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Ionarts-at-Large: Noseda's Stereofantastic Verdi-Vienna Requiem

Outgrowing its inaugural home of Munich, the classical music recording industry fair “Classical:NEXT” took place in Vienna this year… as good an excuse to travel east to the Austrian capital as there is. Once there, however, it was a decision between attending the opening ceremony with a chat by Daniel Hope or a Verdi Requiem in the Konzerthaus, featuring the Teatro Regio Torino Orchestra in its Austrian debut under their music director Gianandrea Noseda. (Gianandrea Noseda, it might as well be mentioned, is the least Italian looking of all Italian conductors: he really looks like he should be called Anker Magnus Oswaldson, or Lothar von Haukmannsthal, instead.)

available at Amazon
G.Verdi, Missa da Requiem,

available at Amazon
A.Casella, Cto. for Orchestra, A Notte Alta et al.,
G.Noseda / BBC Phil. / M.Roscoe

Needless to say that I opted for music over chatter. But the music, inauspiciously, began (before it began) with an annoying high pitch hum—perhaps lighting or AC… louder than the gorgeous pianissimo to piano entry of orchestra and chorus. A particularly pity, because Noseda’s opening was as gentle as lowering a rubber ducky into the bathtub without disturbing the water… wholly peaceful as if to sweeten expiry and subsequence descent (or ascent) to the afterlife of (lack of) choice. The hum subsided, although when exactly was impossible to tell, because for a good while the ear-splitting choral fortissimos drowned everything out, anyway. The orchestral entries of the Teatro Regio Torino Orchestra (disciplined strings, colorful woodwinds, secure brass) were soft as butter and precise like some other clichéd metaphor (your pick). With ferocious and furious fervor, the musicians easily violated a handful of EU directions of workplace decibel-exposure in the overwhelmingly direct acoustic of the Konzerthaus with its distinct stereo sound-imagery. Trumpets from the left and right behind the orchestra buzzed in like angry, proletarian Vespas in Napoli.

Rather than perfumed and operatic, of darkly-sulfurous (as my hitherto favorite live performance with Gergiev), Noseda’s Missa da Requiem was theatrical and direct, and overwhelming—full of choral excellence but with an orchestral performance that now makes me reconsider my carefully constructed and dearly held stereotypes about Italian Orchestras all being a bit rubbish. He didn’t even need the singers to make a special impression for this night to have become one of most impressive music performances of the year. That was good, because certainly mezzo Sonia Ganassi (fully engaged and very  sincere…), Francesco Meli (sounding, like almost every tenor in this part, like nothing so much as a vuvuzela), and Ildar Abdrazakov (oddly drained of color and meatless) didn’t contribute much beyond whatever was needed not to distract from the overall quality. (The tricky unaccompanied vocal quartets usually sound more approximated than exacting, and so they did here.) For the very cheap pun, I should have liked to add that the soprano Kirstin Lewis, jumping in at short notice for Barbara Frittoli, paled in comparison to her colleagues… but she ruined this by inconveniently excelling—particularly in her exposed closing sections. No surprise, really, because she did impress me much the same when she took on Munich’s Aida (also replacing Frittoli) in 2009.

Almost two hours and a short diagonal skip through Vienna’s Stadtpark to the Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) later, the opening speakers at Classical:NEXT were still talking heavily accented English to the poor delegates who looked seriously under-wined and over-spoken-to. My ensuing Schadenfreude only further heightened the joy of the preceding Verdi experience.

Edited to reflect that Noseda is not leaving the Teatro Regio Torino any time soon.