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Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904) Symphony No. 9 in E minor, op. 95 From the New World [44:25] American Suite Op. 98b [22:38]
Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Robin Ticciati
rec. no details of venue or dates provided TUDOR 7194 SACD [67:13]
Robin Ticciati has been the Principal Conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra since the 2009/10 season and the Music Director of the Glyndebourne Festival Opera since Summer 2014. His guest conducting engagements in 2013/14 included appearances with the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. On the evidence of this disc he’s certainly a name to keep an eye on.
With a symphony such as this, recorded so many times over the decades, there is a fine line between taking a neutral approach - allowing the music to virtually speak for itself - and over-interpreting the piece to such an extent that the results can sound eccentric. Ticciati clearly has an ear for inner detail and the articulation and orchestral balance is excellent. Viewed as a whole this is an enjoyable and exciting account of the symphony with the Bamberg winds in especially luminous form. However, there are some interpretive decisions along the way that won’t be to everyone’s taste, especially on repeated hearing. The opening Adagio and the ensuing Allegro molto make for a very dramatic start with clear timpani and a deep orchestral soundstage. The famous flute solo is neatly presented but then the tune is slowed down by the violins on its second appearance and there is a portamento that sounds too contrived. This habit of applying the brakes is a regular occurrence in each of the four movements and it can become tiresome. It also saps the energy from the music and reduces the forward momentum. The exposition repeat is taken and there is a rush of adrenalin at the end which is either over the top or just plain exciting - for me it’s the latter. The Largo features a creamy, gorgeous cor anglais solo, one of the best sounding on disc, but yet again the music sometimes sags as Ticciati overplays his rubato and allows the music to become cloying and sentimental. The third movement has great fire and excitement until 3:15 when the lilting melody on woodwinds in the Trio is surely taken too slowly. It sounds more like a German ländler than a Czech dance. Phrases are also finished off with brief disruptive pauses. The Allegro con fuoco has a really arresting start with its slight alteration to the marked rhythm. Everything goes smoothly until the appearance of the clarinet solo. This is allowed to slow down to such an extent that the musical line is lost but the actual clarinet playing (truly hushed) is outstanding. In summary, this is a well-played and brilliantly recorded New World. The Tudor engineers have given us a natural, detailed recording that is a joy. The orchestral playing is exceptionally fine and despite some interpretative details that for me personally don’t quite come off we clearly have a conductor in charge who has something new and fresh to bring to the table.
The American Suite is played with real charm. There are more examples of the conductor’s use of rubato to be heard but this approach works perfectly in a score that is more allied to dance music than to music with a symphonic structure. The playing is lyrical and loving and there is certainly no want of dash or brio. Compared to the symphony this suite sounds carefree and unbuttoned and the orchestra and its conductor are obviously enjoying their work.
This is a difficult CD to summarise. The suite is superb but the symphony, despite its many attractions, falls short of the best. The playing and recording are immaculate throughout. John Whitmore