The Rite of Spring, and Robert Spano’s conducting of it, elevated this DSO morning concert. Spano (replacing Leonard Slatkin) opened with the second performance (of three) of Jared Miller’s Luster – bright, ethereal, sonically attractive, almost, as broadcast anyway, as if the music has an orchestrated electronic component; yet the velocity and birdsong, ear-catching initially, doesn’t seem to have the pulling-power for another listen. For the Chopin, Spano (long-serving maestro in Atlanta) ensured a purposeful well-integrated introductory tutti, if a little routine, setting up Seong-Jin Cho to play all the notes with security, but he was too emphatic at times, the piano’s treble hard-sounding, lyrical phrasing stiff at times, faster music forced. It was all rather unvaried although some magic did surface during the last few minutes of the slow movement but the Finale was short on wit. In this music one looks for the pianist to be an aristocrat, a story-teller, a lyricist and to also be bravura without overriding passions and fantasy. Seong-Jin Cho was outside of these requirements.
If The Rite wasn’t perfect – the final chord, which should be lethally unanimous, wasn’t – it was engaging and well-judged, launched by Robert Williams’s plaintive bassoon. Spano led a slow-bloom thaw, deliberately paced, maybe too much so, but glibness (easy to achieve with this score) was avoided, and clarity of details and dynamics confirmed, so too a dovetailed sense of ritual, powerfully conveyed. A sense of dread hung over the mysteries and distance of Part Two, and what followed strode defiantly with an undercurrent of menace leading to the (measured) death-throes of the ‘Sacrificial Dance’.