Concert Reviews | CD Reviews | DVD Reviews | Opera | Early Music | News | Film | Art | Books | Kids

15.8.11

Notes from the 2011 Salzburg Festival ( 9 )

Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia

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.

available at Amazon
G.Rossini, Stabat Mater,
Pappano / Santa Cecilia / Netrebko, DiDonato, Brownlee, D'Arcangelo
EMI
Polenzani sang with very fine, unspectacular voice, vibrato heavy but well judged, playing up the dramatic (or ‘profane’) aspects of this perfectly profane Stabat mater—which made it sound like a bit from Bizet’s Carmen. D’Arcangelo has been heard in worse shape, but securely though he barked out low notes, they came with a pouty, tired-sounding voice with only hints of once-magnificence. Netrebko, looking great on stage with a good bit of extra weight filling out her considerable frame, sang with her beautiful, one dimensional, mono-centered direct voice and with particular urgency in the “Inflammatus” left few desires unfulfilled. I fond mezzo Marianna Pizzolato most convincing, with her strong, malleable voice with fine heights and neatly growling bottom notes—she too, as Polenzani, on the dramatic side of the expressive spectrum.

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.

Photo courtesy Salzburg Festival, © Silvia Lelli