Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 25° Cloudy
A&E >  Music

Review: Spokane Symphony’s Masterworks 3 with cellist Inbal Segev is masterful

UPDATED: Sun., Nov. 14, 2021

The concerto “Dance” was composed in 2019 by Anna Clyne on commission by Israeli-American cellist Inbal Segev, pictured here, who performed the solo part Saturday night in a flowing blood orange gown to a standing ovation at Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox.  (Courtesy)
The concerto “Dance” was composed in 2019 by Anna Clyne on commission by Israeli-American cellist Inbal Segev, pictured here, who performed the solo part Saturday night in a flowing blood orange gown to a standing ovation at Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox. (Courtesy)
By Larry Lapidus For The Spokesman-Review

There was not a weak link in the program offered Saturday night at Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox by the Spokane Symphony for its Masterworks 3 titled “Points North.” All the music was superbly written, expertly prepared and performed and instantly engaging to an enthusiastic audience.

Still, there were two works that must be regarded as standouts. One, a masterful new cello concerto by one of today’s leading composers featuring a dynamic and charismatic soloist making her Spokane debut. The second, a long-forgotten orchestral gem of the 19th century recently unearthed by James Lowe, conductor and music director of the Spokane Symphony.

The concerto, titled “Dance,” was composed in 2019 by Anna Clyne on commission by Israeli-American cellist Inbal Segev, who not only performed the solo part Saturday in a flowing blood orange gown to a standing ovation, but also has recorded it with no less than the London Symphony Orchestra, led by Marin Alsop, a recording that has racked up nearly 6 million downloads on Spotify.

The piece is formally quite different from the classical concerto, as it is cast in five movements, rather than three, each movement taking inspiration from a different line of a poem by 13th century Persian poet and mystic Rumi. In most concertos, the orchestra and soloist are pitted against each other in a dialogue that ultimately brings them to a point of unity.

Clyne – a cellist herself, a tremendously resourceful orchestrator and a classmate of Lowe’s at the University of Edinburgh – uses her keen sensitivity to every instrument’s range of color to create a concerto scored like none other. In “Dance,” she pairs a succession of orchestral instruments with the solo cello in a way that amplifies or enhances a portion of its harmonic spectrum.

This is quite different from popular cello concertos such as those by Schumann or Dvorak in which the soloist plays in duet with members of the orchestra in a way that exploits the differences between their instruments. In “Dance,” the cellist and orchestra are fused together in a journey that both make along the course set out by Rumi’s poem from loss and desolation to calm transcendence.

Writing of such delicacy and sophistication asks a great deal of the orchestra and conductor. It says a great deal about the skill and commitment of Lowe and the Spokane Symphony that, with only a few hours of rehearsal, they were able to match the rhapsodic mastery and freedom exhibited by Segev, who has known the piece since its inception.

The other piece on the program new to the musicians and audience was the Prelude to La Princesse Lointaine (The Distant Princess) Op. 4 by Nikolai Tcherepnin (1873-1945). Tcherepnin studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory under Rimsky-Korsakov only five years before another student, Igor Stravinsky, entered his class.

The perfumed orientalism of his Prelude was captured perfectly by Lowe and the orchestra, whose sumptuous string tone was in striking contrast to the spare, subdued strings heard just minutes before in the Clyne concerto. Such variety is not only a tribute to the orchestra, but a demonstration of the inexhaustible power and versatility of the symphony orchestra as a source of entertainment and a medium of artistic exploration.

The two remaining works on this weekend’s program were established classics: Felix Mendelssohn’s “Hebrides Overture” Op. 26 (1833) and the Symphony No. 5 in E-flat Op. 85 (1919) of Jean Sibelius. Both works, familiar as they are to many in the audience, were prepared with such care and performed with such energy as to seem newly minted.

The burnished mahogany of the tone with which the cellos announced the great melody of Mendelssohn’s Overture and the thrilling majesty of the horns in the climactic theme of the Sibelius symphony spoke of the players’ deep commitment to the value of this music and its undimmed power to alter lives for the better.

Lowe’s characteristic blend of rhythmic vigor and meticulous attention to detail made the music spring to life. His careful management of transitions and patient layering of sonority over long spans draws the admiration of those who listen for such things – admiration not for the conductor himself but for the rightness with which he understands the needs of the music.

The second and final performance of “Points North” is at 3 p.m. today.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Spokane7 email newsletter

Get the day’s top entertainment headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.