Robin Ticciati, Karen Cargill, Scottish Chamber Orchestra – Berlioz: Les Nuits D Ete (2013) [LINN FLAC 24bit/96kHz]

Berlioz: Les Nuits D Ete – Cargill, Ticciati, Scottish Chamber Orchestra (2013)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | 1 CD | Digital Booklet | 1.11 GB
Genre: Classical | Official Digital Download – Source: Linn Records

Robin Ticciati cements his reputation as an outstanding Berliozian with his latest recording, ‘Berlioz: Les nuits d’été’, which includes excerpts from Roméo & Juliette and La Mort de Cléopâtre. A pupil of Sir Simon Rattle and the great Berliozian Sir Colin Davis, Robin’s reputation as one of this generation’s best conductors was assured when he was announced as the next music director of Glyndebourne, taking over from Vladimir Jurowski in 2014.

Named one of the top ten young ‘conductors on the verge of greatness’ by Gramophone Magazine, Robin delivers fresh insights and vivid colours into this luminous work.

The recording features Kathleen Ferrier prize-winning mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill, who has sung at the Metropolitan Opera, New York and won acclaim as Cleopatra, a role she reprises here: ‘…the core of this stunning concert was a shattering, heart-rending performance by Cargill in awesome voice.’ (The Herald)

The works of Berlioz have featured prominently in Ticciati’s programmes with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra since he became their principal conductor in 2009.

Ticciati’s recording debut, ‘Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique’, received rave reviews: it was named Critics’ Choice ‘Sound of 2012’ (The Independent), ‘Classical CD of the Week’ (The Sunday Times), ‘Disc of the Week’ (BBC Radio 3 ‘CD Review’) and No. 3 in The Sunday Times’ Best Classical Albums of 2012 list.

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is internationally recognised as one of the finest chamber orchestras in the world with a multi award-winning catalogue of recordings under Robin Ticciati, Sir Charles Mackerras, Alexander Janiczek and Joseph Swensen.

Composer: Hector Berlioz
Performer: Karen Cargill
Conductor: Robin Ticciati
Orchestra/Ensemble: Scottish Chamber Orchestra


Just about everyone, myself included, welcomed Robin Ticciati and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s first recording in their Berlioz series, Symphonie Fantastique, particularly for its smaller-scale approach, keenly focused and not Romantically sprawling, so recalling Berlioz’s Classical influences. This is also true of their second disc, but I found myself asking whether it would work quite as well because in both these pieces the solo voice has such a major role, hardly lending itself, one might think, to such reduction and concentration.

Scottish star mezzo- soprano Karen Cargill, in fact, has a remarkably beautiful voice, full of sunny delicacy and warmth but also capable of Wagnerian dramatics. Her French will do almost as well as, say, Susan Graham’s, infusing innocent terms like ‘des fraises des bois’ with gentle sensuality, while not stinting the anguish of loss and regret. But the orchestral side must not be eclipsed, especially in Mort de Cleopatre’s harmonic and rhythmic contortions (‘Well, she is dying in agony!’ the composer pointed out).

It’s worth remembering, though, that Berlioz’s own orchestras were often relatively small. Ticciati’s chamber forces do make a difference from the sound we’re used to, without disturbing and essential balances. Against them, the brass especially, the voice sounds more at ease and more flexible, no longer competing with full symphonic power; the players in turn underpin Cargill’s performance with more precise shading, especially since the individual instruments stand out more sharply. The overall effect is less potentially controversial than in the Symphony, but still contributes an air of freshness and immediacy which I greatly enjoyed.

1. Roméo et Juliette, Op. 17: Adagio “Scène d’amour” by Hector Berlioz
Conductor: Robin Ticciati
Orchestra/Ensemble: Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1839; France

2. Les nuits d’été, Op. 7 by Hector Berlioz
Performer: Karen Cargill (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor: Robin Ticciati
Orchestra/Ensemble: Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1840-1841; France

3. La mort de Cléopâtre: Scene Lyrique by Hector Berlioz
Conductor: Robin Ticciati
Orchestra/Ensemble: Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic
Written: 1829; France