High drama at Kensington Gore: Rachmaninov's once-despised First Symphony and Puccini's other "shabby little shocker" Il tabarro, united by the misconception that their sensational reputation belies untold subtlety. Gianandrea Noseda was out to make amends.
His account of the Rachmaninov symphony got off to a shaky start. Noseda wasn't making it easy for the BBC Phil, favouring phrasing that seemed to emulate Rachmaninov at the piano – urgent, free, volatile, with internal rubatos turning in milliseconds. Come the sizzling development, though, Noseda and the orchestra dug deep, his hyperactive marionette manner getting everyone's blood up. No lack of excitement here or in the finale, though something kept us the right side of all-out bombast. Indeed, Noseda seemed intent on revealing the flip side of the symphony, with muted, feathery colours in the scherzo and a pale and interesting take on the slow movement.
There's a lot of that melancholy in the tale of bargeman Michele and his unfaithful wife Giorgetta in Puccini's one-act opera, Il tabarro. "The cloak" of the title, once the symbol of familial cosiness, ultimately conceals the body of Giorgetta's lover, Luigi. But it's a score that abounds in Puccini's most intricate detailing and again Noseda's nose for its evocative half-lights really made one listen. Central to the casting was Barbara Frittoli, a singer who equally draws one in to her confidence. This was a huge venue for her but she found that extra reach for her big money notes, easily squaring up to Miroslav Dvorsky's rough-hewn Luigi.
The real tension in this piece derives from its concision and the idea that Giorgetta and Luigi snatch their illicit kisses "between pain and fear". Frittoli's furtiveness was well-registered; so, too, the softer colours she found in the scene with Michele where we learn of the death of their child. I thought Lado Ataneli's Michele rather ordinary here and fatally low-key in the chilling soliloquy before the murder. Understatement may work in the theatre, but not here – not without the prospect of Luigi's corpse being rolled out at the feet of the promenaders.Reuse content