National Symphony Orchestra/Gianandrea Noseda, with Daniil Trifonov, at Carnegie Hall

George Walker

Sinfonia No.4 (Strands)

Prokofiev

Piano Concerto No.2 in G-minor, Op.16

Stravinsky

The Firebird [complete]

Daniil Trifonov (piano)

National Symphony Orchestra
Gianandrea Noseda


Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 18 April, 2023
Venue: Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York City

Back in Carnegie Hall after four years, Gianandrea Noseda and the National Symphony Orchestra [Washington D.C.] opened with ‘Strands’, George Walker’s single-movement Sinfonia No.4, co-commissioned by the NSO in 2012, in celebration of the composer’s 90th-birthday, which alludes to two spirituals – ‘There is a Balm in Gilead’ and ‘Roll, Jordan, Roll’ – whose melodies are subtly woven into the fabric of the ten-minute piece. Noseda tackled the broad and heavily dissonant outer sections with abundant force and a strong sense of propulsive flow. The slow central section was rendered with great tenderness.

Prokofiev’s fiendishly virtuosic Second Piano Concerto found soloist and orchestra perfectly paired. Bent over the keyboard in a Glenn Gould-like posture, Daniil Trifonov played the opening melody with superbly delicate rubato, growing in sound as the movement progressed and bringing riveting drama to the daunting cadenza. In the bustling Scherzo, his crisply articulated, rapid-fire octaves were completely in sync with the orchestra. In the menacing Intermezzo, his impressive command of dynamics and color conjured up a gripping procession of grotesqueries. But the major fireworks came in the Finale. After beginning the movement with a dizzying display of turbulent motion and vibrant color, Trifonov moved into a dreamier world allowing Prokofiev’s poetic melodies to bloom before bringing the Concerto to an exhilarating conclusion. Through it all his playing was supported by exquisite, exceptionally well-coordinated work from the orchestra. Trifonov offered further Prokofiev as an encore: a charming rendition of the ‘Gavotte’ from Cinderella.

A highly nuanced performance of the 1910 Firebird completed the program. Noseda approached the score atmospherically, emphasizing its many mysterious aspects. The music depicting Kashchei’s garden was wonderfully quiet and evocative, leading into a magical account of the entrance of the Firebird, the twittering piccolo and gossamer harps sounding radiant. The playing was no less compelling in the more energetic segments. The climactic ‘Infernal Dance’ was appropriately fiery and robust, as Noseda kept the varied elements moving at an energetic clip. All the solos deserved praise, but especially Aaron’s Goldman’s jaunty flute, Sue Heineman’s plaintive bassoon, and Abel Pereira’s smooth and brightly assertive horn, and the interplay between oboist Nicholas Stovall, Goldman and Heineman was particularly delightful.

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