known of Bruckner's mature symphonies. I still love Chailly's recording - with the Concertgebouw at hand Chailly can afford to indulge himself - but Ticcicati is undeniably exciting, not least in the finale. He doesn't take this music for granted. That's what counts. 4.5 STARS