Guildhall Symphony Orchestra/Gianandrea Noseda at Barbican Hall – Rachmaninov 2 – Michael Petrov plays Prokofiev

Symphony-Concerto in E minor, Op.125
Symphony No.2 in E minor, Op.27

Michael Petrov (cello)

Guildhall Symphony Orchestra
Gianandrea Noseda

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: 21 March, 2013
Venue: Barbican Hall, London

A short orchestral opener would have been nice; in this context Shostakovich’s Festive Overture as a bright and breezy starter. Rather it was straight into the concerto, which immediately established the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra’s incisive and ardent response to Prokofiev’s music and to the fired-up Gianandrea Noseda. Benefitting from two weeks of preparation, including tutelage from LSO members, the students of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama started as they meant to go on, with playing of the utmost style and commitment. Michael Petrov, similarly residing at GSMD and previously at the Menuhin School, gave his all – occasionally too much in forcing his tone and volume and with some consequent intonation problems – but with a dedication and authority that was impressive. In Prokofiev’s expansive, forty-minute Symphony-Concerto (written for Rostropovich), with short outer movements enclosing one as long as those two put together, Petrov played with communicative vibrancy and proved himself a dreamer of dreams and a conjuror of illusions, well able to also dazzle in the most-virtuosic of passages and in the middle movement’s stunning cadenza, part of a traversal of electric impetuosity and yearning eloquence, vibrantly and tenderly reciprocated by the orchestra. Characterisation was keenly etched throughout, not least the finale, opened nobly by Petrov, and including a nicely ‘drunken’ bassoon solo from Jamie White and from a finely focussed string quartet.

Gianandrea Noseda. Photograph: Sussie AhlburgRachmaninov’s Second Symphony continued the orchestral magnificence. Quite frankly there was never anything to suggest that this was a ‘student orchestra’; the innocent ear would have easily been led to thinking that this was the LSO itself. The strings, aided by there being seventy musicians (founded on ten doubles basses), were wonderfully rich; agile too, for Noseda set some ‘hot’ tempos, not least in the scherzo, which flew by but without a bow-hair out of place. In essence this meticulously prepared account also had great spontaneity, the young musicians giving their all, and then some. That said, it was all a bit manic at times and exhausting to listen to. Noseda knocked several minutes of his Chandos recording (with the BBC Philharmonic), and for all the waves-crashing-against-rocks and sunrise suggestiveness and carnival atmosphere created, there was little repose, not even in the slow movement, launched by a sensitive clarinet solo from Max Mausen, which might though have been a little quieter.

Noseda rarely if ever let-go, the music intoxicating from the off, the first movement unusually cohesive, making the exposition repeat seamless, and unearthing some dark passions in the development, and also trusting the composer’s ‘solo’ double basses as the movement’s pay-off (some conductors reinforce this with other instruments). But there was something unrelenting too, an intensity that had little modulation, and even became overwrought; yet there was a glorious sweep and much feeling – without the need to lose line and structure. The string size sometimes imbalanced itself against the woodwinds, but it was a wonderful sound. Maybe ‘swings and roundabouts’ sums it up, but there was no doubting Noseda’s ability to inspire and that the playing and dedication were often extraordinary, with no allowances needing to be made.

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