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Gidon Kremer chooses discovery piece over crowd-pleaser in first Seattle Symphony collaboration / bachtrack

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It's entirely characteristic of Gidon Kremer to choose a discovery piece rather than a surefire crowd-pleaser for what was a rare appearance in Seattle. Previously, the eminent violinist has appeared on the Benaroya Hall stage with his Kremerata Baltica. This was his first time partnering with the Seattle Symphony and Ludovic Morlot, and it made for an evening of sensitive, deeply felt music-making.

Kremer has become a leading champion of Schumann's much-misunderstood – indeed, much-abused – Violin Concerto (his discography includes two very different accounts). The piece has had to contend with casual accusations of manifesting the composer's deteriorating mental condition – Schumann did make his suicide attempt, followed by his confinement to an asylum, several months after beginning work on the score – and has even been described, on the more lurid end of the spectrum, as embodying a "syphilitic sound".

Against the comparatively subdued palette of the String Symphony, Mendelssohn's Symphony no. 4 sounded like a Technicolor outburst – effected not by orchestral extravagance but by Mendelssohn's imaginative use of standard means. Morlot understands this Mendelssohnian economy and brought out a variety of ingratiating details, such as Emil Khudyev's radiant clarinet or the change of step in the walking-bass of the Andante con moto, which was taken at a very deliberate pace. Ensemble attack was well-judged in the sunny outburst of the opening and its reprise, and flutist Demarre McGill lent the finale's perky saltarello dance an airiness reminiscent of Mendelssohn's youthful Midsummer Night's Dream music.  Gidon Kremer © Paolo Pellegrin

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