The program opened with Smetana's Overture to The Bartered Bride. Despite tempo discrepancies and some scrambled playing between the first and second violins during entrances (most likely caused by the two sections positioned at opposite sides on stage which makes for difficult hearing in that hall) the performance was spirited.
After the overture, the audience waited with eager anticipation for the appearance of Joshua Roman, former Principal Cellist of Seattle Symphony, featuring a world premiere of David Stock's Cello Concerto. The work was composed in 2001 to fulfill a commission from the Pittsburgh Symphony and the famed Norwegian cellist, Truls Mørk, but for some reason, the scheduled performance didn't take place.
The opening bars of the first movement evoke a futuristic Sci-Fi character, with an Outer Limit-like quality. Mr. Stock's composition makes full use of a large wind and percussion section. The movement ends with a lonely exchange between cello and timpani. Roman performed the concerto as if he owned the piece. He displays a full-bodied, pure tone in each register of the cello with crystalline intonation and sophisticated musicality. The second and third movements are bridged by an extensive, awe-inspiring cadenza which makes full use of the palette of colors and virtuoso tricks Roman has up his sleeves. The charming third movement jolts the listener to Eastern Europe by incorporating melodies and chants from Jewish liturgy. I had a flashback of Tevye singing the blessings by candlelight to his children in Fiddler on the Roof.
It's no small loss for Seattle Symphony that Joshua Roman chose to depart from the orchestra as Principal Cellist. I'll bet his letter of resignation was a tragic moment for the local organization, but I'm glad he keeps one foot in Seattle with his Town Hall Series while maintaining residence in New York City. The cello section looked and sounded inspired by Roman's performance; his colleagues listened with obvious delight and respect as he performed the Sarabande from the G Major Suite by J.S.Bach as an encore.
Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances Op. 45 concluded the evening with the musicians appearing engaged and responsive. I could sense a joie-de-vive throughout the orchestra which has been, at least of late, missing. Most notable were the alto-sax solo in the first movement, and a ravishing violin solo performed by Elisa Barston. As if viewing a black and white film, tonight's Seattle Symphony concert was a study in contrasts from the routine; even the Banaroya parking garage was full.
in photo: James DePreist