Ear Supply: In Memoriam

The Seattle Symphony's season opening recalls 2001's.

The Seattle Symphony's first concert after September 11, 2001 was the season-opening gala on Saturday the 15th. Associate conductor Alastair Willis was on the podium because Gerard Schwarz, who'd planned to conduct, was trapped in Great Britain, unable to fly home. On the bill that night were Copland's Lincoln Portrait and Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story—by startling coincidence (the program had been planned months earlier), works that evoked the two major cities that had been attacked, Washington, D.C. and New York City. Though I'd never thought of it as a memorial piece, the Dances turned out to be powerfully apropos: not only, in all likelihood, the greatest tone poem to the color and vigor of the wounded city that will ever be written, but devastating in its elegiac conclusion. No one in the audience that night who knew the show could have helped recalling the lyrics to "Somewhere" and its prayer of hope for a world no longer torn apart by sectarianism: "There's a place for us/Somewhere a place for us./Peace and quiet and open air . . . " As it happens, this Saturday's SSO season-opener repeats those two works. Deliberately? It seems unlikely that conductor Ludovic Morlot had in mind the contentiousness of an election year when he chose the Bernstein—or that he particularly wanted to place before us the words of Abraham Lincoln as quoted by Copland: "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion." But you never know. Daniel J. Evans narrates; also on hand is violinist Joshua Bell, playing Bernstein's Serenade. 

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