Familiar Dvořák, unfamiliar Verdi and Strauss
esterday evening's concert at the Royal Festival Hall, given by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gianandrea Noseda, was a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar.
The opener was the ballet music from Verdi's opera Otello. Verdi never wanted the opera to be interrupted by a ballet, but the patrons of the Paris Opera used to insist on one (and not in the first act, for the benefit of the fashionably late arrivals); so he composed a six-minute set of 'middle eastern' dances to be inserted in Act 3 as a welcome for the Venetian ambassador, who is about to witness the explosion of Otello's jealousy. Fortunately practicably no production ever includes the dances, so it's interesting to hear them: pleasant enough, and about as authentic as Ballet Egyptien.
Dvořák's Cello Concerto, on the other hand, is one of the most popular works in the repertoire: it single-handedly established the cello as a solo instrument where previously it had been regarded as unsuitable. It's a gift to the soloist - lyrical, evocative of the composer's native Bohemian countryside, and with an emotional sweep which can hold an audience spellbound. The soloist was Enrico Dindo: I found his tone a little too quiet, and managing to be both slightly muffled and feathery at the same time, but there was no mistaking his commitment to this enjoyable work.
A rarely-heard tone poem by Richard Strauss to finish with: Aus Italien celebrates Italy in the same way (though perhaps less memorably) that he celebrated the Alpine landscape in the Alpensinfonie. Beginning with a quiet exploration of the Capagna region, the music becomes sunnier with its representation of the ruins of ancient Rome and the beach at Sorrento, finishing with a lively festival in Naples - the main theme of which is a version of the well-known Italian song Funiculi Funicula. The work as a whole is less well structured than most of Strauss's other tone poems, but exhibits his usual mastery of complex orchestration. Well worth hearing, and in an excellent performance.
Posted: Thu - April 15, 2010 at 09:14 AM by Roger Wilmut
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Published On: Mar 11, 2016 05:00 PM