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Seen and Heard International Concert Review



Tchaikovsky, Strauss, and Mozart:
Seattle Symphony, Seattle Symphony Chorale, soloists, Gerard Schwarz, conductor, Benaroya Hall, Seattle, 21.1.2006 (BJ)

Having heard Sarah Coburn as Adele in the Seattle Opera production of Die Fledermaus that I reviewed in these columns in January, I confess that I was not at all disappointed when I received a press release telling me that the soprano scheduled for Mozart’s Mass in C minor had had to withdraw and that Ms Coburn would replace her. (I hasten to add that the original soloist may well be marvelous singer–I simply don’t know her.)


In the event, Ms Coburn emerged as the star of an evening that was a delight in every way. Her fellow soprano in duet, Carolyn Kahl, filled her own role admirably. But it is to the first soprano that some of the loveliest moments in this unfinished yet consummate masterpiece, most notably the Incarnatus est and Laudamus te arias, are entrusted, and they were sung on this occasion with a glowing beauty and purity of tone, a clarity of line and diction, and a boldly passionate expressive commitment that proclaimed the arrival on the scene of a truly outstanding Mozart singer. It was not the kind of singing calculated to please the more ascetic among adherents of Historically Informed performance practice, for it was uncompromisingly emotional and larger than life, as indeed was the playing and singing that Gerard Schwarz, with equal fervor, drew from his sizable orchestra and chorus. I could not for a moment find any fault in this approach, for the work itself is larger than life. And in such a reading, it impressed me, more than ever, as an altogether greater work than the more popular Requiem, than which it breathes–understandably enough, given the circumstances surrounding the commissioning and composition of the later work–a healthier, wider-ranging, and less confined and morbid air.


This was the final program in the Seattle Symphony’s short but ingeniously designed Amadeus! festival mounted in celebration of the composer’s 250th birthday. The first half of the evening offered two works written by other composers in homage to their great predecessor. Fortunately, their order had been reversed from that originally announced. Tchaikovsky’s Suite No. 4, Mozrtiana, which now opened the proceedings, is a fun piece, but it would have come as a jolting anticlimax if it had followed rather than preceding the quartet and finale from Richard Strauss’ German-language re-composition and  amplification, of Idomeneo. The quartet, splendidly sung by the two ladies already named and by tenor Russell Thomas and bass-baritone Clayton Brainerd, proved to be absolutely top-drawer Strauss, and the celebratory chorus, relatively unadulterated Mozart, that capped it took us to intermission elated and suitably primed for the pleasures to follow.

Bernard Jacobson



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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)