Robin Ticciati Introduces the Brahms Series

Robin video

It gives me such joy to introduce you to our Brahms Series, proudly sponsored by Baillie Gifford.

We at the SCO invite you all to join us on a journey through the music of Johannes Brahms – his Symphonies and German Requiem. This final concert, with Matthias Goerne and Kate Royal as soloists, marks our Chorus’ 25th anniversary and will be the first time this piece has been
performed by the SCO.


The challenge, and the thing we are really excited about, is to find a Brahms sound with the Orchestra. To find something so unbelievably dark and yet steeped in counterpoint and Bach. We want to find something that leaves people longing for the next instalment, and you can be certain that’s what we’ll be feeling.

In Brahms we have an inward and highly intellectual composer. Never before had, or possibly has, a composer been so acutely aware of what had come before him. A learned figure who risked a first symphony of precise classical structure ten years after Wagner’s Tristan was written. Yet, it was Schoenberg who labelled him as a progressive, a revolutionary, and a composer who changed music forever. Where shall we put him? How does one approach such a compositional mind? Questions like these are endless, but what we do know is that Brahms brought the Classical symphony (with all its canons and counterpoint) into the Romantic era and that is precisely the reason why the SCO have an affinity and a reason to engage with these pieces – practical choices such as the small string section (we know he argued against supplementing the 48 players in the Meiningen orchestra for a richer sound world), period brass and timpani, and a knowledge of the composers that came before him, are just some of the ingredients that go into an interpretation for our ears of today.

Brahms SeriesFar away from Berlioz’s wild but precise orchestration or Schumann’s febrile palette, these absolutely Germanic-sounding symphonies are revolutionary from within. There is no hysteria but Brahms calls upon a unique grasp of harmony, counterpoint, rhythm and an unflamboyant, intimate orchestration to present us with a distinctly autumnal world of orchestral colour. Rather than the instrumentation itself, it is Brahms’ treatment of the instruments that gives us such an intellectual and emotional response to the music. Whether one chooses to look at the technical mastery of how he bases, for example, the entire second symphony on one four note motif or in the case of the fourth symphony his treatment of Bach’s Cantata 150, each symphony has its distinct voice that allows one to come for an evening and be totally immersed in the romance
of what it is to love, suffer and love again. We have his immense struggle to arrive at the first symphony in the looming shadow of Beethoven and attempts that ended up as serenades and a piano concerto; the ‘hovering black wings’ of the second symphony ending in the blazing hope of D major; the final tragic farewell to his beloved Clara Schumann in the third; and the seemingly abstract summation of symphonic form in the fourth.

As with everything we present for you, we hope this in-depth journey into Brahms’ orchestral world will inspire you to come with us, search, celebrate and be moved by this extraordinary character.

Robin Ticciati,
Principal Conductor

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Brahms two faces