Edinburgh International Festival music review: Noseda Conducts Mahler (EUYO), reviewed by The Scotsman’s Ken Walton.
I suspect the pairing of Verdi arias with Mahler’s Fifth Symphony by the European Union Youth Orchestra had as much to do with the operatic leanings of Italian conductor Gianandrea Noseda as to whether they actually made sense as a cohesive programme. The other way to look at it is that Mahler, himself, was a major figure of the opera house.
In the event, enjoyable performances were all we were after, and in all but a few instances that was exactly what we got. The Verdi extracts were from dark Schiller-inspired operas, his I masnadieri and Luisa Miller. They featured the soprano Diana Damrau, thrilling and resplendent in her respective heroine roles; and bass-baritone Nicolas Testé, lacking in genuine intensity but capable of beautifully silken reflective moments.
But what wonderful, rich sounds Noseda drew from the EUYO in both overtures, their golden tuttis warm and inspired, topped by immaculate solos and ensemble playing.
That same combination of virtues gave the Mahler all the colour and girth it needed. Noseda took a measured approach, slightly understating the opening movements so that the central scherzo seemed like a euphoric release. The final two movements – the calming Adagietto and the sparkling Finale – were a transformational delight.
Published in The Scotsman on 27 August 2015
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