Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 - Rimsky-Korsakov: Kitezh Suite

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 - Rimsky-Korsakov: Kitezh Suite

Italian musicians were in demand in St. Petersburg long before Gianandrea Noseda joined the city’s Mariinsky Theatre as principal guest conductor in the late 1990s. Their presence in the Russian city fueled young Tchaikovsky’s passion for opera and surely influenced his later love for Italy, indulged during summer holidays that inspired some of his most lyrical melodies. Those enduring cultural connections surface in Noseda’s gripping account of the composer’s Symphony No. 5 with the London Symphony Orchestra, a radiant performance recorded live at London’s Barbican Centre in November 2019. The heartfelt intensity and precision of the conductor’s interpretation are amplified by glorious playing from the LSO, alive to every nuance in his vision of the piece. Their mutual understanding is no less compelling in the album’s generous companion piece, the Suite from Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya. “To have the chance to record these works with the London Symphony Orchestra is a dream come true,” Noseda reveals to Apple Music. “I’ve been conducting the Fifth Symphony for many years and have developed an emotionally high-charged approach to the whole work and to the melancholic moments in its second and third movements. These elements are reproduced tremendously by the LSO and captured in this recording.” He invites the listener to pay close attention to the symphony’s instrumental solos, which often announce main themes or color a movement’s mood. “Listen out for the opening of the first movement with its two clarinets, the low string section accompanying the horn solo in the second movement, and the bassoon solo in the third-movement waltz. These are integral parts of this symphony.” Noseda’s personal connection to The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh also runs deep. “I attended two performances during the Rimsky-Korsakov Festival on my first-ever visit to St. Petersburg in 1994,” he recalls. “I remember hearing the ‘Prelude’ emanating from the orchestra pit into the darkness of the theater. This was one of the most emotional moments in my life as a listener and as a musician because of the quality, the lightness and depth of the orchestra’s sound. When I received the score of the Kitezh Suite, I began performing it around the world. I think it’s a fantastic work to pair with Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.” Rimsky-Korsakov’s four-act opera, built around an exotic plot that combines realistic narrative with the romance of the supernatural, was first performed at the Mariinsky Theatre in 1907. The Suite, notes Noseda, evokes vivid images without the need for words or stage scenery. “The colorful way he does this in the Kitezh Suite is miraculous. Listen for the depiction of the reappearance of Kitezh from the lake in the fourth section, and you will be mesmerized by the composer’s orchestral imagination.”

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