Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman with the SSO, the perfect storm in Seattle

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Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman with the SSO
Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman with the SSO

Two world-class legends of the classical music, Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, arrived in Seattle to perform two unrepeatable concerts with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.

It has been an intense musical weekend in Seattle. Despite the forecasted strong winds and heavy showers, the storm was not so terrible and it came with a couple of great concerts at the Benaroya Hall. Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Itzhak Perlman presented two concerts linked by two Mozart´s masterpieces, the Symphony No.29 and his Requiem.

On Friday, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the young Spaniard Pablo Rus Broseta, gathered the longest ovation of this season after a thrilling evening that featured Béla Bartók´s Romanian Folk Dances, along with Mozart´s Symphony No. 29 and his prelude to the opera La finta giardiniera. The Romanian dances had the authenticity of a music that Bartók conceived to recreate the popular sounds of his homeland. We could taste, for instance, a colorful and attractive Rumanian polka. The performance of the flute, which is not always flawless, was very inspired, with beautiful and sinuous phases. The two Mozartian works were a great opportunity for Maestro Rus to show his skills on the pit. His approach to the Symphony No.29 was simple but effective. He achieved a tender but texturized first movement. In the second movement, we missed a bit more intensity and imagination but Rus Broseta controlled well the tempo in the menuetto. He commanded the SSO´s musicians with aplomb and Mediterranean grace. Rus Broseta’s personality seemed to match Mozart´s young spirit: playful in its simplicity, concise in his rich expression. In the same line, Mozart´s symphony for La finta giardiniera was served with precision and in style.

We enjoyed Yo-Yo Ma´s stellar appearance after the break, with Joseph Haydn´s Cello Concerto in C major. The concert hall was full in order to listen to this legend of the cello, and he did satisfy even the highest expectations. Mr. Ma seemed to savor every note, every scale. He is a unique artist, able to extract a wide range of textures and colors from the score. The second movement sounded genuinely baroque. Yo-Yo Ma´s cello laid delicately over Maestro Rus´ orchestra, creating a sort of magic atmosphere. The finale was played fiercely by both the soloist and the orchestra, maintaining the highest precision and quality even in the most turbulent passages. Ma took the leadership whereas a solicitous and passionate Pablo Rus brought the SSO to his best level. The never-ending standing ovation was responded with two delicious encores by Yo-Yo Ma, including an uncontestable version of the well-known Bach´s first cello suite.

Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman with the SSO
Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman with the SSO

On Saturday, the Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlam took the conducting baton to perform a two-piece concert. The first part featured a polished version of Bach´s Concerto in C minor for violin and oboe. Perlman conducted with the violin and was accompanied by SSO´s first oboe Mary Lynch. She offered a remarkable performance, especially interesting during the mysterious and reflective second movement. Both fulfilled the challenges of a demanding baroque score, showing a great level of complicity.

Itzhak Perlman´s version of Mozart´s Requiem was more passionate that spiritual. Sober in its expressivity, the SSO sounded finely under Perlman´s command. Together with the singers of the Seattle Symphony Chorale, the soloists were soprano Hélène Guilmette, mezzo Rowan Hellier, tenor Eric Neuville and baritone Stephen Hegedus. Despite their youth, all of them served finely their parts. Ms. Guilmette voice stood up for the beauty of its timbre whereas Ms. Hellier obscure sound contributed with a touch of sensuality. Eric Neuville struggled with some of the trills and baritone Stephen Hegedus was elegant and attentive despite some too nasal notes. The Seattle Symphony Chorale proposed a clear and balanced sound. Their rapport with Mr. Perlman was weaker than expected in the Confutatis, but the overall feeling after the performance was positive. The performance, though probably neither ideal nor perfect, delivered effectively the powerful message of hope behind Mozart´s Requiem. The evening could support the idea of those who think that Itzhak Perlman is better violinist than a conductor.

Carlos J. Lopez