Seattle Symphony returns to capital

Show of romantic pieces will be conductor Ludovic Morlot’s first in Olympia

Contributing writerFebruary 8, 2013 

Tonight, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s news-making new conductor, Ludovic Morlot, makes his Olympia debut.

“Although we’ve performed in Olympia many times in the past, this will be the first time for our new music director,” said Mary Langholz, the orchestra’s communications director.

This is Morlot’s second season leading the orchestra, but the orchestra didn’t make it to Olympia last season for its usual annual performance — a tradition that had gone back 20 years. There was no intent to skip a year, center staff said. It was just a combination of scheduling and perhaps cost.

In his short time with the orchestra, Morlot has made a big splash.

In 2011, the orchestra made its debut at Seattle’s Bumbershoot festival.

He visited Los Angeles last month, conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the touring Boston Symphony. He’s often noted for his style and showmanship as well as for substance — but he’s been earning shining reviews in The Seattle Times, the Huffington Post and the Los Angeles Times, as well as numerous international publications.

With Bumbershoot and other Symphony Untuxed events, Morlot definitely wants to make the orchestra relevant to younger audiences.

The French-born conductor, who was not available for an interview this week, is himself only 39.

How casual does he want to make things? As part of his introduction to Seattle in 2011, he threw out the first pitch at a Mariners game.

And he asked The Seattle Times why the paper lumps classical music in with the likes of art, dance and theater, rather than categorizing it with folk, rock, pop and hip-hop.

“I really appreciate that there’s great music and not-so-great music — and that’s the distinction that I’d like to see, rather than just keeping the classical music in a little bunker somehow,” he told the Times’ Michael Upchurch in 2011.

Even The New York Times has been making much of the conductor, who began his musical career as a violinist.

“A symphony’s leader takes Seattle by storm” trumpeted the title of a 2012 New York Times piece about Morlot’s ambitions to make the symphony one of America’s top 10 orchestras.

All that said, the program for Olympia isn’t particularly cutting edge.

“He will conduct a romantic program of Brahms and Schumann and close with the popular ‘William Tell Overture,’” Langholz said.

Still, the center is excited to be hosting the orchestra once again. More than half of the seats had been sold as of Monday, said Sarah Sugarbaker in the center box office.

And it seems the orchestra is excited to have the opportunity to impress a new crop of elected officials. Orchestra officials have invited the governor and other local leaders to attend the concert.

“We hope to see many of our state’s elected officials in the audience,” Langholz said.

Seattle Symphony Orchestra

What: The orchestra plays in Olympia for the first time under the direction of Ludovic Morlot.

When: 8 tonight

Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia

Tickets: $38-$56 for adults; $34-$50 for students, seniors and military; $19-$28 for youth

More information: 360-753-8586, washingtoncenter.org

On the program: Brahms’ “Symphony No. 4;” Schumann’s “Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54;” Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”

Soloist: Nicholas Angelich, piano

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