Hidden from small

In Good Company: Beethoven, Ravel, Petrassi, and Noseda

November 17, 2016

One of the great things about talking to conductors is that sooner or later they’ll start singing. The other day, Gianandrea Noseda was discussing his upcoming concerts with The Philadelphia Orchestra (November 25-27 in Verizon Hall; for tickets and more information click here). The program concludes with Beethoven’s beloved “Pastoral” Symphony and we asked Noseda to describe the essence of this great work. “Well, I think what sets the atmosphere of the whole work is really those first bars. They have a simplicity, which is not banality. It seems that the Symphony has already begun before we start playing it!” And then: “Bah dah dah dah, dah-dah- dah.” Perfect.

Vocalizing about Beethoven aside, Noseda is a musician with a mission: He wants a wider audience for certain Italian composers whose music you may never have heard. Last year he led the Philadelphians in the U.S. premiere performances of Alfredo Casella’s Second Symphony. This time, he’s very high on Goffredo Petrassi’s Partita, which opens these concerts.

Partita (written in 1932) is based on three Baroque-style dances: a galliard, a chaconne, and a gigue. Petrassi made his first big splash with it, winning two composition prizes. Shortly after its completion, the Partita was performed by the Berlin Philharmonic. But Petrassi fell out of favor during the Fascist period; by the time World War II ended, his music had become less accessible.

Now however, Noseda says Petrassi is undergoing a renaissance. “It’s nice to present the music of a really not-well-known composer, who I have to say from my perspective is a really great one. His musical language speaks to the heart of the audience before getting to the mind of the audience. I’ve been performing the Partita with several orchestras in several different countries, and it’s been well received, partly because there is this very tonal element, but it’s also very adventurous. There is an attempt to really connect to audiences, to try to communicate something espressivo.

“You can see in Petrassi’s Partita a young composer. It’s his first orchestral piece, but he’s very skillful, with great craftsmanship. He is really masterful despite his young age [he was not yet 30]. It’s also incredible because he uses the saxophone in a very old-style Baroque way. There is an incredibly sophisticated piano part in the third movement. The variations are really incredible. It’s almost like a concerto for orchestra, very challenging. But of course The Philadelphia Orchestra has whatever is needed to give a good account of this piece!”

This substantial program also features Alexander Toradze performing Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major. “He’s incredible, fantastic, with a very fresh approach. Nothing eccentric! A very narrative approach to the piece.”

And speaking of the piece, Noseda’s description of it might be considered a bit eccentric (it features more singing). “It’s a very famous piano concerto, with all these jazzy elements. The first movement is just a joy, like a divertimento. The second movement is very pure, like a black-and-white movie, which I like. And the third movement—it’s very cartoon-like. It gives me the impression of Bugs Bunny playing a rhapsody on the piano!” And the maestro is off, singing like Bugs to get his point across.

Noseda will probably confine his Verizon Hall singing to rehearsals … but rest assured, he (and the Orchestra) will be molto espressivo!