Review: Christopher Seaman

02.08.09
Christopher Seaman
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A sweet little suite, a powerful 20th-century concerto and a big, beloved symphony made for a beautifully balanced program by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at Powell Symphony Hall on Friday night.

The highlight of the evening was principal cello Daniel Lee's much-anticipated performance of Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor. Composed in 1919, and reflecting both the toll of the just-concluded war and the vicissitudes of life, the concerto demands intensity, maturity and technical prowess of its interpreters. Lee has them all.

Many listeners surely came with the legendary performance of the late Jacqueline du Pre embedded in their minds. But Lee, who has performed it twice before with other orchestras, made the concerto his own in a beautiful and deeply touching display of interpretive and musical virtuosity. The SLSO would do well to consider adding this performance to its collection of online releases.

Lee has a borrowed 18th-century Montagnana cello for these concerts, a wonderful instrument with a tone that's both sweet and rich, easily singing over the orchestra. After hearing him perform so exquisitely on it, one can only hope that a patron will come forward to help make it permanently available to him.

In the second half, conductor Christopher Seaman took the spotlight with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 in E minor, conducting with a deft touch and fine command. It was a well-conceived interpretation, strong and authoritative at the beginning, big and exciting at the end, with some nice contrasts in between and not a dull measure to be found. The crowd loved it.

Both works found the orchestra performing at its usual level of excellence, and they followed Seaman well...