On Thursday, a large and responsive audience was on hand to hear not only the 19th-century masterpieces played by the SSO, but also the U.S. premiere of Julian Anderson’s “In lieblichen Bläue.”
World premieres are not always a huge draw at symphony concerts. When the premiere is the “filling” of a musical sandwich of Beethoven and Brahms, however, listeners are more likely to show up. For Thursday’s opener of the Seattle Symphony’s current three-concert series, a large and responsive audience was on hand to hear not only the 19th-century masterpieces, but also the U.S. premiere of Julian Anderson’s “In lieblichen Bläue.”
The title and concept of this new piece, jointly commissioned from Morlot’s former teacher in London by the Seattle Symphony, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester, are derived from a poem by Friedrich Hölderlin. It’s not a traditional violin concerto; it has elements of a symphonic theater piece, in which the soloist starts playing offstage, uttering exploratory twitters and chirps, and gradually moves toward the center stage. In some respects, “In lieblichen Bläue” (“In lovely blue”) then pits the soloist against the entire orchestra in an uneven struggle that gradually subsides, as the violinist ventures a more lyrical response to the overwhelming and colorful panoply of sounds, and ultimately turns her back on the audience.
Soloist Carolin Widmann played this demanding score with tremendous energy and involvement, bending and weaving as her violin countered the communal shrieks from the orchestra. Her command of the instrument is remarkable, right down to the extended techniques the score requires. (You don’t often see the instrument played with a pencil instead of a bow. Perhaps the composer’s intention was more symbolic than musical, because the sounds produced with the pencil were unimpressive.)
With Ludovic Morlot, conductor, and Carolin Widmann, violin soloist, repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday (June 13-14) at Benaroya Hall, Seattle; $20-$120 (206-215-4747 or seattlesymphony.org).
Ultimately, however, the new Anderson score is a piece that made many listeners appreciate the presence of Beethoven’s “Egmont” Overture (in a feisty, high-energy reading) and the mighty Brahms First Symphony (in a powerful performance that’s one of the best things Morlot has done in Seattle).
Most Read Entertainment Stories
The Brahms finale combined two important elements: an undisputed masterpiece, and an interpretation that offered both drama and finesse. Some of the subtler principal solos were a bit overwhelmed by the heft of the orchestra, but everything else went remarkably well: huge brass statements, delicately detailed woodwinds (Zartouhi Dombourian-Eby’s flute solos were especially fine), and strong violin solos from Alexander Velinzon.