Symphony, soloist shine in short-notice program change
A review of Seattle Symphony Orchestra's June 7 program, "Jésus López-Cobos Conducts Capriccio espagnol." The orchestra's principal second violinist, Elisa Barston, was tapped just earlier this week to replace guest soloist Leonidas Kavakos on the program. The concerts continue June 9 and 10.
Special to The Seattle Times
Seattle Symphony OrchestraJésus López-Cobos, conductor, and Elisa Barston, violin, 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $17-$110 (206-215-4747 or www.seattlesymphony.org).
It's always a nightmare for an orchestra when a soloist cancels at the last minute. The Seattle Symphony had to contend with this on Monday, when guest violinist Leonidas Kavakos canceled this week's appearances because of illness.
The not-uncommon situation presents a host of issues, among them: Can the organization find a replacement? Will it have to make program changes, and will there be time to rehearse them?
The SSO resolved the issues this way: Symphony principal second violinist Elisa Barston was tapped to replace Kavakos (with just two days to prepare). Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1, which Barston performed with the University of Washington Symphony a year ago, replaced the Korngold Violin Concerto originally on the program. (López-Cobos and the orchestra were comfortable with the Prokofiev, despite little rehearsal time.)
But the Seattle Symphony, like any good American orchestra, can pride itself in its ability to, in short order, give a polished performance of any music set before it.
The Prokofiev is not an easy concerto. Quite short, the orchestral role is transparent, often delicate, while the almost nonstop solo role is full of unusual and varied techniques, with much of the playing at the highest range of the instrument.
Barston showed herself in complete control of the concerto's demands. She played with beautiful singing tone, unerring pitch and easy technique, from the soft, slow beginning to the swoops and frenetic activity of the second movement, where the music danced under her fingers.
Her performance could have used more pizazz, but her achievement was a triumph given the brief time she had to prepare. López-Cobos and the orchestra gave her full support, with fine solos from principals Ben Hausmann, oboe; Demarre McGill, flute; and Seth Krimsky on bassoon.
Richard Strauss' tone poem "Don Juan" opened the concert but sounded more foursquare than seductively lush as the title implies. López-Cobos is from Spain, so Turina's Danzas fantasticas is home territory for him, and it sounded it, full of swirling movement — light, lilting or joyously rambunctious. While not a Spaniard, Rimsky-Korsakov caught much of that country's idiom in his Capriccio espagnol, and here the performance pulsated with colorful exuberance. Many instruments have solos here also, and kudos to principals Christopher Sereque, clarinet, and Efe Baltacigil, cello, as well as acting concertmaster Emma McGrath.