Columbus Symphony: Conductor's guest appearance with symphony worth wait

03.20.10
Christopher Seaman
The Columbus Dispatch

By Barbara Zuck

Christopher Seaman, a British conductor in his 11th season as music director of the Rochester (N.Y.) Philharmonic, appeared with Columbus Symphony for the first time since 2001; what a shame it's taken so long to bring him back here. Seaman's experienced, insightful leadership yielded not only confident but consistently interesting performances from the orchestra, which appeared to enjoy his presence on the Ohio Theatre podium.

Seaman's style is one of understated authority. There is little flash or folderal. He appears to be all about the business of making music and lets the interpretations speak for themselves, which they did last night -- resoundingly.

The words "Beethoven" and "charm" may not be routinely found in close proximity, but the Big B surely was at his most endearing in his Overture to the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus. Last night's lovely, unhurried rendition brimmed with inner life, and great care had obviously been taken in shaping phrases in expressive, musical ways and putting dynamic contrasts in all the right places.

Guest artist Yeol Eum Son, a Van Cliburn Competition Silver Medalist, demonstrated her enviable technique in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major.

Blessed with a natural, unaffected musicality, this young artist plays with a fluid technique and a guileless approach. One only wished her lively performance had been a bit more playful. Principal bassoonist Betsy Sturdevant once again proved a sensitive partner to the soloist. 

Certainly Maestro Seaman's sophistication was put to superb use in Bruckner's Symphony No. 4 ("Romantic") -- a forceful, if famously flawed, opus. The symphony's repetitive gestures turned grandiose, if not altogether grand, in this at once lucid and sympathetic reading, which nearly transformed Bruckner's stutter-stops into profundity. The horns and brass appeared to relish their many moments of glory, adding mightily to the performance's powerful effect.

Bruckner, fun? It can happen.