Most impressive was Alexei Tanovitski, a bass who has impressed as Boris Godunov and Ivan the Terrible – his portrait, in Spring, of a husband driven almost to murder by his wife's infidelity was painful to watch and hear, for the right reasons, his voice dark yet bell-like and clear throughout its whole range. - by Adrian Horsewood, BBC Proms, MusicOMH.
Prom 22: BBC Philharmonic/Noseda | BBC Proms reviews 2011 | musicOMH
Royal Albert Hall, London, 31 July 2011
How illuminating to see a different, seldom-programmed, side to Rachmaninov in this concert of vocal and choral (or, in the case of one item, vocal-inspired) works – although we were never quite a whole world away from the familiar aspects of the composer, with his unrivalled gift to spin and subtly vary melodies always present.
Chief Conductor Gianandrea Noseda is stepping down from his post with the BBC Philharmonic after the end of this season, and leaves behind him a staggeringly varied discography with the orchestra, among which are several prized Rachmaninov CDs with tonight's forces.
The Russian choral sound, of which the Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre is an ideal exponent, is unlike any other operatic chorus I've ever heard, and is a very different animal live from on disc. In the expanse of the Royal Albert Hall, I rather feel that at times they sacrificed precision (of rhythm and pitch) for full-throated volume – but what a thrilling sound they make!
In the choral cantata Spring and in the climax of the evening, The Bells, their vivid and gripping singing instantly brought each scena to life, almost blowing us away with the force of the blazing fire in The Bells, and then drawing us inwards and downwards as the final funeral bell tolled away.
However, the Chorus' one moment to shine by themselves – the late Three Russian Songs, written when Rachmaninov was living in the U.S.A. – was less effective, being more a place for choral virtuosity and fleetness of foot, rather than sheer power. The composer wrote for only the alto and bass sections, and I felt that the different possibilities of colour afforded by this weren't explored.
Most impressive was Alexei Tanovitski, a bass who has impressed as Boris Godunov and Ivan the Terrible – his portrait, in Spring, of a husband driven almost to murder by his wife's infidelity was painful to watch and hear, for the right reasons, his voice dark yet bell-like and clear throughout its whole range.
On the other hand, the evening's three soloists, while coming very much from the same tradition as their colleagues in the Chorus, displayed much greater control and variety of expression. Most impressive was Alexei Tanovitski, a bass who has impressed as Boris Godunov and Ivan the Terrible – his portrait, in Spring, of a husband driven almost to murder by his wife's infidelity was painful to watch and hear, for the right reasons, his voice dark yet bell-like and clear throughout its whole range.
Soprano Svetla Vassileva possesses a voice of rare silvery tone, and her control of it was breathtaking – apart from the brief wedding section in The Bells, her moment was in Rachmaninov's famous Vocalise, heard here in the arrangement for soprano and pared-down orchestra. Vassileva was utterly ravishing in this, although the quick vibrato which gives her lower register such clarity did tend to broaden as she went above the stave, sometimes muddying the pitches. Tenor Misha Didyk had the least to do all night, opening The Bells with a dashing sleigh ride through the snow – with the full noise of the orchestra directly behind him, he sometimes struggled to be heard, but for the most part his ringing tones, allied with a captivating, boyish air, had us hooked.
Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic were the driving force of the concert – in particular, in the two dances from Rachmaninov's student opera Aleko, one could see and feel Noseda's visceral connection to the music, as he writhed and stamped and growled while almost physically pulling the sound out of his players. Subtlety was there in spades, too, and exquisite control over every aspect. For this, and everything else, grazie, Maestro.
Prom 22: Rachmaninov | Royal Albert Hall | Concert review | July 31st, 2011 | Bachtrack
From Soprano Svetla Vasseliva's vampish allure to Gianandrea Noseda's warrior- like conducting, Prom 22 was a quintessentially Romantic affair with Russia at its heart. This Proms Choral Sunday, devoted to the music of Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninov, brought impassioned performances from the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra (with Noseda at the helm), the Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre and a hat-trick of Proms debutant soloists. Vocally speaking, precision was sometimes sacrificed to the gods of exuberance, but the rewards were frequently thrilling.
The curiosity of the evening was the two Dances from Rachmaninov's one-act opera Aleko; written when he was still a student, the opera was deemed worthy of a Gold Medal in Composition. The Women's and Men's Dances showed us the raw Rachmaninov; lyrical yes, but not yet mature, or sure in his own voice as a composer. Aleko's story of gypsy love and betrayal gives scope for some spirited interpretation, especially in the full-blooded scoring for strings. Fortunately, Noseda captured its feral youth, literally grunting at the cello and bass sections, who responded with exciting, aggressive bowing.
The opening work, the brooding cantata Spring, has a more sophisticated character. Its restlessness and lively use of percussion reflect its composer's mindset at the time: hungry to write music once more after a three year drought of writer's block and depression. That hunger for music life was expressed in some lively articulation, using rapid crescendos to create wonderful dynamic swells and retreats.
Alexei Tanovitski showed the most finesse of tonight's soloists, his silky Bass voice finely controlled and his performance enjoyably expressive.
The distinctly operatic singing style of the Chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre took longer to get used to. Their full, fruity tone was utterly theatrical – quite different from, for example, English oratorios or motets. Pitch in the Sopranos' upper registers was a grey area, but otherwise the chorus equipped themselves admirably against the BBC Philharmonic, who remain world-class. Alexei Tanovitski showed the most finesse of tonight's soloists, his silky Bass voice finely controlled and his performance enjoyably expressive.
Three Russian Songs were not quite as satisfying; the Chorus' diction all but disappeared in the first. But Noseda showed deep understanding of Rachmaninov's distinctly Russian idiom, coaxing some warm, brooding colours in the orchestral tapestry of folk themes.
We returned from the interval to a little bit of magic. One could say that Rachmaninov had a very personal fascination with the female voice - he had an affair with one young Soprano and mentored another outstanding operatic protégée. The sense of soulful, tragic romance in the unforgettable melody of Vocalise – as if the composer was meditating on a muse – was stylishly conveyed by Vasseliva. She seemed at one with the winding and whistful song without words, perhaps forgetting herself a little too much at times as she tripped up at a couple of technically challenging arpeggiaic phrases. But tonight's audience would have forgiven Vasseliva anything; her voice is unusually sweet, clear and powerful. Indeed, when we came to the final piece, The Bells, that voice, striking stage presence and habit of swaying along during orchestral passages earned her a round of applause after the second of the four poems.
Indeed, The Bells was a triumph for the BBC Philharmonic, Tanovistki and Vasseliva.
Indeed, The Bells was a triumph for the BBC Philharmonic, Tanovistki and Vasseliva. However, Tenor Misha Didyk made hard work of Sliver Sleigh Bells and was the only soloist to struggle to be heard above the orchestra. However, anyone who enjoyed the excellent performance of The Bells, courtesy of Semyon Bychkov and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, at the Barbican back in March could not have been disappointed by Noseda's interpretation. He took us on the emotional and philosophical journey demanded by Edgar Allen Poe's mystical poems with confidence, finally bringing out the Chorus' full vigour in the terse climax of the Fourth movement, 'Mournful Iron Bells'. This final section interposed mournful lyricism (including a wonderfully indulgent French Horn solo) effectively with fraught passion.
The emotional and dynamic peaks and troughs could have been higher and lower tonight, but the subtlety and detail in Noseda's interpretation of each Rachmaninov gem showed both Rachmaninov's endless capacity to excite and intrigue his audience and the conductor's sensitivity to the composer's extraordinary ingenuity.
Prom 22: BBC Philharmonic/Gianandrea Noseda – review | Music | The Guardian
As steps back from the helm of the BBC Philharmonic after nine years, it won't only be his way with Italian music that the orchestra misses; his affinity with Russian repertoire, honed over an even longer stretch as principal guest at St Petersburg's , has been a hallmark of his tenure, too. The first of his two farewell brought the festival's Choral Sunday to a close with a programme devoted to Rachmaninov.
Spring, an early cantata in which Alexei Tanovitski was the velvety bass soloist...
The choir was the Mariisnky Theatre Chorus, whose idiomatic Russian was a bonus, but who often sounded oddly underwhelming in the Albert Hall in a first half comprised of intriguing rarities. That may have had something to do with the music itself. Spring, an early cantata in which Alexei Tanovitski was the velvety bass soloist, is full of evocative writing, but Rachmaninov's mature skill at orchestration was still to come; the players often seemed either to mask the singers or to leave them unsupported. And the fascination of the Three Russian Songs is less in the vocal melodies – flatly delivered by the basses, more beguilingly by the altos – than in the deliciously tangled orchestral web Rachmaninov weaves around them. In between, Noseda drew playing of balletic poise in two dances from Rachmaninov's teenage opera Aleko.
The second half picked up immediately with the wordless Vocalise, sung by Svetla Vassileva with a glowing soprano and astonishing breath control. Then, finally, amature choral masterpiece: The Bells, in which all Rachmaninov's powers of evocation hit their stride. Led by 's penetrating, silver tenor, the soloists soared, the choir bloomed, and Noseda powered the orchestra through thrilling climaxes to the funereal closing bars. Manchester will still be seeing a lot of Noseda – he is retaining a link with the orchestra as conductor laureate, and his driving energy is something it won't want to lose.