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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 11, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 06
Seattle Symphony players turn up the heat
Arts & Entertainment
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Seattle Symphony players turn up the heat

by Rod Parke - SGN A&E Writer

Musicians from Seattle Symphony
February 4
Nordstrom Recital Hall


Attendees at Seattle Symphony concerts may not be aware that members of the Orchestra give concerts of chamber music. Perhaps the grandeur of the full orchestra might make the casual symphony audience member regard chamber music concerts as something less than, rather than merely different from, symphony concerts. For whatever reason, many symphony fans seldom if ever attend chamber music concerts. I am somewhat guilty of this habit.

What we miss is music that is undeniably more intimate and often more intense and personal than works for full orchestra. By more intimate, I mean not only the smaller venues usually used for chamber music but also the nature of the music itself. A parallel certainly would be the difference between the music of small jazz ensembles and the futile attempts of larger groups to play the same music with the same jazzy feeling. It can't be done. Likewise, the experience of hearing Schubert's 'Piano Trio No. 2 in E-flat major, D. 929' was utterly different, because so intimate, than listening to any of the composer's works for orchestra.

Okay, so what could be more obvious? But this intimacy can also mean more intensity and a sense of being closer to the composer's emotions. Maybe it isn't so obvious that three musicians can produce a more intense experience for the listener than a big orchestra.

Being in the same room with Artur Girsky (violin), Meeka QuanDeLorenzo (cello), and Oksana Ezhokina (piano) felt like a special treat as they played the Schubert. Yes, the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall, upstairs from the main auditorium of Benaroya Hall, felt more like a cozy room than a concert hall. It was easy to appreciate Ms. Ezhokina's dynamic contrasts and her feathery touch in the lighter piano moments because, even in the last row, we were so close to her. The only reservation I had about this performance was the extremely reserved manner of violinist, Artur Girsky. He seemed more intent on just playing the notes well than on communicating with us (unusual for a Russian-trained musician!).

Benjamin Britten's 'Lachrymae, Op. 48, 'Reflections on a Song of John Dowland' was so new to me that I can only tell you that, as with most Britten, it was brilliant and fascinating. Beginning with quiet dissonance, the viola of Mara Gearman conveyed intense sadness, finally releasing it in the lovely lyricism of the soulful song that concludes the work.

The concluding 'String Quartet No. 3 in F major' of Dmitri Shostakovich knocked our socks off with its daring outbursts and delightful rhythms. This complex work was made utterly accessible by the composer's ironic humor. One could, if hearing for the first time, take the humor at face value and think, 'What a charming piece!' Only the adagio movement demanded one go deeper.

The musicians were more than up to the task, playing with frightening intensity and at times delightful playfulness. Elisa Barston and Mikhail Shmidt (violins) joined our viola and cello players and fired the group to white hot levels of communication. It was a fitting way to end the program, making one almost forget the pleasures that came before. Indeed, a hard act to follow!

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

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