N E W R E L E A S E S
INTRODUCING THE Seattle Symphony Collection Featuring recordings conducted by Gerard Schwarz, Seattle Symphony’s esteemed Conductor Laureate.
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In this recording, the Seattle Symphony pairs Aaron Copland’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Suite from Appalachian Spring with Paul Creston’s poetic Symphony No. 3.
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An American in Paris is one of Gershwin’s most sumptuous and best-loved works, and here it is paired with Ferde Grofé’s indelibly beautiful and exciting Grand Canyon Suite.
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A V A I L A B L E A T : A R K I V M U S I C . C O M SoUndS of AmeriCA
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‘It’s stunningly beautiful, both visually and acoustically…I’ve been in a lot of different halls and this is one of the best’
– Franz Welser-Möst, Cleveland Orchestra on the renovation of Cleveland’s Severance Hall in 2000 – it’s a bold, gleaming assemblage of limestone and steel, with an Art Deco design that takes its inspiration from the nearby Hoover Dam. The construction of the dam in the 1930s spurred a population boom that helped create the modern Las Vegas and making that connection, Schwarz said, is in keeping with his philosophy of planning buildings with an eye to local history.
The campus of Smith Center includes three performance venues. Reynolds Hall, the 2050-seat main theatre, will be home to everything from orchestral programmes to theatrical presentations; it is named for the Donald J Reynolds Foundation, which contributed $150 million to the project (Fred Smith, who along with his late wife Mary is Smith Center’s namesake, was the Foundation’s chairman). The Cabaret Jazz room, at 3800 square feet, accommodates four-person round tables in an intimate performance setting, while the Troesh Studio Theater offers a variety of different configurations suitable for rehearsals, small-scale dance performances and the like.
A central courtyard connects these spaces with a children’s museum that is expected to open later this year under separate management and a broader, adjacent expanse of grass – ideal for pre-concert picnicking and mingling – is home to a brightly coloured sculpture by local artist Tim Bavington, which takes its structure from the notes of Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man.
Happily, Smith Center seems to have hit a sweet spot acoustically as well. The first visiting group to appear there was the Cleveland Orchestra, which in April concluded a six-concert tour of the West Coast under music director Franz Welser-Möst with a performance in Reynolds Hall. Welser-Möst was unstinting in his praise: ‘It’s stunningly beautiful, both visually and acoustically,’ he said. ‘We like to play around with different colours and so on and in a lot of venues that doesn’t pay off because the hall doesn’t give anything back. This one does. Honestly, I didn’t expect it to be that good. I’ve been in a lot of different halls and this is one of the best.’
From a seat in the audience, the hall left a similar impression. The orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, with Nikolaj Znaider as a forthright soloist, was bathed in a warm but transparent glow and Welser-Möst’s dynamic shadings in the slow movement came through with impeccable clarity. A trio of Weill-ish orchestral excerpts from Thomas Adès’s opera Powder Her Face boasted a crisp angularity gramophone.co.uk and three of the tone-poems from Smetana’s Má vlast sounded fluid and full-bodied.
Clearly, Smith Center has the potential to become a first-rate seat for musical and theatrical performance. The question is, for whom? The answer, according to Martin and others involved in the programming, is perfectly clear. Unlike the flashy entertainment that fills the showrooms along The Strip, these offerings are geared almost exclusively for local audiences.
‘There is a lot of pent-up demand among residents for cultural programming,’ said Martin. ‘A majority of the people who live here moved here from someplace else and many of those were places that had symphony orchestras, ballet companies, opera and jazz. That group of citizens have all been clamouring for this.’
Up to now, that hunger has been fed by local organisations, including the 14-year-old Las Vegas Philharmonic and the Nevada Ballet Theatre – both of which will now become resident companies at Smith Center. The Philharmonic, which has been performing in an auditorium at the nearby University of Nevada, opened the hall with a performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony – by all accounts a success, even though in hindsight, according to music director David Itkin, it might not have been the optimal choice for the occasion.
‘In a perfect world that’s not the piece you want to play in a new hall,’ he said. ‘There are so many ordinary artistic challenges to begin with and then, to add to that, the enormous problems of trying to adapt to an acoustic environment that is 180 degrees different. But in the end it turned out beautifully. The old hall at the university had a dark quality to it – the orchestra had a pretty sound there, but it was not exciting. Here, the sound just comes rocketing off the stage.’
Smith Center will allow the Philharmonic to expand both artistically and financially, says president and CEO Jeri Crawford. The forthcoming season includes multimedia offerings that would not have been possible before, including a showing of the Charlie Chaplin silent classic City Lights with live orchestral accompaniment and a performance of Holst’s The Planets with video projections. In the coming years, she says, the goal is to increase the number of performances the orchestra gives from 10 to as many as 20 or 25.
Meanwhile, Myron Martin is busily programming visiting artists. The week after the Cleveland Orchestra’s April concert saw appearances by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields with violinist Joshua Bell; next season promises visits by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Local audiences never had it so good.
ConCerts At smith Center homeGroWn tALent october 20 David Itkin conducts his Las Vegas Philharmonic in Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. They are joined by pianist Navah Perlman, violinist Philippe Quint and cellist Zuill Bailey for Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. November 17 Las Vegas Philharmonic present an all-American programme of music by Copland, Bernstein, Ives and Barber.
internAtionAL series october 29 Israel Philharmonic / Mehta February 11, 2013 BBC Symphony Orchestra
February 13, 2013 Itzhak Perlman vn April 29, 2013 Lang Lang pf
For more information, and to buy tickets, visit thesmithcenter.com
GRAMOPHONE JuLY 2012 III