The Old Ludwig Van…

photo credit: James Holt

Various Works 
The Seattle Symphony
Benaroya Hall, Seattle

It's 7:55 pm on a Saturday at Benaroya Hall. The audience saunter to their seats as a steady stream of musicians trickle onto the stage, joining their tuning colleagues. The lights dim. The acknowledgments about First Nation lands are made. Conductor John Edusei raises his baton. We begin.

Starting with "Con brio" by composer Jörg Widmann, this playfully percussive piece was designed to reference Beethoven's symphonies. Instead of being utilized for accent alone, drums here rule with Eric Schweikert leading from his commanding timpani through a disjointed maze of aggressive rhythms. Amidst the jolting movements, woodwind players blow into their instruments sans mouthpieces (a device called "extended techniques"), adding exciting and sometimes comical textures. Posing a stark contrast to the melodic majesty of Beethoven to follow, it is always fascinating to hear the work of a contemporary composer who is still among us.

Then there was Beethoven, specifically "Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major" (a.k.a. "Emperor Concerto"). And so enters the heart-wrenching sounds interwoven with the pulse of the human soul. Pianist Steven Osborne demonstrates the strength of a gentle touch. Seething with an energy that wants to explode, Osborne masterfully releases the fire inside him with the intense precision of a steady stream. With the final note of each solo, he physically pops back from the ivory keys as if propelled by an unseen electrical charge. The piano solos work with the rest of the orchestra in a sort of call-and-response manner, with Osborne lying down a theme and the orchestra then offering their interpretation. This concerto lives up to its common name, possessing more grandeur than most of the crowned heads of European history. Conductor John Edusei navigates these three very different pieces with seeming ease and is hypnotizing as he leads with an evident love for the music he cradles.

The program ended with "Ein Heldenleben" or "A Hero's Life" by Richard Strauss. This was the first time I've had the experience of wandering in and out of the music while listening to The Seattle Symphony. I don't believe this was any fault of the musicians, but rather some disconnect between my ears and Strauss. Powerful moments drew me back in, and Concertmaster Noah Geller plays his violin with great force and passion, yet I struggled to remain continually connected. I will leave it at that.

In the end, it was yet another fantastic night at Benaroya Hall, and I remain enthralled with the emergence of this new relationship in my life and all the beautiful sounds it brings.

Add new comment