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Saturday, November 18, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM


Concert Review

Master bassoonist reveals instrument's many layers

Seattle Times Ticket editor

Seth Krimsky's bassoon is a musical chameleon.

At various times in Thursday's Seattle Symphony performance of John Williams' Bassoon Concerto "The Five Sacred Trees," Krimsky's lance of an instrument sounded like a resonant viola, an urgent trumpet and a vibrating bass. Yet it was just Krimsky — the Symphony's principal bassoonist, front and center in the solo spot for the night — showing the range of an instrument seldom displayed so prominently.

"Five Sacred Trees," composed in 1993, was inspired by Celtic myths and sounds at once ancient and contemporary, with Krimsky's ethereal bassoon delivering a vaguely pagan spirit to the five-movement work.

Norwegian conductor Arild Remmereit, making his Symphony debut, capably led the orchestra behind Krimsky at Benaroya Hall. The complex orchestration and unusual instrument pairings — the soloist alternately joined the harp, flute, Irish bodhran drum and concertmaster Maria Larionoff's violin — made this piece more challenging than Williams' typically melodic movie scores ("Star Wars" and "Schindler's List" among the many).

The concerto followed an all-Norway opening (Remmereit leading selections from "Peer Gynt," music written by Edvard Grieg for playwright Henrik Ibsen's dramatization of a Norwegian national epic). But the conductor didn't really show his range until the closing number, a moving presentation of Schumann's Symphony No. 1 in B-flat major, the "Spring." Schumann wrote this work in the happy state of a man in marital bliss (he and his beloved Clara were newlyweds in 1841), and the smiling Remmereit directed the musicians as if he were channeling the composer's love — of spring, of marriage, of life.

Remmereit's attitude was almost careless, cueing section entrances with a subtle open palm or a minor flick of the baton, almost as if he were preoccupied with something else. But each nod, wave or point was precise, through a dancy third-movement scherzo with its rapid ending vivace, and into the rousing allegro that ends the work.

He went scoreless for the "Spring": Without a music stand sharing the podium, Remmereit had more room to dance.

Raina Wagner:

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