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Powerful performances mark symphony's return

| Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, 10:54 p.m.

Two masterpieces in uncommonly decisive and characterful performances on Friday night provided a powerful resumption for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's BNY Mellon Grand Classics concerts.

Gianandrea Noseda was on the podium for the first of two weekends of concerts, this one also featuring cellist Enrico Dindo in his debut at Heinz Hall.

A former principal cellist of the La Scala Orchestra in Milan, Dindo made the transition to a solo career after winning the Rostropovich International Competition in Paris in 1997.

The Italian cellist showed himself to be an artist of the highest caliber, with fabulous technique to convey all the nuances of his insightful interpretation of Dmitri Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 2.

Shostakovich titled his memoirs “Testimony,” which fits much of his compositional output's commentary on life in the Soviet Union. The Second Cello Concerto was written in 1966 for Mstislav Rostropovich, whose insights into the piece Dindo received in conversations with the legendary cellist.

Dindo must have had more than a dozen kinds of portamento, each with its own emotional orientation. His pizzicato playing was remarkable for depth of tone and variety of character. They served to create an unforgettable musical personality — by turns sullen or angry, indifferent or lighthearted.

Noseda led a comparably distinctive orchestral performance, often in stark contrast to the soloist's mood. The two horns at one point were wild in the best sense. For his part, Dindo was unfazed even by the unexpected — during a solo under a tambourine roll he needed to retune, but did it so smoothly that many people probably didn't notice.

After intermission Noseda led a propulsive account of Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 7 in D minor. The conductor's pacing was mainly brisk, not only in the angular and highly dramatic first movement but also in the Poco Adagio. The Scherzo had its share of waltz charm, but also plenty of forward drive. The finale began a little extra slowly, perhaps surprisingly but in tune with the symphony's contrast of brooding and extroverted (if not necessarily optimistic) elements.

This concert will be repeated at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Heinz Hall, Downtown. Admission is $20 to $35. Details: 412-392-4900 or www.pittsburghsymphony.org.

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877.

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