The Seattle Symphony audience on Thursday, April 23, stood, stomped and shouted “bravo” when piano soloist Marc-André Hamelin played the last triumphant chord of the Grieg Piano Concerto. A repeat performance will be held Saturday, April 25.
They just wouldn’t let him leave.
Thursday evening’s Seattle Symphony audience stood, stomped, applauded, whistled, shouted “bravo” and generally carried on when piano soloist Marc-André Hamelin played the last triumphant chord of the Grieg Piano Concerto. The ovation continued until Hamelin finally returned to the Benaroya Hall piano for a sassy virtuoso encore. (It was one of Earl Wild’s finger-busting Gershwin transcriptions, “Liza,” played with exquisite fluency.)
Hamelin has a lot in common with the late Wild; both are known for a technical finesse that borders on the supernatural. But Hamelin made it clear in his Grieg Concerto performance that he brings more than a set of speedy digits to the concert stage. He is an intelligent and thoughtful artist, one who illuminates the tender eloquence of the Grieg as well as the thundering octaves and bravura flourishes. Hamelin’s clarity of touch was especially evident in the first-movement cadenza, which he played with great freedom.
Seattle Symphony Orchestra: Grieg Piano Concerto
With conductor Ludovic Morlot and piano soloist Marc-André Hamelin, repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 25, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; tickets from $40 (206-215-4747 or seattlesymphony.org).
Conductor Ludovic Morlot and the orchestra took off after the speedy soloist in hot pursuit, most of the time catching up with him at all the crucial junctures in a performance that will be long remembered.
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The evening began with Morlot’s brief address to the audience about the first work on the program, the world premiere of Sebastian Currier’s “Divisions.” The new piece was jointly commissioned by the symphony orchestras of Seattle and Boston, and the National Orchestra of Belgium, whose music director is Andrey Boreyko (coincidentally the Seattle Symphony’s guest maestro last week in a splendid all-Russian program).
Written to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I, the new composition features tone clusters, fluttering motifs and effective passages for the harp and the brass, many of them disjointed and fragmentary. It’s not hard to discern elements of both warfare and mourning in the score, which ends on a more hopeful note.
The final work on the program was the Schumann Symphony No. 2, a familiar mainstay of the symphonic repertoire. Morlot and the orchestra gave the Schumann a competent account that seldom really caught fire. The best moments came in the expressive third movement, when the motifs and orchestral solos flowed into each other with remarkable eloquence.
The repeat performance of this program on Saturday evening, April 25, should be a good opportunity to see whether lightning strikes twice in the same place. Here’s betting Hamelin’s Grieg Concerto does just that.