Gianandrea Noseda returned to the New York Philharmonic for the first time in twelve years, leading off this concert with Rimsky-Korsakov’s alluring music about Russia’s Atlantis, the Suite from The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh, the “Russian Parsifal”, the opera rarely performed outside that country. In 1995 I attended what, as far as I can tell, is the only staging ever to take place in the US – a highly memorable performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music by the Kirov Opera Company, conducted by Valery Gergiev, and featuring Galina Gorchakova.
The Kitezh Suite is replete with allusions and quotations from Russian folksongs, as well as Wagnerian references reminiscent of the ‘Good Friday Spell’, ‘Forest Murmurs’, and – near the end – Rimsky’s own variation on the ‘Dresden Amen’. Noseda drew a seductive and highly dramatic account, full of color and detail, vividly creating diaphanously sinuous textures along with strikingly vigorous moments.
Philharmonic concertmaster Frank Huang was the soloist in Saint-Saëns’s Third Violin Concerto. He created an ideal mix of reflective lyricism and verve, especially in the barcarolle-like second movement. Noseda and the Philharmonic expertly provided a sensitive accompaniment.
The concert ended with a thoughtful account of Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony. Though perhaps less than fully red-blooded in its emotional thrust, the performance had some very moving moments, especially the splendid string-playing in the first movement’s nostalgic secondary theme. And the lovely horn solo that opens the central Adagio and the tender solo violin entry that follows created a haunting mood of Russian nostalgia. The Finale was particularly expansive, but Noseda held the structure together until the exhilarating close.