Hints of stardom—if only among the singing personnel—were on display at the Grosses Festspielhaus during the performance of the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, one of Italy’s first and arguably best (not that that means much) purely orchestral orchestra. I wasn’t impressed when I had last heard them at their home, Renzo Piano’s gorgeous if acoustically limited Sala Santa Cecilia (under Marek Janowski), and I wasn’t impressed now, with their chief conductor, Antonia Pappano, eliciting little more than world-class mediocrity. The singing was done by Anna Netrebko, Marianna Pizzolato, Matthew Polenzani, and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, and it was done to Rossini’s Stabat Mater.
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
G.Rossini, Stabat Mater,
Pappano / Santa Cecilia / Netrebko, DiDonato, Brownlee, D'Arcangelo
The music itself, constantly interrupted by cell phones (including the bronze-tanned, artificial fingernail-ed Italian critic’s next to me), has beautiful moments… and lots of banality and phrases either copied (Schubert’s Winterreise) or reminiscent of Italian ditties the names of which escape me. The 1863 Petite Messe Solennelle from almost thirty years later offers considerably more enjoyment to these ears. Pappano delivered a performance, though not itself entirely at fault, suited to make the listener feel considerable warmth toward the work’s numerous, often harsh, critics. Trombones (and trumpets) made a lot of noise, but not much beyond that.
Before that came Haydn. There are 103 (technically 105) other Symphonies of Joseph Haydn to chose from, but it was No.104, the “London” Symphony, that made the cut. I’d quibble with the lack of imagination to always revert to this, or one of the other ‘London Symphonies’, when doing Haydn, except I should be (and am) happy to have any Haydn at all at a concert with a regular sized, non-HIP orchestra.
Marred by errant entries, lugubrious sounding strings—shrill above forte—but played with sweet abandon, the first movement was a jovial mess that somehow got a lot of Haydn spirit right… perhaps precisely because of the air of taking nothing too serious and just enjoying the moment. The three next movements, unfortunately, were considerably more casual and unwittingly lulling.