SOUNDS OF AMERICA
P A T O C
B R A N D O N
P H O T O G R A P H Y
Katherine Jolly is a rather good operatic and recital soprano, teacher – variously at
St Louis and Indiana Universities and Oberlin Conservatory – and prizewinner. Her career began in earnest in 2006 and she has performed on stage across the United States, from Amarillo and Houston (with the Grand Opera) in Texas to Florida, Virginia and New York.
One of her specialities is coloratura roles, and in her first solo recital disc, one of the works is specifically designed for coloratura soprano: Katherine Bodor’s climate change-themed cantata Absent an
Adjustment (2018). The text was taken from David Wallace-Wells’s controversial 2017 magazine article ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’ (the title also of a book by the same author, published this year). Bodor – who aligns with Wallace-Wells’s gloomy views on climate change – composed Absent an Adjustment as ‘a call to action: human ingenuity must triumph’. The accompaniment is from clarinet (bizarrely, Navona’s documentation with the disc, corrected online, holds that Samantha Johnson-Helms is a violinist), violin, viola and double bass. It is a remarkably contemplative work in places, yet with an urgency that grips the attention.
Absent an Adjustment is the shortest work on the disc, flanked by two songcycles with piano accompaniment
Our monthly guide to North American venues Benaroya Hall, Seattle
(superbly played by Emily Yap Chua) setting lighter, at times aphoristic texts. Evan Williams’s wistful Emily’s House (2011) sets 10 brief poems by Emily Dickinson, rather beautifully too, while Evan Mack’s Preach Sister, Preach (2018) is a sequence of 14 tiny – and often very funny – portraits comprising quotes from some of the West’s most iconic women, from Simone de Beauvoir and Mae West to George Eliot, Daphne du Maurier and Ellen de Generis, with two visits to Lucille Ball. It wears its serious purpose lightly, matched by Katherine Jolly’s near-ideal interpretation. Something of a find, albeit a little short measure, with excellent sound, too. Guy Rickards
Year opened 1998 Architect LMN Architects Capacity S Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium: 2479 seats; Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall: 536 seats Resident ensemble Seattle Symphony
Founded in 1903, the Seattle Symphony was already approaching its first centenary before it could claim a custom-built home of its own. The inauguration of Benaroya Hall on September 12, 1998, propelled a major transformation in the orchestra’s identity and international reputation.
Occupying an entire block of prime downtown real estate – anchored on either end by a chandelier dyad designed by Dale Chihuly – Benaroya Hall comprises two main concert halls. Together, they host more than 450 public and private events each year and serve dozens of cultural organisations as well as music education programmes (with a total annual attendance of more than 460,000). The 2479-seat S Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium resounds each season with nearly 220 concerts by the Seattle Symphony, which manages but does not own Benaroya Hall. At the opposite end of the complex, in the 536-seat Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall on the second floor, the Seattle Chamber Music Society presents winter and summer seasons.
A recent development was the unveiling in March 2019 of a third venue – the 150-seat capacity Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center, which can be reconfigured through state-of-the-art video and audio technology for more experimental endeavours and close-up encounters between visiting composers and performers and Seattle Symphony musicians.
Benaroya Hall offered the Seattle Symphony a desperately needed way out of a dead-end situation. Since the early 1960s, it had shared the Opera House (since renovated), whose poor acoustics and crowded schedule severely limited prospects for growth. The real-estate developer and philanthropist Jack Benaroya and his wife Becky donated $15 million to seed the building of a new concert hall (total cost: $118.1 million).
Benaroya Hall opened under the baton of music director Gerard Schwarz (now Conductor Laureate) with a gala programme featuring the late Jessye Norman.
Designed by the Seattle-based firm LMN Architects in collaboration with the acoustician Cyril Harris, Benaroya Hall sits atop a transit station yet is effectively insulated from traffic and urban noise. Indeed, since 2014 the Seattle Symphony has been releasing recordings on the orchestra’s in-house label made from its performances here.
Despite its size, the Mark Taper Auditorium radiates a surprising intimacy and warmth, enhanced by the dark wood lining the hall (made from a single African makore tree). With its cylindrical shape and vast windows, the lobby conveys the feeling of looking out over an urban sea from a luxury liner.
A massive Robert Rauschenberg mural welcomes concert-goers, while the signature intermission chimes were composed by David Diamond for the opening. Etched on to the limestone north facade is a quotation from Aaron Copland: ‘So long as the human spirit thrives on this planet, music in some living form will accompany and sustain it and give it expressive meaning.’ Thomas May gramophone.co.uk
GRAMOPHONE NOVEMBER 2019 V
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