Spokane Symphony and Chorale Friday, Nov. 14, Opera House
The Spokane Symphony and a sold-out house welcomed back music director Fabio Mechetti who led an outstanding concert Friday at the Opera House.
The orchestra turned in some of its best playing in Beethoven’s familiar Symphony No. 5, and the Symphony Chorale produced some exceptionally fine singing in Faure’s not-so-familiar Requiem.
Mechetti returned to Spokane after nearly a month’s absence. He has been conducting his “other orchestra” in Syracuse, N.Y., and perhaps more significantly, he has led five very successful concerts of the Utah Symphony. It is no secret that Mechetti is one of 12 candidates to succeed Joseph Silverstein as music director in Salt Lake City.
Mechetti demonstrated Friday why it is inevitable that, eventually, he will be selected as music director of a larger orchestra. Among conductors I have heard of Mechetti’s generation, few are his equal at working out the musical details crucial to the understanding of a great work such as Beethoven’s Fifth. None is better.
I will cite only three examples of the details with which Mechetti made this Beethoven’s Fifth so thrilling: his precise timing of Beethoven’s dramatic silences between the two statements of that famous four-note motive that opens the symphony, his careful control of the increases and diminishing of loudness through which the drama of this work is built and the skillful balance he achieved as strings and winds traded sustained chords near the end of the first movement.
The Andante flowed along with beautifully nuanced and some especially expressive solo playing in the woodwinds. There was some uncertain intonation in the cellos and basses near the beginning of the Scherzo, but their clarity in the difficult fugal writing in the movement was quite striking.
If there is a work that provides more of a contrast to the churning energy and stern defiance of Beethoven’s Fifth than Faure’s tranquil and lovely Requiem, I am hard put to name it. In Faure, there is none of Berlioz’s or Verdi’s hellfire-and-brimstone fury - just a quiet acceptance of death as “an aspiration toward happiness beyond the grave.”
Faure had an uncommon gift for creating shapely melodies that float quietly over stunning harmonies which seem to have a life of their own, as though melody and accompaniment have met by happy coincidence.
The Symphony Chorale, trained by its new director, Paul Klemme, sang beautifully and with such precise diction that nearly every word could be understood. The tone was lean and appropriately “French.” And both soloists, soprano Terri Richter and baritone Timothy LeFebvre, were very much at home in the suave, restrained melodiousness of Faure.
Mechetti led a mellow, stylish performance - a beautiful ending to a great evening of music-making.