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Originally published Saturday, February 3, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Concert review

Seattle Symphony Orchestra | Powerful pianist is a joy for the eyes and ears

Those who love an orchestral concert with a lot of splash and dash are in luck this weekend, with a Seattle Symphony subscription program that is packed with large-scale "sonic spectacular" works.

Seattle Times music critic

Those who love an orchestral concert with a lot of splash and dash are in luck this weekend, with a Seattle Symphony subscription program that is packed with large-scale "sonic spectacular" works. Zoltán Kodály's "Háry János" Suite is just about as colorful as an orchestral suite gets, full of drama and picturesque effects. The Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 is one of the mightiest of all piano concerti, with four movements of never-ending virtuoso turns.

CONCERT REVIEW

Thursday night, Benaroya Hall

And the "Newly Drawn Sky" of Aaron Jay Kernis, composed just two years ago, employs everything from the contrabassoon and tuba to the piccolo, plus a full array of percussion, all rising to climaxes that push sound levels in the hall to their limits. (The more contemplative sections, with washes of beautiful color, were more effective.)

The program is being filmed for future television broadcast, and it's certainly an apt one for television — especially with André Watts at the keyboard. Watts is fun to watch, as well as to hear; his performance of the big Brahms revealed a technical mastery that made all the challenges seem easy, and a huge piano sonority that rose over the full orchestra in all the big moments. It wasn't all sound and fury, though; Watts also demonstrated an immaculate delicacy in the quieter passages, and great dynamic contrasts.

The extensive cello solos in the Andante movement were played with heart-stopping beauty by new principal cellist Joshua Roman, whose big, succulent tone and impassioned style perfectly suited the music. What an asset to the orchestra he is.

Schwarz gave the orchestra full rein in the exuberant "Háry János" Suite, with plenty of virtuoso solo work from the principals and some great effects from guest performer Alexander Eppler on the cimbalom (a Hungarian instrument related to the dulcimer family). Guest concertmaster for these concerts is Emmanuelle Boisvert, who currently holds that post with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Melinda Bargreen: mbargreen@seattletimes.com

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