Otello – Sinfonia
I Capuleti e i Montecchi – Sinfonia
Macbeth – Ballabile
Carmen Giannattasio (soprano), Marianna Pizzolato (mezzo-soprano), Yijie Shi (tenor) & Roberto Tagliavini (bass)
Edinburgh Festival Chorus
Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Sir Antonio Pappano
Reviewed by: Gregor Tassie
Reviewed: 6 August, 2016
Venue: Usher Hall, Edinburgh
In recent times it has come about that one of Scotland’s orchestras has had the honour of opening the Edinburgh International Festival. Now this year, under Fergus Linehan’s leadership, the mantle has passed to Italy’s leading ensemble and its music director Antonio Pappano. In this the first of two EIF concerts, the Santa Cecilia musicians showed why they are among the best, with beautifully fluent strings, expressive woodwinds and gleaming brass and percussion of great precision. It was thought-provoking to note the overwhelming membership to be of Italian lineage, something unusual in today’s global music industry.
This year’s Festival is celebrating Shakespeare. The first pieces in the Roman musicians’ concert are based on the Englishman’s literary canon.
In the opening to Rossini’s Otello of 1816, the strings played a bubbling idea followed by a delightful one on the oboe of Paolo Pollastri, which was picked up by the marvellously dulcet tones of the violins, antiphonally seated. In another episode the clarinet of Alessandro Carbonare introduced an upbeat theme and the rest of the orchestra carried it on in an almost fugal passage before closing gloriously. During Bellini’s Sinfonia to his opera based on Romeo and Juliet, in the macho-like music, the brass section was prominent in celebratory invention that transforms into martial invocation with the entry of percussion.Verdi’s ballet-music from Macbeth, which graced the Paris premiere, was in contrast with the earlier Overtures through its darkness and heightened dramatic pulse. Pappano’s conducting sculpted superb shades and harmonies, the orchestra showing its virtuosity in etching the score’s tragedy.
It was in Rossini’s Stabat Mater that the orchestra revealed its fullest master; together with four outstanding vocal soloists and the Edinburgh Festival Chorus we heard world-class music-making.
In the introduction the choir rose slowly from the depths, the ladies sublime in intonation. In the tenor aria, Yijie Shi was engagingly heroic. Later, Marianna Pizzolato displayed darkly hued colours whilst Carmen Giannattasio was a little mannered. Roberto Tagliavini illuminated his sole contribution and, throughout, the contribution of the EF Chorus was magnificent and with a variety of dynamics. The work’s conclusion was rousing.
- Broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Monday September 12 at 7.30 p.m.