That’s how our very good friend guest conductor Gianandrea Noseda describes the experience of conducting the Philadelphians in Rachmaninoff’s beloved Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, during his second week on the Verizon Hall podium this season (November 27-28).
Noseda isn’t exaggerating. Rachmaninoff famously said he composed with the sound of The Philadelphia Orchestra in his head; when the Orchestra premiered the Rhapsody in 1934, the composer was at the keyboard (Leopold Stokowski conducted).
Noseda, the principal conductor of the Teatro Regio di Torino, promises to add some Italian flavor to the upcoming concerts, “because the variations are on Paganini themes … and I’m Italian, too. We have a Russian (Rachmaninoff), Italian, Philadelphians (he chuckles) … and we have a pianist from Macedonia (Simon Trpčeski). An incredible mixture of things!”
Noseda has worked with Trpčeski several times, and is thrilled to be sharing the stage again. “He has fantastic hands; he’s a virtuoso of course. But the virtuosity is always in the service of the music. It’s not just being able to play all the notes, but to convey and deliver the composer’s message.”
Not surprisingly, Noseda says he’s honored to conduct the renowned Philadelphia Sound. “There is a very refined sound in the strings, an incredible sense of legato. The woodwinds and the brass have the same kind of culture. It’s about finding the meaning behind the notes. It’s a very sophisticated way of producing sound.”
Italians round out the bill. Noseda opens the concert with the delightful overture to The Thieving Magpie by Rossini. And he’s also featuring the U.S. premiere of the Second Symphony by Alfredo Casella.
The fact that this work has never been played in the U.S. seems surprising at first. As Noseda explains, Casella spent a lot of time in this country in the first third of the 20th century; he even conducted the Boston Pops for a couple of seasons. (And, fun local fact: He guest conducted the Philadelphians in his Pages of War: Five Musical “Films” for Orchestra in 1921, and he also performed as piano soloist with the ensemble in 1921 and 1923, playing Mozart, Franck, Albéniz, and his own A notte alte. In addition, his Concerto romano was inspired by the Wanamaker Organ.)
But Casella’s sympathy with Italy’s Fascist movement “caused a sort of veto on performing his works there. Now, decades after World War Two, we can concentrate on his musical values.
“His music is just spectacular. He can connect with the audience very easily. He’s very sophisticated, very refined; there’s great craftsmanship in his musical structures. So hopefully this premiere will be a great surprise, both for The Philadelphia Orchestra, and for the audience.”
Gianandrea Noseda conducts The Philadelphia Orchestra on November 27 and 28, featuring piano soloist Simon Trpčeski in Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini; the Overture to Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie; and Casella’s Second Symphony. For more information, please click here.)
Photo by Sussie Ahlburg