Seattle Symphony attacks Russian masterpieces with fierce energy

The Seattle Times

Two towering works of genius — and a beefed-up, revved-up orchestra to bring those works to life. It’s a recipe for a great concert, as Seattle Symphony audiences discovered on Thursday evening in the first of two performances of the current subscription program.

Music director Ludovic Morlot was on the podium, urging on the combined forces that filled the Benaroya Hall stage to full capacity. They played as if their lives depended on the outcome: committed, vivid performances, full of the fierce energy required by these scores.
In Thursday’s performance, Morlot gave the Stravinsky score a stately reverence that never lost the forward pulse, and he drew out the brilliant colors of the woodwind choirs that changed like the twist of a kaleidoscope.

An unusual feature of the “Symphony of Psalms” is the absence of violins and violas, replaced by winds and percussion, and also by the chorus. Morlot replaced the women sopranos and altos of the Seattle Symphony Chorale with members of the Northwest Boychoir, creating an all-male chorus that sang the psalm texts eloquently. Hats off to Joseph Crnko for the chorus’s excellent preparation.

A loud, cataclysmic orchestral segment is interrupted by a tentative rumination from the bassoon (Seth Krimsky), with commentary from the harps. There were string passages that buzzed like impossibly fast, angry bees, and combined orchestral passages of such overwhelming intensity that the sound levels reached the earsplitting mark.

It seemed almost rude to interrupt that final silence with applause, but it was impossible not to. The quality of the performance, the individual solo work from the musicians, and Morlot’s supercharged conducting, all made this program one of the landmarks of the season.
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