Classical review: SCO: Schumann Symphony Cycle 1, Edinburgh

The Usher Hall.  Picture: TSPL

The Usher Hall. Picture: TSPL

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It WAS the first concert in the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s ambitious Schumann symphony series. And right from the start, you could feel how much this music meant to conductor Robin Ticciati.

Usher Hall

****

He crafted the evening’s two Schumann symphonies, Nos 1 and 4 (2 and 3 are to come next week), with impeccable care, even shaping their resolute final chords with thoughtful expression.

Melodies were beautifully moulded, rhythms brisk yet supple, orchestral balance – within the band’s period-influenced playing – expertly judged, with bright natural trumpets cutting nicely through the SCO’s velvety strings. It was all exquisitely stylish, yet it seldom seemed calculated – and most importantly, Ticciati never lost sight of the music’s wide-eyed spontaneity.

The orchestra was on fine form, too: principal oboe Robin Williams and principal cello David Watkin joined up for a touching duet in the Fourth Symphony’s slow movement, and the grandly rhetorical opening of the First Symphony made you sit up and listen.

Despite Ticciati’s lightness of touch, though, you got the sense that he was fighting a bit of a losing battle against Schumann’s thick orchestration.

No such worries, though, in the Mozart Piano Concerto No 25, sandwiched between the two symphonies – it was crisp, clean and transparent throughout. . Pianist Paul Lewis’s thoughtful playing was so fragile at times that it felt like it might break. It was a performance to admire, rather than to truly move you.

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