In Seattle, a venerable conductor explores grief and remembrance

22/10/2019

United StatesUnited States Takemitsu, Hartmann, Mozart: Noah Geller (violin), Joanne Lunn (soprano), Roxana Constantinescu (mezzo-soprano), Lawrence Wiliford (tenor), Morgan Smith (baritone), Seattle Symphony Chorale and Orchestra / Masaaki Suzuki (conductor), Benaroya Hall, Seattle. 17.10.2019. (ZC)

Masaaki Suzuki and the Seattle Symphony (c) James Holt

TakemitsuRequiem for String Orchestra

HartmannConcerto funebre

Mozart – Requiem

Masaaki Suzuki is renowned as one of the world’s foremost interpreters of J.S. Bach’s sacred and orchestral music, and for good reason. Recent projects, however, have challenged the notion that Bach is Suzuki’s only bailiwick, borne out by the conductor’s appearances with the Seattle Symphony.

Equipped with a chamber-sized ensemble, Suzuki explored death, memorial, and remembrance through three stylistically divergent compositions. On the front end, the conductor paired Toru Takemitsu’s Requiem for String Orchestra with Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s Concerto funebre. For the main course, Suzuki presented Mozart’s Requiem in a new edition by his son, Masato Suzuki. In the conductor’s acclaimed recordings of Bach’s cantatas, polished sound distinguished his interpretations over others. Suzuki elicited this same quality with the Seattle players for all three works.

Premiered in 1957, Takemitsu’s launched his international career with the Requiem for String Orchestra, given its premiere in 1957. A relatively early work, it showcases the spiky influence of the mid-20th Century and the gauzy sounds of impressionism. Suzuki and the musicians rounded off the rough edges while also indulging in mournful sonorities.

Hartmann’s Concerto funebre — one of his most-performed works — continued the exploration of mortality and memorial. Born in Munich in 1905, he remained in his native city most of his life, and actively composed throughout the Nazi era. But during that time, he withdrew from Germany’s musical and cultural life during and forbade performances of his music in his home country.

For these concerts, Suzuki’s soloist was the orchestra’s concertmaster, Noah Geller. In presenting Hartmann’s profound sadness — created from austere motifs, spare orchestrations, and relentless rhythmic passages — and Geller was appropriately and eloquently suppressed. But too much refinement from the orchestra, as well as a conductor who seemed reluctant to indulge the savage moments, limited the emotional impact. The composer’s palette sounded more sweet than sad.

An infamous story of its origins, coupled with movie-born myths, help sustain the popularity of Mozart’s Requiem, but underneath this hype rests a work of profound inspiration. Mozart died before its completion, leaving some portions without orchestration and others undone. Mozart’s pupil, Franz Sussmayr, undertook the most famous attempt at completing the work, but for his Seattle performances, Suzuki used a version completed by his son Masato. The most apparent deviation from the Sussmayr version is a short, one-minute fugal ‘Amen’ after the Lacrymosa. The change doesn’t add much, but it does divide the piece into two relatively equal halves and gives listeners a chance to refocus. An excellent quartet of soloists matched splendidly with the always stellar work of the Seattle Symphony Chorale. For this masterpiece, Suzuki eschewed dark spookiness in favor of tender restraint. His approach didn’t always convince, but it did remind anyone who follows his career that in the choral canon, he can always be counted on to shape memorable performances.

Zach Carstensen

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Saffron Hall in February – August 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2020 – Gluck’s Paris and Helen __________________________________
  • NEW! Surrey’s Grange Park Opera in 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Highgate International Chamber Music Festival’s Beethoven 249 in November __________________________________
  • NEW! The Leeds Lieder Concert Series 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Edinburgh Usher Hall 2019-2020 Orchestral Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles __________________________________
  • NEW! Ex Cathedra’s 50th Anniversary Season in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Geneva Grand Théâtre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2019-20 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden __________________________________
  • NEW! City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera House in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Opera in 2019-2020 and New Artistic Director __________________________________
  • UPDATED! ENB in 2019-2020 and Opening of their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet’s 70th Anniversary Gala Performances – 17 & 18 January 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR HERVÉ NIQUET INTERVIEWED ABOUT GRÉTRY’S RICHARD, COEUR DE LION __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ANGELA GHEORGHIU IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NOW REVIEWED! MATTHEW BOURNE’S ROMEO AND JULIET IN CINEMAS FROM 22 OCTOBER __________________________________
  • NEW! CELLIST JOHANNES MOSER IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • CHORUS MASTER STEPHEN DOUGHTY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • REVIEWED! Ron Howard’s Pavarotti in Cinemas 13 July (Preview) and Nationwide (15 July) __________________________________
  • MULTI-FACETED MUSICIAN JOY LISNEY IN CONVERSATION WITH ROBERT BEATTIE __________________________________
  • ‘MUSICAL MAGIC’: AN INTERVIEW WITH VIOLINIST HENNING KRAGGERUD __________________________________
  • CONDUCTOR THOMAS SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH LISETTE OROPESA AS SHE RETURNS TO LA OPERA FOR ORFEO ED EURIDICE __________________________________
  • BARRY DOUGLAS IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month