The Beethoven concerts recorded by conductor Gianandrea Noseda and the BBC Philharmonic attracted a record 1.4 million downloads in the space of just one week back in 2005. Noseda has a reputation as a conductor whose radical interpretations force listeners to reassess familiar classics both spiritually and emotionally. The programme for his concert in Helsinki is certainly enticing, as he will be making his Bruckner debut. The concert begins with Luigi Dallapiccola’s breakthrough Partita, the setting for which is a medieval Latin lullaby.
Gianandrea Noseda (b. 1964) was already a celebrated pianist and composer when, at the age of 27, he turned to conducting in order to acquire a more rounded concept of music. He is known particularly for his attention to detail: “…because I think the beauty is hidden behind the details,” he said in an interview. “It’s one thing to be able to narrate a long-arched story, but you have to be able to do that without losing the details because that gives more spice.”
For many orchestras, Noseda has been a case of love at first sight; this has applied particularly to the BBC Philharmonic and the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) in Washington, which immediately offered him a regular contract after his first guest visit. He began as Music Director of the NSO in 2017 with a contract since extended until 2025. His list of merits could fill a whole concert programme: Musical America named him Conductor of the Year in 2015 and International Opera Awards in 2016 – the year he conducted the Nobel Prize Concert in Stockholm. He also holds the honour of Commendatore al Merito della Repubblica Italiana for his work on behalf of Italian culture.
Swedish lyric soprano Sabina Bisholt developed a passion for music early in life, singing in a choir and studying the cello, but did not plan to make music her career until she entered the University College of Opera in Stockholm. She has sung Mimì (La bohème) and Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) in Sweden, and is known particularly for her performance as Micaela in Carmen – a part she is to sing at the Hamburg State Opera in April. Tonight’s appearance marks her debut both in Helsinki and in Dallapiccola’s Partita. The closing soprano aria with its archaic words provides very different potential for concentrating on the text from arias sung in costume, she says. For the singer in this work is the Virgin Mary, a figure who stands in a league all of her own. The feeling of motherhood and warmth and the richness of detail create a text full of meaning that requires the singer to live in the here and now. And despite being simple, the music is even more difficult to sing than an operatic role.
Luigi Dallapiccola: Partita
Life was not always easy for Luigi Dallapiccola (1904–1975). An Italian looked down upon because he was born in what is now Croatia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he became embittered and in the 1920s supported Mussolini, until his eyes were opened by Hitler’s doings in Abyssinia. He campaigned by writing protest music, and during WWII was forced to go into hiding with his Jewish wife.
Dallapiccola was one of the first Italian composers to heed the teachings of Alban Berg and Anton Webern. His application of dodecaphony – the principle that all 12 notes in the scale are equal – is nevertheless more lyrical and classical than theirs, and he kept far less strictly to the serial mode of composition. A good example of this is his first orchestral work, the four-movement Partita of 1930–1932. Embedded deep in each movement is an archaic motif that, as in the final Lullaby of the Blessed Virgin Mary, expresses his ideals. The other movements are a Passacaglia, Burlesca and Nocturne. The Partita was not available on disc until 2010, performed by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gianandrea Noseda.
Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 9
Anton Bruckner (1824–1896) was still sketching the finale of his last symphony on the day he died. Morbidly pedantic, he worked away at his symphonies for years, editing them again and again. But no sooner had he finished his eighth than he began working on the ninth. “The ninth will be my masterpiece,” he said. “I just ask God that he’ll let me live until it’s done.” God refused. Nine years passed and it still was not finished, and unfinished it would remain. Various scholars and pupils have sought to construct the last movement from the hundreds of bars he sketched, but the symphony is mostly performed in just the three finished movements.
In his last symphony, Bruckner adopted a new approach to harmony that would finally unleash a wave of dissonance in the early 20th century. The overall sound is more severe than in his earlier symphonies, yet still unmistakably Bruckner: the texture is thick, the build-ups slow, and the massed brass thunder. A symbolic death scene is enacted about an hour from the start with a sudden emptiness and a long-drawn-out major chord as if peeping out from behind a cloud