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PGC Blog
Accademia Teatro Alla Scala at Princeton University

Ralph Malachowski

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posted by Ralph Malachowski on Nov 1, 2018 10:30am | comments


On Tuesday, October 23, 2018, Princeton University Orchestra presented Accademia Teatro Alla Scala, with Ivan Fisher, conductor, at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall. 


Their fascinating program included the Overture from La Gazza Ladra (1817), by Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868), Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90 “The Italian Symphony” (1833) by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), and Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64 (1888) by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893). According to the informative program notes by Andrea Massimo Grassi, all three works have a thematic thread, in that all are related to Italy: Rossini, naturally; Mendelssohn’s symphony is called his “Italian” symphony; the surprise may be that Tchaikovsky’s mournful 5th Symphony is said to be expressive of “his deep and rapturous experience of Italy.” This brings a new dimension to the work which has always been thought to present the composer’s resignation to and acceptance of fate. The composer wrote the same himself, so this Italian rapture brings a new dimension for us to consider.


Accademia Teatro Alla Scala is an ensemble composed of young musicians studying under the musicians from the esteemed Teatro Alla Scala. For those of us of a certain age, we wondered if these fresh-faced youths could be up to our seasoned scrutiny. The answer is yes, they were, and easily surpassed all possible expectations. These young musicians were magnificent. Their performances were informed by unbridled dedication, rhythmic verve, and true excitement. The Gazza Ladra overture thrilled from the very outset. That amazing drumroll has never sounded more commanding. The Mendelssohn was played with an uncharacteristic vehemence. No wishy-washy performance here. The grave splendor at times reminded us of mature Verdi, at others of Brahms symphonic works to come. The Tchaikovsky after the intermission was in every respect thrilling. Led by the seasoned master Ivan Fisher on the podium, these young genii played as one body possessed. Climaxes were climactic, while the intimacies of the work were caressed as rarely heard. The challenge of having a large orchestra confined to such an intimate space as Richardson Auditorium did at times seem overbearing, but that could be attributed to our having to hear orchestras in huge barns of concert halls so unlike the theatres enjoyed by most European capitals. Accademia Teatro Alla Scala was a truly exceptional experience on all accounts. The audience acclaim at the published conclusion of the program repeatedly recalled the conductor and orchestra so that an encore was presented, Rossini’s overture to his opera, L’italiana in Algeri. Could such a thing be possible? The encore seemed to be an even finer realization than the other works already heard. Never have our ears heard such melodic splendor. The effervescent work sparkled as it unfolded one ecstasy followed by yet another using tact, taste, and uncompromising technical skill. All of the young men and women deserve praise, from the tireless strings to the indefatigable prowess of the flutist, to the ineffably beautiful sounds from the winds and the horns, to the lone tuba player.


Many thanks to the department of Music at Princeton for hosting the Accademia Teatro Alla Scala while on their 2018 U.S.A. tour. This was one of over one hundred concerts that the Department of Music presents each year at Princeton University. For more information about forthcoming concerts, visit .


For information about concerts at Richardson Auditorium, visit .

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