Seattle Symphony performance a rich Russian meal
 

Seattle Gay News
Mobile Edition
rss: SGN Calendar For Mobile Phones http://sgn.org/rssCalendarMobile.xml



SGN ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT SECTION

SGN Mobile Front Page



MOVIE REVIEWS
CALENDAR
NORTHWEST NEWS CALENDAR
CLASSIFIED

click here to go to the main SGN website

 

posted Friday, November 13, 2009 - Volume 37 Issue 46

Seattle Symphony performance a rich Russian meal
by Rod Parke - SGN A&E Writer

Leonidas Kavakos
with the Seattle Symphony
November 7
Benaroya Hall


This concert began with some light sorbet, warmed up to some very hot soup, and ended with a full, meat-and-potatoes meal. Indeed, the opening "Symphony No. 3" by Alexander Borodin (a chemist by profession) carried no emotional content whatsoever. Its folk-like melodies were charming, and the orchestration was sufficiently interesting to please nearly everyone. Borodin, whose second symphony is much more often played, died before completing the work, leaving Glazunov to finish the second movement from sketches. Schwarz and orchestra gave it a lovely reading, full of life and nuance.

The hot stuff came in the form of violinist Leonidas Kavakos, who played the Tchaikovsky violin concerto. I can safely say that I have never heard it better. His tone had a searing intensity that made Benaroya Hall resound, even when the notes were very soft. (Not since a young violinist from Siberia, Maxim Vengerov, played four of the six Ysaye sonatas here have I heard this kind of sound!) Of course, the instrument Kavakos played was partly responsible (he plays both a "Strad" and a violin by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini), but it is the musician and his ability to project that carries the sound forward to the audience. In this, he could not be excelled.

But more impressive than his incredible sound was the artistry with which he brought this warhorse alive. Even though there was nothing overtly strange about his attacks, it seemed nonetheless as though he were pausing before many of the phrases, thinking it over, before he began. Every line was fresh and vivid. Again, it was amazing to hear how he could make even the softest sounds heard clearly. And the loud passages were white hot! The virtuosic turns were sent flying through the hall like sparks. He truly deserved the standing ovation he got.

While the Tchaikovsky is full of passion, it is lightweight compared to the "Symphony No. 15" of Dmitri Shostakovich. His last symphony, written in 1971, is a fantastic mixture of playful and mournful moments, as perfectly reflected in the direct quotes from the gallop in the "William Tell" overture and, later, from one of the death themes from Wagner's RING.

Shostakovich is an acquired taste, and those of us who have acquired it know that Schwarz can be counted on for absolutely first-rate performances. This was no exception. All the playful, ironic wit of the first movement was perfectly balanced with the truly grand darkness of the despairing looks at mortality that came later. The Seattle Symphony trombones and tuba made death utterly attractive with the unsurpassed warmth of their glorious sounds. I could have died all night in their embrace!

It's in the slow, quiet moments that Shostakovich tests his audience. These probing, painful excursions into a kind of madness (or is it bliss?) require a willingness to give the composer plenty of time. One can't be in a hurry here, and Schwarz gave it everything it needed to sustain the flight over these depths.

Much of this great work can be read in polar-opposite ways. Russian composers at this time (1971) were under frightening pressures from the Kremlin, in part to write uplifting music. Shostakovich seems to use brilliant irony to have it both ways. Many of us see the dark side winning here; terror and despair dance with ironic playfulness until the jaunty percussion literally unwinds in a fizzled-out ending.

This symphony seemed at times like a concerto for orchestra, giving many section leaders a chance to shine. Eric Gaenslen, currently the guest principal cellist, first trombone Ko-ichiro Yamamoto, and timpanist Michael Crusoe were standouts, as were Ben Hausmann (oboe) and Scott Goff (flute). But so were Seth Krimsky (bassoon), and most especially concertmistress Maria Larionoff, whose important solos were perfection. Gerard Schwarz wove all these into a seamless fabric, sustaining the slow arcs and bringing lightness, brilliance and wit to the brighter moments of temporary relief in this final symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich.

Reviewer Rod Parke can be reached at rmp62@columbia.edu.



next story
Cherdonna & Lou a diamond in the rough
------------------------------
Rufus Wainwright's electric performance at Benaroya Hall
------------------------------
Albee's poetic Zoo Story joined by prequel
------------------------------
Great cast in intriguing Bone Portraits
------------------------------
Seattle burlesque performer fundraiser
------------------------------
A Dyke About Town: Met broadcast and Sweet Cruise
------------------------------
SGN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Opus playwright Michael Hollinger
------------------------------
Seattle Symphony performance a rich Russian meal
------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------
Cappella Romana's exciting, unfamiliar music
------------------------------
Precious director Lee Daniels' twisted tale
------------------------------

------------------------------
Fourth Kind leaves one questioning the skies
------------------------------

------------------------------
John/Joel, KISS, Clarkson all arrive in November
------------------------------
Q-Scopes by Jack Fertig
------------------------------
PNB stages 'Director's Choice,' Rep opens Opus
------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------
Deep Inside Hollywood - Romeo San Vicente
------------------------------

------------------------------
Book Marks
------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------
Rufus Wainwright plays Benaroya Hall - 'One of the great talents of his generation'
------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------

------------------------------
 
search SGN
SERVING SEATTLE AND THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST FOR 36 YEARS!