One of the season's most interesting guest conductors drew a stellar performance from the Seattle Symphony in Thursday's Mainly Mozart program...

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One of the season’s most interesting guest conductors drew a stellar performance from the Seattle Symphony in Thursday’s Mainly Mozart program. Scottish-born Douglas Boyd, who has conducting posts on both sides of the Atlantic, also is a distinguished oboist; he’s one of the “artistic partners” of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, which is operating under a flexible group of several conductors rather than a single music director. (It’s an interesting model that reminds some of the new four-way concertmaster job-share here in Seattle.)

Boyd is a high-energy conductor who cues his players with vigorous swoops of the arm and who commands the players’ attention with sharply pointed, precise leadership. The two Beethoven overtures (the opening “Creatures of Prometheus” and the subsequent “Coriolan” Overture) were full of vivid drama.

The evening’s soloist was pianist Awadagin Pratt, a fairly familiar figure in Seattle who brought some surprises with him this time. Pratt chose a standard piano bench, rather than the short wooden bench with which he has always traveled. His attire, usually topped with colorful shirts, was sober black (though he has not adopted the traditional white tie and tails). And the playing was more inward, more ruminative, than Pratt’s usually assertive style.

His concerto, the Mozart No. 23 in A major (K.488), was performed very freely, with a lot of pedal and a dulcet touch. At times, it sounded more Impressionist than Mozart, though Pratt’s ideas were always musical and his technique beyond reproach. That first-movement cadenza, though, was a mind-boggler, as Pratt followed all sorts of improvisatory-sounding byways while Boyd waited patiently for his soloist to approach a cadence. Not since Jon Kimura Parker inserted the theme music from “The X-Files” into another Mozart cadenza (back in 1998) has there been anything quite like this.

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The final Schubert Symphony No. 2 was a sparkler, with each movement fully characterized for lots of contrasts and plenty of effervescent good humor.

Melinda Bargreen:

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