Spokane Symphony review: Beethoven and Belioz performed sublimely as symphony kicks off 77th season

To launch the Spokane Symphony Orchestra’s 77th season in a spirit of optimism and commitment to the power of human creativity, Music Director James Lowe has chosen three works that embody these qualities: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major op. 73 “Emperor” (1809) by Ludwig van Beethoven, Starburst (2012) by Jessie Montgomery and Symphonie Fantastique (1829) by Hector Berlioz.

Although the works of Beethoven and Berlioz are among the most well-known and celebrated of the symphonic repertoire, Saturday’s performances showed that with skill, imagination and passionate creativity, they can have such a big impact on an audience and appear in every way as fresh and bold as if the ink of the manuscripts had just dried.

Just four months after stunning audiences at Northwest Bachfest with an incomparable rendition of Prokofiev’s Sixth Piano Sonata, American pianist Natasha Paremski sat down in front of the magnificent Steinway grand piano on the stage of the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox for begin Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto – a very different piece of music. In fact, those lucky enough to hear Paremsky’s interpretation of Prokofiev wondered how comfortable such a bountiful imagination – and such a volcanic technique – would be within the classical confines of the masterpiece. heroic work of Beethoven.

The answer is, very comfortable, indeed. Even though Beethoven wrote every note of the piano part, even the cadenzas, which were usually improvised by the soloist, Paremski was able to put his individual stamp on the first entry. Two attributes allowed him to do this. First, she has technical resources superior to those of most professional pianists. There seems to be no limit to the speed and fluidity of his ranges and octaves, the strength and independence of his hands and fingers, or, most importantly, his ability to pull the range widest possible dynamic range of the instrument, and to do it almost faster than the mind of the listener can perceive. Second, she is hypersensitive to the emotional effects that can be achieved by a brief pause, a sudden change in color, and she uses this gift to derive meanings from Beethoven’s writing that are new and surprising even to those who have it. heard hundreds of times. times and fear that he has nothing left to offer.

As partners in Beethoven’s most integrated and symphonic piano concerto, James Lowe and the Spokane Symphony gave a distinct character to their interpretation that fitted perfectly with Paremski’s vision of the work as a statement of provocative heroism. This view places the work more in line with Beethoven’s Third and Fifth Symphonies, as opposed to the masterly Olympian confidence of the Seventh Symphony. Employing fast tempos, strong accents and the heavily etched instrumental clarity we’ve come to expect from him, Lowe has helped deliver a vision of the “Emperor” Concerto that has nothing to do with emperors, and everything to do with the potential of the individual human spirit. This is also the reason why we always appreciate the music of Beethoven.

After a brief intermission, this intense energy was renewed with a rendition of Starburst, a highly imaginative and skilfully crafted work for string orchestra by Jessie Montgomery. The different string sections of the orchestra launched Montgomery’s piquant and powerful ideas with ease and precision, while maintaining a perfect whole in each section. Such an accomplishment after only a few hours of rehearsal of a new piece revealed not only the talent of the musicians, but also their commitment to the work and their audience.

Before starting work, Lowe addressed the audience, explaining that the performance was dedicated to Sandy Williams, the Spokane publisher and community activist who was killed in a plane crash Sept. 6. Montgomery, herself, maintains a strong connection between her work as a songwriter and her commitment to promoting social and economic equity, which has made her dedication particularly meaningful.

Following his announcement of the inauguration, Lowe handed the microphone to Rick Williams, Sandy’s brother, who spoke about the need to continue his work, and encouraged everyone within earshot to learn more about the Carl Maxey Center, which his sister helped establish, and to support him within their abilities. Collector boxes had been placed throughout Fox to demonstrate that Beethoven’s message of the brotherhood of all mankind does not lose its relevance once you step outside the confines of the theater.

It must be admitted that the moral foundations of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique are not as admirable as those of the works we heard earlier in the program. A musical retelling of the story of a self-absorbed, amorous fop, who seeks release from his heartache through narcotics, would hardly seem likely to inform his view of human potential…unless it is composed by one of the greatest geniuses in the history of European art. If Berlioz had not published a Treatise on Instrumentation, those who followed him could have used the score of his Symphony for this purpose. There is hardly a bar that does not contain an unprecedented example of instruments being used in a surprising, suggestive or beautiful way or combination.

Nor is there a single example that escaped the attention of Lowe, who trained the members of his orchestra to render each to perfection. Whether sensual, strident or ferocious, all the characteristics of Berlioz’s vast tapestry have been revealed to us by the conductor’s sense of flawless balance, culminating in the fugal sections of the last movement, Le sabbat des witches, rendered with a clarity at least one jaded audience member had never heard of before.

Experiencing such virtuoso playing from an orchestra coming out of a long break was perhaps the biggest inspiration of the evening.


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