January 12, 2014

Concert #696 - The Seattle Symphony at the Benaroya Hall (Seattle) (December 28, 2013)

My final concert of the year turned out to be a rare incursion into the world of classical music, and just as rare, the event took place away from our home turf of Southern California. We often travel to America's North-West to spend time with the Seattle Branch of our family, so attending a concert there was bound to happen, sooner or later. Interestingly enough though, my first-ever concert in Seattle did not take place at the Triple Door, where most of my favorite musicians tend to appear, but at the Benaroya Hall's Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, just a short walk away. Our thanks go out to Todd and Lynn, who gifted us their tickets and, in doing so, gave us an evening that would be hard to top.

My Better Half and I had seats in a box located directly above the right side of the stage. From there, we had an unobstructed and up-close view of each and every member of the orchestra. On top of that, my initial expectations of bad sound turned out to be totally unfounded - in spite of being seated on the side of stage, I did experience the full force of the orchestra while being able to clearly hear every single instrument during their respective solos.
Our box is marked "HERE"
The auditorium, as seen from our box

The evening started with Brahms' "Variations On A Theme Of Joseph Haydn", a piece of music consisting of  multiple parts, each providing a new and different approach to Haydn's native theme. In terms of melody and rhythm, this piece had plenty of variety and although I had not heard it before, I found it to be thoroughly enjoyable.

Excerpt from the concert program

The second part of the event consisted of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, a piece of music I knew decently well.
Excerpt from the concert program

Hearing Beethoven's 9th live was quite an experience. The music hit me real hard, especially the often-heard "Ode To Joy" as well as the other parts that I knew. The Seattle Symphony Chorale impressed me quite a bit with their power and precision. I also enjoyed focusing on the timpani and wind instrument players.

The singers 
Nathalie Paulin (sopran)
Angela Niederloh (mezzo-soprano)
Brendan Tuohy (tenor)
Charles Robert Stephens (baritone)

The guest conductor of the evening was Carlos Kalmar, the long-time music director of Portland's Oregon Symphony. We had never seen a conductor in action from such a favorable angle, so we certainly enjoyed sitting where we sat. Also, being so close afforded us a good view of his intense face - observing his many facial expressions was a special treat for us.

Conductor Carlos Kalmar
The end of the concert
The venue during intermission
Orchestra members getting ready 
The Benaroya Hall (Downtown Seattle)
The main lobby during intermission

The classical music events that I had attended in Los Angeles in recent years had a lukewarm effect on me, to put it mildly. By comparison, the Seattle concert was a total blast, in all respects - fabulous seats, excellent sound, great music, a fine performance and free tickets - 2013 could not have had a better ending!

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