Incandescent talent of cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and conductor Ruth Reinhardt shine with Seattle Symphony

Ruth Reinhardt
The Seattle Times

Youth and brilliance are on display in the current Seattle Symphony Orchestra program, which travels from traditional repertoire to an otherworldly 2013 work. The conductor, Ruth Reinhardt, is still in her 20s; the soloist, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, is about a decade behind her, and they both have incandescent talent. 

Reinhardt proved an adept accompanist in the Tchaikovsky, but the rest of the program made it clear that she also is a conductor with strong ideas of her own. The opening work, Schumann’s stormy “Manfred” Overture, got a large-scale, expansive reading that fully realized the score’s furious energy and mercurial character. Except for a few intonation problems, the orchestra was remarkably responsive.
The evening’s novelty, “Ciel d’hiver” (“Winter Sky”) by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, presented an intriguing constellation of sounds that waxed and waned, as delicate pinpoint effects and glissandi grew louder and more complex, finally falling away. Sound clusters alternated back and forth; many of the instruments were muted in places (it’s always fun to see the huge tuba mute come into play, like a party guest with a lampshade on its head). Reinhardt made an excellent case for this unusual work.
Beethoven’s often-heard Symphony No. 1 showed Reinhardt’s imagination and originality in a score where you wouldn’t think there was much room for new approaches. Light, effervescent and crisp, this reading was fleet but never rushed or hurried; the second movement was gracefully phrased with nicely placed accents, and the third was buoyant and full of charm. Reinhardt had fun with the opening of the fourth and final movement, in which the opening theme is presented with a teasing phrase in the violins — just a few notes at first, then a few more, and finally the launch of the whole theme. The finale, with snappy timpani accents, was full of energy and humor. Read the full review here