My perception of the recent two concerts, both conducted by the Italian Maestro Gianandera Noseda was like attending a mini festival celebrating interplay of Italian and Russian modern music. If anyone would have asked me about a motif to such a program I would have expected it to embrace passion. Instead, wit, playfulness and drama took center stage.
At first glance, these themes were not as evident on the program of the first concert considering the chosen composers: Respighi, Prokofiev & Srtavinsky. But as the concert progressed, I became aware of the mischievous thread in Prokofiev’s ‘3rd Piano Concerto’ than ever before. I am sure that Respighi’s ‘Burlesque’ with its light hearted wit was the culprit… I even perceived Bronfman’s
piano performance as taking exceptional pleasure in bold notes and dry
humor leaping from lyrical, brooding themes to a conclusion of
Listening to Stravinsky’s ‘The Firebird’ without the
visual ballet sceneries and the need to follow the story line, brought
me closer to the playfulness even rowdiness at times of the music.
Leaving the concert hall, it occured to me that having Respighi introducing the Russian composers might have been an additional ammusig reminder coming from an Italian Conductor: Respighi studied orchestral music with Rimski-Korsakov,
traveling to freezing Russia from the warmth of his native land… At
least he kept his sense of humor! Or even better: brought back with him
a dose of Russian jesting.
The following concert was devoted entirely to Italian music all of which was new to me: Bruno Maderna’s ‘Music of Gaiety’, Luciano Berio’s ‘Folksongs for Solo Voice & Orchestra’ and Ottorino Respighi’s ‘Roman Festivals’. From the titles I expected high spirited music but a thread of lyrical tunes kept me from "a promise" of constant joy.
Maderna’s adaptation of songs from the 16th Century, Berio’s collection of songs in the folksong genre and Respighi’s musical
depiction of Roman celebrations through history, evoked a full range of
emotions rooted in the experiance of everyday life, especially so when
listening to Dawn Upshaw’s sparkeling voice, singing in a multitude of languages, rendering each folksong a unique mood and color.
Interestingly, Respighi’s ‘Roman Festivals’ concluding the concert, validated my perception of a PSO "Italian – Russian Festival". If these two cultures seem at first far apart, their deep rooted vigorous temperament strikes the same cord.