Beethoven, Piano Concertos / Sonatas (inter alia), R. Lupu, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Z. Mehta
Part of the problem with Lupu's performance of Beethoven's third piano concerto was dashes of technical weakness, slips heard most prominently in the first movement. The phrasing, as usual, was impeccable, and the slow movement was reverential, with a bewildering array of gradations of soft and radiant in Lupu's tone (right from the startling piano-only opening bars -- revealing the unusual choice of E major for the second movement, a surprise after the C minor conclusion of the first). Another part of the problem was the somewhat contrary and very forceful approach of the evening's guest conductor, Gianandrea Noseda, in his NSO debut. There was a reoccurring tug of war between the orchestra, Noseda, and Lupu in the concerto: as the solo sections opened or closed, Lupu often conducted with his left hand, direction that principal cellist David Hardy was more focused on at times than Noseda's beat.
Noseda seemed intent on wringing out every possible decibel of urgency from the orchestra. Having apparently spent rehearsal instructing the players to hammer every sforzando and give every phrase equal, excessive force, he practically foamed at the mouth in his gestures, a whirlwind of grinding, slamming movements. This love of speed -- very little quarter was given to tempo flexibility -- and strength of tone recalled Noseda's connection to Valery Gergiev and his time apprenticing in Russia, but it made for some very loud and fairly empty-headed renditions of the other two pieces on the program. The overture to Smetana's The Kiss -- heard here for the first time from the NSO -- was assaulted to within an inch of its not very substantial life.
Anne Midgette, Conductor Gianandrea Noseda's NSO debut: A mixed performance (Washington Post, February 11, 2011)
Andrew Patner, Skill on the podium and at the piano for CSO concert (Chicago Sun-Times, February 25, 2010)
This concert will be repeated this evening (February 12, 8 pm), in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.