Too much testosterone at the Benaroya Hall in Seattle

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Narek Hakhnazaryan
Narek Hakhnazaryan

The Seattle Symphony Orchestra appeared in a new concert featuring Russian conductor Mijhail Tatarnikov and the young Armenian cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan. The evening included works of Anatoli Liadov, Valentin Silvestrov and Antonín Dvořák

During Liadov’s The Enchanted Lake Op. 62, the SSO raised concert-goers expectation due to a committed and excellent performance. This music is aquatic, or better said, thermal. We really enjoyed the charming quietness proposed by Mr. Tatarnikov. The Russian conductor completed a sunny and intimate version of the piece. Again, Mr. Barker stood out on the flute playing a number of gracious staccato notes. At the end of this work, Liadov wrote a coda where the pizzicato notes seemed to be the magic bubbles of the Enchanted Lake

Valentin Silvestrov composed his Symphony No.8 in 2013. It’s a work new to the US, but the Seattle audience was very welcoming to the novelty. The piece follows a scheme of marked contrasts (darkness-light-darkness) and gives prominence to the harps, the piano and the metal wind instrument. The first part, generally circular and repetitive, plays with the idea of the storm and its echoes, but without suggesting anything new. During the beautiful intermezzo, the most hearing-friendly part of the symphony, the piano introduces a romantic melody which is partially developed by the rest of the orchestra. The following andante included some appealing sonorities, with evoking tunes commented elegantly by harps and chimes. The final part of the symphony came back to a darker atmosphere. Rhetorical and grey, the score was somehow conservative. However, Mr Tatarnikov maintained the pulse of the music, highlighting the most challenging moments. If the symphony was to an extent interesting was due to the quality of the SSO and the efforts of the conductor. Probably, those who were looking forward for listening to something like the subtle Silvestrov’s Fifth Symphony couldn’t help feeling disappointed. 

Armenian cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan (27) was the undisputed star of the second half of the concert. He played Dvořák showing an outgoing temperament, sometimes with abandon. Dvořák’s moving and romantic Cello Concerto allows the soloist to show off and display both technical and expressive skills. Probably, in this case, Mr Hakhnazaryan offered a version a bit over the top, not very sophisticated but emotional and spectacular. The adagio was the best part of the piece when the cello and the orchestra got together magically. This connection was even stronger between Mr. Hakhnazaryan and the talented SSO concertmaster Elisa Barston

In my opinion, this masterpiece asks for more delicacy and less testosterone, although we should admit the outstanding faculties of our young cellist. The audience at the Benaroya Hall in Seattle hailed Mr. Hakhnazaryan with the usual ovation. The cellist responded to such warmth with a sexy and original encore. Mr. Hakhnazaryan used up all his energies to creating a frenetic and passionate gipsy-like piece of music.

It was an interesting and pretty varied evening. The only feature which remained the same as usual was the consistent quality of the SSO musicians. 

Carlos J Lopez