Recipe for a successful 9-city European tour:
1 National Symphony Orchestra
1 Maestro Gianandrea Noseda
2 renowned and well-loved soloists, Hilary Hahn and Seong-Jin Cho
3 big works, 2 concertos, and 2 openers

Mix well, offering different menus at each venue and enjoy!

The National Symphony Orchestra is on the road! The tour is previewed Monday, February 12 at Carnegie Hall with Gianandrea Noseda leading a performance of 3 pieces which will be featured in Europe: Alban Berg’s Three Pieces for String Orchestra from the Lyric Suite, Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto with soloist James Ehnes, and Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony. The Orchestra will then set off on their 9-city European tour, performing variations on this program from February 16 to the 28th. 

I asked Maestro Noseda how the NSO chose their touring program:

Gianandrea Noseda: We were focused on presenting 2 or 3 big pieces in the second half--very important signature pieces. The Shostakovich 5th symphony goes back with the National Symphony Orchestra, at the time of Slava Rostropovich, they performed this piece constantly, and so it is connected with the orchestra and also with me because I served as principal guest conductor at the Mariinsky [in St. Petersburg, Russia] for ten years between 1997 and 2006, and so it is a piece close to me.

Nicole Lacroix: Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony is also featured, as is Schubert’s 9th, the “Great.”

GN: [We chose] Beethoven because after the cycle together (the box set of the NSO’s Beethoven recordings is released Friday) it is important to present not only at the Kennedy Center but outside, what is the quality, the level of thought behind Beethoven.

Schubert is a spectacular symphony. It’s very good for touring because it doesn’t require a big, big number of players, but as a symphony it’s great—THE GREAT. 

So all the symphonies give an impression of what we achieved in 6 ½ years together. 

NL: What about the solo concertos?

GN: We asked the soloists we tour with, Seong-Jin Cho and Hilary Hahn. We had a conversation on the phone with Hilary and she wanted strongly to do the Korngold Violin Concerto. It’s a concerto I adore, so it was not difficult to convince me. And with Seong-Jin, he wanted to play Beethoven (4th Piano Concerto) on this tour, so I thought, let’s go with it. 


The rest of the formula, the 2 openers, includes works by Kennedy Center Composer-in-Residence Carlos Simon and Alban Berg’s Three Pieces for String Orchestra from his Lyric Suite. Simon’s Wake Up! Concerto for Orchestra was co- commissioned by the NSO and the San Diego Symphony for the opening of their new concert hall. It borrows percussion from metal pipes used in the hall’s construction and takes inspiration from the film music of Erich Korngold as well as a Nepali poem about waking up to the world’s needs. On tour, it will be featured in the programs containing Shostakovich’s 5th symphony. The Washington Post wrote: “One of the reasons [Shostakovich’s] Symphony No. 5 made such a thoughtful bookend to Simon’s wake-up call is that both composers share a sense of bothness—an ability to say two things at once, thread angst through merriment, smiles through tears...There’s a bit of a cinematographer and choreographer to this composer, and “Wake Up!” put his many sides into thrilling simultaneous motion.

Gianandrea Noseda agrees: It’s important to present a new piece composed by an American composer who is associated with the Kennedy Center.  It’s not a small piece. It’s substantial. 

The composing hand of Carlos is particularly easy in finding the way to connect with the audience, to convey the message. It’s an important message, “Wake Up!”

We also take with us 3 pieces for string orchestra arranged by Alban Berg taken from the Lyric Suite which is in 6 movements.

All in all...that gives an impression of Vienna: Berg, Korngold (even if Korngold composed the concerto when he moved to America), Schubert and Beethoven and there are other elements that combine American and Russian, there is a variety like in a buffet to have different options. Altogether, it’s very compact 2 ½ programs, it’s not 9 or 10 pieces. At least we have 3 big pieces, 2 concertos and 2 openers (we also prepared some encores of course).

NL: Maestro Noseda was enthusiastic about the soloists, Hilary Hahn and Seong-jin Cho:

GN: You get to the point where you have a very close relationship. [Hilary and I] don’t have to talk too much about pieces. We just see each other 20 minutes before the rehearsals. We just build up the performance on the spot. It’s a joy, and I’m super happy that Hilary is a recipient of the Avery Fischer award, that she’s recognized and has a huge number of followers on social media. She deserves that.

As for the piano soloist, Seong-Jin is a miracle. He seems to me like Hilary Hahn 20 years ago. That kind of talent. So bright and intense and semplice, not artificial. They are perfect artists for touring, because they are collegial, they are team workers. If you have a dinner, they come to dinner. They are particularly nice and good to travel with.

NL: Members of the NSO have kindly agreed to send reports from their journey back to WETA Classical. “Postcards”, as Maestro Noseda called them. 

GN: It’s nice to inform what is going on in other places, how the audience reacts, why you could see the Last Supper in Milan because you were there or you could taste a particular wine that’s not in America yet...To have a particularly good coffee because in Italy, I can assure you it’s better! 

Buon viaggio a tutti!

Tour program:

February 12 
Carnegie Hall 
James Ehnes, violin

Alban Berg 3 Pieces from the Lyric Suite
Erich Korngold Violin Concerto
Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 3, “Eroica”

February 16 (Barcelona), 17 (Zaragoza), 18 (Madrid)
Hilary Hahn, violin

Carlos Simon, Wake Up! Concerto for Orchestra
Erich Korngold, Violin Concerto 
Dmitri Shostakovich, Symphony No.5

February 19 (Madrid), 21 (Berlin)
Seong-Jin Cho, piano

Alban Berg, Three Pieces for String Orchestra
Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Concerto No.4 
Franz Schubert, Symphony No. 9, the “Great”

February 22 (Nuremberg), 23 (Frankfurt)
Hilary Hahn, violin

Alban Berg, Three Pieces for String Orchestra
Erich Korngold, Violin Concerto 
Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 3, “Eroica”

February 24 (Cologne)
Hilary Hahn, violin

Alban Berg, Three Pieces for String Orchestra
Erich Korngold, Violin Concerto Shostakovich
Dmitri Shostakovich, Symphony No. 5

February 26 (Milan), 28 (Hamburg)
Seong-Jin Cho, piano

Carlos Simon, Wake Up! Concerto for Orchestra
Ludwig van Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 4 
Dmitri Shostakovich, Symphony No. 5

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