Maestro John Axelrod's Schumann and Tchaikovsky at Milan's La Verdi
Europe-based American Maestro John Axelrod touched down in Milan to give a program of Cha-Cha-Tchaikovsky's and Schumann's symphonic romanticisms with the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi -- Musical Director Xian Zhang's Grammy-winning kids that shred it down in Milan's southern Corso San Gottardo neighborhood, right by our funky Navigli (and Porta Ticinese where OC goes for her John Richmond and Marithé et François Girbaud fix).
Spinning Schumann and Tchaikovsky, Maestro Axelrod brought out passages of pure, old school-ish la Verdi, from when (now Honorary Director) Riccardo Chailly was around and Carlo Maria Giulini (Direttore Emerito) branded his highly-cherished, burnished sound. Opera Chic was there on Thursday night (there was also a replication last night and there's one more on Sunday afternoon) and listened to the la Verdi kids under the magic of Axelrod's baton (and first violinist Luca Santaniello who, as always, was relentless).
Schumann's Third Symphony was composed in 1850, the “Rhenish”, which is his last (but not the last that was published). Maestro Axelrod gave a majestic reading of the last(ish) symphony, dignified and subdued with a burnished underbelly, a tease of Giulini's mark. At small moments it bordered on sentimental overload for OC's black heart but it was overshadowed by the sweetly woven intricacies of Schumann's notes. The Fifth movement Lebhaft (Vivace) was an unstoppable drive of Axelrod's direction that we last saw during his Lang Lang/Herbie Hancock-Music for the People-tour. When the music calls for it, Maestro Axelrod excels at punching through the score to the most euphoric passages.
Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony, which was written in 1888 (after the composer returned to Russia from tournée where he met both Grieg and Brahms in Germany), is full of delicious discourse on fame and destiny. Maestro Axelrod was attentively and appropriately moody, and was careful not to dwell too darkly in its emo territories. Lovely tempi flourished throughout the four movements in a well-sustained cycle and he gave a assured kick to the colorful last movement -- Andante maestroso; Allegro vivace – in a heroic and turbulent hustle.
With Maestro Axelrod at the helm on Thursday night, la Verdi's orchestra spun gorgeously romantic symphonies in a concert that was an example of what happens when conductor and orchestra work as one. La Verdi -- who had been imprinted under Carlo Maria Giulini's benevolent direction and later conducted by super-maestri like Riccardo Chailly, Riccardo Muti, Lorin Maazel –and since 2009 with Xian Zhang- and we can only hope that Maestro Axelrod, when he's not tied up with his Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire (where he's the current Music Director), can also leave his imprint on Milan’s la Verdi -- through melodic, billowing readings of each movement, the orchestra shadowed him in an organic exchange that we wouldn't want to miss again.