Muscly virtuosity from Leon Bates and atmospheric playing from Tacoma Symphony make a pleasant, if not thrilling, season opener
It seemed like the perfect combination for a season opening: a jazzy first half, a terrific pianist, a new piece and an ocean-themed centerpiece. But despite some impressive playing, the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra’s concert last Saturday in the Pantages was less thrilling than it might have been, thanks to Leon Bates’ relentless keyboard attack, some balance issues and Debussy’s “La Mer” falling a little short of opening-night grandeur.
All was well for the first piece, Gershwin’s “Cuban Overture,” which the TSO played with rhythmic aplomb (after an initial rockiness in the percussion) and a smooth big-band sound from the brass, although it would have been nice to hear the woodwinds more, including the subtle clarinet cadenza. This problem persisted through the evening into the wind-colored Debussy, and makes you wonder if putting winds and brass on more risers would help overcome the extreme deadness of the Pantages’ acoustic.
On to Bates, then, who plays just like the bodybuilding enthusiast he is: muscly tone, firm attack and meaty hands that could eat Gershwin concertos for breakfast. Read more »