Dindo, Noseda, & the PSO: Pathetic Beauty

The January 11-13, 2013 concerts with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra marked Cellist, Enrico Dindo’s Heinz Hall debut with guest conductor, Gianandrea Noseda playing the second Shostakovich Cello Concerto. The Shostakovich second, we don’t hear it quite as often as the first. The fact that his first cello concerto is more popular could simply be because it is more showy—the virtuosic part of the cellist and the less complicated orchestra part. It is simply more of an immediate crowd pleaser. The second concerto is more gloomy and the character more introspective. The cellist and orchestra parts are exceedingly virtuosic, for in order to truly maintain the character intended, the orchestra and the conductor have to explore and produce a bare sound which is quite difficult and dare I say, frightening.

The Shostakovich Second Concerto is a very special piece; 1966 marks the world premiere with Mstislav Rostropovich. Dindo’s understanding of the piece was greatly enhanced, after receiving first prize and winning the Rostropovich competition in Paris in 1997, and personally having the opportunity to talk with Rostropovich about this work.

What Dindo does is the height of artistry, to absorb the work so fully that the expression of it reaches beyond the senses and cuts to the listener’s emotional core. When the cello’s first gloomy note glides through the air bearing anonymity and therefore curiosity, the listener is electrified by its ineffable mystery. Dindo’s complex, intriguing delivery of that note — and of every note in the piece — was well beyond technical excellence.

The concerto is full of many variations of quantity and quality of sound. The language is unusual. It’s the language of the last period of Shostakovich which sounds like his last two or three symphonies. At the end of his life he was very sick and there is a lot of sense of humor in the piece which is a big contrast—humor and death together. An example would be the beginning of the concerto—solo cello, low, slow notes, the dynamic piano. On the lighter side, the 2nd mvt. is a lively dance and full of many unusual instruments (much percussion and two harps). With the very large orchestration Shostakovich required for this work with the crowd of strings, it just showcases the imagination he possessed. The orchestra is called upon to play piano much of the time, but is simply not a task even with such large orchestration for the phenomenal PSO.

The orchestra, led by Maestro Giandrea Noseda, was a beautiful partner in this artistry. It is a delight to watch as Dindo listens intently to the music, beams at the players and coaxes unparalleled sounds from his instrument.

The audience simply exploded when the piece was over. PSO crowds are always friendly, but Dindo and Noseda were called back repeatedly and with enthusiasm. When it had settled a bit, an encore was presented that got the auditorium fired up again.

Dindo played Bach’s Allemende in E Major. In my opinion if one can not only play, but convey the sacred and pure aspect that Bach’s work lends themselves to, then one has arrived at the pinnacle of music making, and Dindo most certainly has.

Dindo does not use the music to establish himself, but is simply devoted to the music and what a joy for Pittsburgh to have him as soloist.

Shostakovich’s Second Cello Concerto and the Bach encore ended the first half with a vigorous palate cleanser that set the stage for the PSO and Noseda’s sublime performance of Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony.

Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7 is absolutely fantastic, one of his greatest creations. The color of the symphony, D minor is one of Dvorak’s most passionate works, with the ominous rumble deep in the basses in the beginning. The haunting main theme explodes with developmental possibilities. The music rapidly grows in intensity until a climax is achieved when the main theme bursts forth in dark splendor from the full orchestra. The tension subsides to allow the flute and clarinet to present the lyrical second theme. The 2nd mvt. opens with ethereal serenity. Absolute pathetic beauty elicits from the strings. The 3rd mvt. is one of the very famous Dvorak Scherzos, and I could not refrain from smiling, not only in my heart, but actively as were the musicians on stage.

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