Norwegian conductor returns to SSO podium this week

By: R.M. Campbell

Hearing a new conductor at the Seattle Symphony Orchestra used to be a simple pleasure. Now it has the hint of destiny since everyone may be a candidate to succeed Gerard Schwarz as music director in 2011. The motto at the symphony is that everyone is a candidate, no one is a candidate, which means no one can be ruled out. The symphony is filling every available guest conducting opening with one possibility or another.

Of course, the big opportunities are on the Masterpiece Series, the 22 most prestigious programs of the season. For four concerts starting Thursday at Benaroya Hall, Norwegian conductor Arild Remmereit made his local debut. He has conducted about eight American orchestras, including Atlanta and Baltimore, second tier orchestras in Germany and Austria and most of the major ensembles in Scandinavia. Remmereit studied in Olso, Stockholm and Vienna, where he now lives. He is in his early 40s.

He had a good program at his disposal: Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 (K. 467) and Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony: plenty of places to demonstrate one’s breadth and depth. With the piece’s flowing, distinctive melodies and dramatic structure, it is hard not to succeed. Remmereit did for the most part. It was not a reading of great depth, but it had range and flair and good contrasts. He secured the essentials with aplomb and enthusiasm. He could be rambunctious and souful and at times reveled in the dramatic points of the work, quite rightly. But on other occasions, they seemed to pass him by with barely a nod of recognition.

In the Mozart, Remmereit proved to be a discreet partner to Gabriela Montero. The Venezuelan pianist is a sensitive musician. with a carefully gauged dynamic range and fluent technical resources. She put these assets to good use. The slow movement was particularly telling with its crystalline textures and clean balances. What marred the outer movements were her own cadenzas. They were thick, overreaching, self-conscious and long-winded. As an encore she asked for a tune from the audience in order to improvise on it; a collage of musical ideas from the past couple of centuries. She prides herself on her improvisational ability, which is a part of many of her recitals, but this demonstration seemed pretty standard.

The evening opened with what Remmereit told the audience was an American premiere, so he thought — Ludvig Irgens-Jensen’s Partita Sinfonica, “The Drover.” The Norwegian composer was born in Oslo and 1894 and died there 75 years ;later. Written in 1939, the work is archly conservative. That said, it is well-crafted, smooth-limbed and tuneful, little wonder the conductor likes the piece and seeks wider recognition for it and his creator.

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