Commissioning new work has become part of the Tacoma orchestra’s identity since Ioannides, a British conductor hailed as one of the best on Lebrecht’s “Women Conductors: The Power List,” took the helm nearly five years ago.
On Saturday night in the Pantages Theater, however, the music was not only new, but quietly turned the historic male composer archetype on its head. Lash isn’t just a woman, she’s also a professional harpist — an instrument traditionally dominated by women, and the polar opposite to Beethoven’s blustery, piano-percussive modality.
Symphony Tacoma, under Ioannides’ assured baton, rose to Beethoven’s sun with energy, passion and a full, rich sound that filled the sold-out theater. In the first movement, firm brass chords resonated against the renovated theater’s new shell, violins crisp and timpani exciting, with Ioannides guiding the music like a ship’s captain over stormy waves.
The Molto vivace was just that, fast and light, the lacy airiness of the triplets interrupted by stomping timpani like a giant among elves. Legato strings, a precise bassoon and expressive oboe led to an ending with flair. The third movement is a love song, and Ioannides made it flowing rather than funereal with long, arching phrases and the triplet section as intimate as a slow waltz. The 4th horn solo was particularly poignant, sounding as if played offstage.
And then, of course, the finale that everybody waits for: sonorous cello/bass recitative, thoughtful phrases, wistful violins, triumphant brass. Ioannides wove through the tempo changes with precision and grace, and the orchestra followed flawlessly. The quartet of soloists made a perfect balance of voices: Baritone Charles Robert Stephens warm and personable, tenor Ross Hauck brilliant, mezzo Melissa Plagemann and soprano Kristin Vogel glittery as sunlight on top.
Symphony Tacoma Chorus filled the hall with a dynamic, strong sound, and as the notes flew to their shining destinations, it was as if every question in Hannah Lash’s piece had been answered.