Classical: Do as the Romans do

ORCHESTRA OF THE ACCADEMIA NAZIONALE DI SANTA CECILIA, ROME/CHUNG ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL LONDON

YOU WOULD expect the principal oboe of the Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome, to be a dab hand at Rossinian coloratura - and he was. It fell to him to "voice" the coquettish Italian Girl in Algiers in the overture to that opera - a fitting opener to this two-concert visit from the Santa Cecilia Orchestra and Chorus since the other thing you would expect, indeed insist upon, from them would be the perfect Rossini crescendo. Their conductor Myung-Whun Chung delivered.

But he also delivered (for reasons that I can only imagine were political and/or tied up with sponsorship) the UK premiere of Giorgio Battistelli's Da Pasolini (after Pasolini's film Arabian Nights) - an empty and pretentious piece of Euro-tosh that should never have left the work-desk, leave alone the country.

It was short. That much I'll give it. It was derived from a ballet score - which might at least explain why the music was so entirely gestural: a series of exclamations or "stings" such as might have made it as far as the cutting room floor when the music track was being laid. The unfortunate chorus were pressed into service providing sighing, panting, grunting, chuckling expletives. There were no words, just noises.

Back to the farmyard. And back to Rossini, thank heavens. His Stabat Mater followed the interval to sit in perfect equilibrium with Verdi's Requiem on the following night. Chung moved the Rossini on apace while reflecting long and hard and eloquently over the Verdi.

Rossini's primary response to text was tastefully played down by Chung, its more colourful operatic incursions (Rossini's genuflections invariably deploy a robust "street-wise" tune) felt better integrated, and more in context, than they sometimes do.

Take the opening. No sooner have we "visualised" the "mournful Mother" at the final station of the Cross when the tenor soloist is on the march brandishing the sword of truth in music more redolent of the soccer stadium than the sepulchre. Except that this tenor soloist, Giuseppe Sabbatini, was equipped to finesse even the difficult ascent to a high D flat, coming off it with an exquisitely controlled diminuendo into the next phrase while Chung kept the orchestra's bouncy accompagnamente on the right side of irreligious.

Still, it is amazing how much deeper to the heart of the matter and how much more moving this piece is on the couple of occasions when the chorus is simply, nakedly, a capella. Moving, too, is the dramatic hiatus in the final chorus, which takes us back to the shadowy start - a device Verdi later used when he came to pay his respects to Rossini with his Requiem. Indeed, the Verdi is almost a photo-negative of it.

Chung's performance of the Verdi was the finest I have heard in the capital in quite some time. It wasn't that his chorus or orchestra were especially distinguished - they weren't - but they delivered with a commitment and rightness of colour and cast that felt and sounded fired from within. The force was with them. And with Chung, who tapped boldly into the atmosphere of the writing, expertly maintaining the balance between the devotional and the theatrical.

His account of the "Libera me", the first section to be written, and the section closest in spirit to the Rossini, was thrilling, the return of the soprano's desperate imploration caught up in a firestorm of string tremolandi.

Alessandra Marc was the soprano hellbound for the second of two mighty top Cs. This is a great Verdi voice. It no longer speaks as readily in piano, particularly in the all-important high register.

Indeed, there wasn't nearly enough quiet singing for my money. But for eternal phrases and voluptuous sound, there really aren't too many of her kind around. And she sounded great in parallel with the plangent mezzo, Luciana D'Intino, whose only real problem was an alarming gear-change into her chest voice.

The Russian tenor, Sergei Larin, was virile but paradoxically more effortful in mezza voce, and the bass, Carlo Colombara, lacked resonance. But this is an imperfect world, and this may have been an imperfect performance, but at least it was a real performance, and I, for one, felt all the better for it.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform