MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Seth Parker Woods and Seattle Symphony Premiere Tyshawn Sorey’s For Roscoe Mitchell

Cellist Seth Parker Woods and the Seattle Symphony with David Robertson conducting; image (c) James Holt

I reviewed the world premiere of Tyshawn Sorey’s extraordinary new Seattle Symphony commission for Musical America. Here’s a longer version of the opening paragraphs (including some details that had to be cut for length):

Like an artfully spliced film sequence, the highlight of Seattle Symphony’s concert on November 19 seemed to bridge the painful months separating us from the pre-COVID-19 era. Tyshawn Sorey’s For Roscoe Mitchell for cello and orchestra transmitted all the excitement that comes with a “normal” world premiere of an important composition.

The account featuring Seth Parker Woods as the soloist and guest conductor David Robertson on the podium cast such a powerful and lasting spell that I occasionally forgot this was an online stream. Performing live in real time from the Benaroya concert hall, the musicians felt more present than is usually the case in the virtual medium.

The initial round of shutdowns in the spring had cheated us of hearing the piece as originally intended: in the context of a Beethoven festival juxtaposing several new commissions with a complete symphony cycle, which had been planned as last season’s culmination. Sorey’s new work is his first SSO commission and the final project envisioned by former vice president of artistic planning Elena Dubinets before her lamented departure from the organization. 

In September, SSO began a new online season, using its own streaming service, Seattle Symphony Live, as a platform to disseminate live performances from its home concert hall (sans audience). For Roscoe Mitchell barely escaped a second postponement. This concert was the last event allowed to proceed before new statewide mandates for Washington caused all remaining 2020 concerts to be canceled.  

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Filed under: commissions, Seattle Symphony, Seth Parker Woods, Tyshawn Sorey

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