Dausgaard and Morlot Show an Orchestra’s Virtues

United StatesUnited States Mahler, Debussy, Fauré and Ravel: Soloists, Seattle Symphony, Thomas Dausgaard and Ludovic Morlot (conductors), Benaroya Hall, Seattle, 19.11.2015 and 5.12.2015 (RC)

19 November
Mahler: Symphony No. 10 (completed by Deryck Cooke)

5 December
Debussy: Danses sacrée et profane
Fauré: Requiem
Ravel: La valse

It’s been a good fall season for the Seattle Symphony. In November, Principal Guest Conductor Thomas Dausgaard led the ensemble in Deryck Cooke’s version of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony. (The work has some resonance here, since the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra was among the first groups to play Cooke’s completion.) If in the 1970s, the Tenth caused something of a stir, that is no longer true, and it has become an accepted part of the repertory, and Dausgaard and the ensemble showed why, in a superb performance.

Scarcely one month later, Ludovic Morlot returned with an all-French program. Originally, soprano Jane Archibald was to sing in Messiaen’s Poèmes pour Mi, but a last-minute illness forced a program change: Ravel’s La valse, which closed the evening on a splendid note.

In Fauré’s Requiem, his setting of the Latin text is quiet and moving—a place to turn away from the drama of Verdi, Mozart and Brahms. Instead of mighty fortissimos, the French composer set aside those portions and offers solace. It is simplicity and sheer loveliness that mark Fauré’s genius.

Morlot was sensitive to this particular sensibility, summoning up considerable beauty, at once harmonious and lyrical, to create a seamless whole.  Cyndia Sieden (soprano) and Nicolas Cavallier (bass-baritone) were the eloquent soloists. The players, in turn, were wholly attuned to what the conductor was trying to accomplish, and the audience reacted empathetically as well. At the end, with Morlot’s hand raised high, not a single person broke the silence.

The concert opened with Debussy’s Danse sacrée et danse profane, with principal harpist Valerie Muzzolini Gordon as the soloist. The orchestra’s vibrant contribution was matched by her ardent and accomplished account.

Richard Campbell

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