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CONCERT REVIEW: RPO performs Mozart, Bruckner

05.06.11
Christopher Seaman
Rochester City Newspaper

By Paloma Capanna

It was an evening to remember - one that looked to be also memorable to Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor Christopher Seaman. This is his second-to-last program as the RPO's longtime music director, and his stage walk Thursday evening appeared wistful. I have come to look forward to the concerts Seaman conducts. In fact, this season, I have been positively spoiled by the quality of his work. Seaman is a true artist.

Thursday night was no exception. The orchestra was well prepared, fully engaged in the music, and comfortable under Seaman's leadership. Seaman had a clear, artistic vision for both works.

First on the program was W.A. Mozart's Concerto in A Major for Clarinet and Orchestra, K. 622, with Kenneth Grant, clarinet. Grant, a member of the RPO, was superb. I praised him in City Newspaper's Best of Rochester issue last fall for his performance with the RPO in the Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major. This week, I'm giving Grant an award for "You Made Me Like Mozart."

Mozart is, admittedly, not my favorite composer. Grant delivered an effortless performance of a wide range of notes, beautiful phrasing, control, and rapport with the orchestra and the audience. The "Adagio" second movement left me spellbound, particularly the unhurried, well articulated scales that flowed into trills. And the "Rondo Allegro" third movement could have been described as intimate, even in an auditorium the size of Kodak Hall.

Seaman brilliantly paired the Mozart with the Anton Bruckner Symphony No. 7 in E Major. While the Mozart featured the clarinet and a smaller orchestra of primarily strings, the Bruckner was a full orchestra with even cymbals and triangle. The clarinet continued to have portions of melody, sometimes in conjunction with oboe and flute. By the middle of the second movement, the music was so beautiful that I simply sat still and let it wash over me. The well known lines of the third movement, marked "Scherzo: Sehr schnell" (so fast), contained a few Mozart-like passages that descended in range and tempo into pure Bruckner.

In the climax of the fourth movement, the "Finale: Bewegr, doch nicht schnell" (not so fast), the brass punctuated with bright notes to punch through the deeper moods of the symphony, until finally the entire orchestra congealed into a massive upsurge of sound.

Immediately, the audience started to clap, but Seaman did not turn around. Instead, with his back still to the audience, he gave the body language of a school teacher, signaling a disappointing mistake on our part. The hall quickly fell silent, and the maestro held his position for a beat or two. Then he turned, smiled, and bowed, and we realized the joke was upon us, and the applause filled the hall.