This concert saw Gianandrea Noseda, more usually found at the helm of the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester, making a guest appearance with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.Although generally following the traditional concert format of overture, concerto and symphony, Nosedas programme was notable for featuring two rarely heard works by Verdi and Strauss.
Verdis Ballbili (dances) were written for the French premiere of Otello in 1894, a concession to the fact that Parisian audiences rather liked their operas to have ballet sequences. The dances are not normally included in performances of the opera today, but their brevity, colour and vigour make for an ideal concert opener. Noseda brought an ideal blend of energy and effervescence to the performance of Verdis lively score.
The soloist in Dvorks B minor Cello Concerto was Enrico Dindo, an Italian musician who was for many years principal cellist in the Teatro alla Scala Orchestra. Dindos performance was sensitive and poetic, but he often seemed outshone by the accompaniment, not just in tutti passages but also by the characterfully played solos by horn, woodwinds and first violin. The highlight of the performance was the sublime passage towards the end of the finale, where the music slows and Dvork pays tribute to the memory of his late sister-in-law, Josefina. Here at last was evidence of a true creative symbiosis between soloist and conductor, with moving results. Elsewhere, however, the interpretation was generally too inconsistent and episodic to be fully convincing.
Richard Strausss creative genius was first revealed burning at full intensity in his tone poem Don Juan, composed when he was 24. Before this, Strauss wrote a variety of works that show a gradually increasing mastery, including Aus Italien, a symphonic tone poem of four movements inspired by a trip to Italy at the age of 22. Although Aus Italien has passages which are reminiscent of Berlioz, Liszt and Tchaikovsky, it also has the sense of Strausss compositional potential bursting to get out, although it never quite does.
Noseda delivered a well prepared and persuasive account of the work, strongly atmospheric in the first movement, ardent and energetic elsewhere. The LPO responded to Nosedas direction with committed playing and a refined, beautifully balanced Straussian sound. If Aus Italien has passages where Strausss thematic invention seems less than inspired, it would nevertheless be difficult to imagine a more convincing performance than this one.