From February 16–28, Gianandrea Noseda will lead a nine-city European tour, his first international tour with the NSO, and the orchestra’s first since 2016. The NSO will visit some of Europe’s most important concert halls performing for audiences in Spain, Germany, and Italy, joined by pianist Seong-Jin Cho and violinist Hilary Hahn.
Recently, I sat down with NSO music director Gianandrea Noseda to talk about the upcoming tour. He said he wanted to take a small group of orchestra members to a certain dive he knew in an alley in Zaragosa, where they had the best tapas and wine...I hope he holds to his promise! He added that the Zaragosa Auditorium where the orchestra will be performing has some of the best acoustics in the world. The NSO will be playing in 9 extraordinary and historic concert halls during the trip. Barcelona’s Palau de la Musica Catalana is an incredibly opulent art nouveau jewel, and a UNESCO World Heritage site, while Madrid’s National Auditorium is a modern marvel. In Germany, the shadow of World War II’s destruction lingers—Frankfurt's Alte Oper of 1880 was bombed, but rebuilt one hundred years later, saving “Germany’s most beautiful ruin.” The Cologne Philharmonie is an ultra-modern amphitheater with marvelous acoustics, and plush seating designed by Recaro, maker of sports car seats! The newest venue, the Elbphilharmonie or “Elphi” in Hamburg, resembles a sail hoisted on top of an old brick warehouse. It made Time Magazine’s “100 Greatest Places of 2018.”
But the landmark that is closest to Gianandrea Noseda’s heart, of course, is in his hometown of Milan...the historic Teatro alla Scala. He says he studied there at the conservatory and conducted the orchestra. But to bring his American orchestra to perform there is a special pleasure. Built in 1778 (in Mozart’s time) with the approval of Austria’s Empress Maria Theresia as Lombardy was under the Hapsburgs at the time, La Scala served many purposes, including a gambling casino, where sometimes the horse racing betting in the pit would drown out the music! Horribly, La Scala was also damaged by bombing, but it was rebuilt in 1946 with a concert conducted by Arturo Toscanini. A major renovation took place in 2002-2004, and Ricardo Muti conducted the inaugural work from 1778, Antonio Salieri’s Europa riconosciuta. Of course, one cannot think of La Scala without remembering Verdi’s association with the great hall where he conducted his Requiem and gave the premieres of Otello and Falstaff.
Gianandrea Noseda said that one of the primary benefits of going on tour was to develop a sense of community, of discovery, and of sharing great music in beautiful spaces. The sheer variety of these concert halls, their individual beauty and history, their patrons’ perseverance in supporting the arts despite war and destruction, is inspiring. WETA Classical will be bringing you “dispatches” or what Maestro Noseda aptly calls “postcards” from each location. Stay tuned!
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