Noseda enters the stage at Heinz Hall and gives a few words to the audience about the upcoming concert. He speaks of De Sabata as a Conductor and specifically about the composition “La Notte di Platon” which was performed this evening. Next Noseda offers praise to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He also remarks that the PSO’s style is very Italian.
The first selection opens with sweeping sounds and transitions to a slow demure selection with a solo from the principal viola. Then the whole orchestra takes over with the dreamy melody accompanied by mystical twinkling background harmony with harps and percussion. The breezy, airy sounds remind me of the ruins of Rome. The music transitions again through several different styles, march-like, playful, big band, and others. When I see that the English title is “The Night of Plato” I start to understand further the programmatic ideas perhaps intended by the composer.
But soft, the jumble of seemingly disjoint sounds has subsided and a slow passage emerges. Grand horns preview laughter and then a march takes over. The music ramps down as the harp and strings return to the earlier romantic theme. Fade out, and the composition concludes like a peaceful sunset.
Next, Benjamin Hochman performs the solo of the Piano Concerto for Left Hand Alone by Maurice Ravel. My friend thinks Mr. Hochman is right handed based on the way he sometimes holds onto the piano with his right hand while playing with his left. I cannot see Hochman’s hand on the keys, but I hear sounds that seem as if they are being played by two hands, and I marvel at exactly how that can be accomplished.
Deep sounds from the woodwinds announce the beginning, as if the arrival of a new day. Daylight appears as other instruments join in. The opening bars of the piano begin – somewhat awkwardly, but as the selections progresses I begin to get into the rhythm which is quite catchy. All in all a very entertaining exercise in left hand only. The audience gave lots of applause, with both hands.
After intermission Noseda and the PSO present Aus Italien by Richard Strauss. It starts well, but the first movement does not seem to be in synch. The conductor and the PSO do, however, find their stride in second movement. Here the sound is pure, synchronized and succinct. It seems to me that Strauss borrows from Strauss, taking flourishes or certain passages from some of his other compositions and reusing them here.
Unlike Beethoven, who seems to start small and develops over and over to form a complex entity in his compositions that are beautiful in their workmanship, Richard Strauss seems, at least in this work, to take bits and pieces and tries to weave them together as if into this hybrid work. This is not to say that I do not like this composition — I do. In the third movement I hear a fragment that perhaps comes from Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks By Richard Strauss. Maybe I’m wrong. Sometimes it is quite easy to place a composer just by listening to a work, I recognize many of the elements that are unique to Strauss. One is the placement of the magical qualities like the harp and percussion in just the way he does. This movement ends slow with pizzicato.
The final movement, Neapolitanisches Volksleben (‘Neapolitan Folk Life’), is based on a melodies that are easily recognizable (by Luigi Denza in 1880). Strauss develops them well in my opinion. As the concert ends, I find myself humming: Funiculì, funiculà, funiculì, funiculà!