Yannick’s Italian Program

Philadelphia Orchestra, music director- designate Yannick Nezet-Seguin, cond., Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center,  Nov. 10-12,  2011. Review of Nov. 10 for WRTI, 90. 1 fm.

Francesca da Rimini (symphonic fantasia, after Dante, Op. 32) isn’t a top- drawer opera but the tone poem Tchaikovsky made of it came off magnificently Thursday night when the Philadelphia Orchestra’s music- director-designate steered its gale winds through Verizon Hall. Yannick Nezet –Seguin’s enthusiasm for Dante’s doomed lovers (in that 14th Circle of Hell) was apparent. The instrumentalists over rode the fantasia’s edges of bombast moving from beauty to beauty across storms. The orchestra’s response to its almost-music director was captivating.

Then a shift to thinner textures and shifting moods with Mendelssohn’s Fourth Symphony. (Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90 “ Italian.”). Yannick and the ensemble were agile.

Some of Yannick’s choices for the program bore unavoidable comparison to his Italian predecessor.  “La Forza del Destino” opened the second half, the Verdi overture that Riccardo Muti often played – as encore. It was heartwarming: musical rather than forced. Not all musicians are musical but the ebb and flow of Yannick’s lines reflect his choral strengths – and operatic.

Respighi’s The Pines of Rome concluded. This too made multiple good impressions especially the delicacies from the woodwinds. The drop- down from cacophony to near silence was tremendous by the orchestra.  The glitter and blaze of textures in this programmatic suite is a winner every time. The finale, when the brass positioned from the rear balconies ring out – was thrilling. Perhaps not so fiery a moment as with Muti’s historic return to the Academy of Music but memory does not always serve.

Thursday night’s performance was of very high order. Yannick can  follow Muti,  yes, but he is also walking in the footsteps of Eugene Ormandy. This week’s program has Ormandy all over it and every piece a pleaser.

“He’s  an enthusiastic young fellow,” one woman said of Yannick. “I didn’t expect that.”” In agreement were dozens of Drexel students clearly enjoying themselves. Not music students: Health.

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