Banjo player Béla Fleck and string quartet Brooklyn Rider (Photo: Shervin Lainez)
This week’s featured concerts:
Feb. 4 — Banjo master Béla Fleck joins string quartet Brooklyn Rider for a UW World Series performance that crisscrosses folk and classical genres.
Feb. 4 — Tacoma-based vocal ensemble Canonici sings secular Renaissance works from France, England, Spain, Italy, and the early American colonies.
Feb. 5 — Violin fans, take note: Superstar violinist Joshua Bell returns to Benaroya Hall for a recital of works by Beethoven, Stravinsky, and Tartini.
Feb. 6 – 8 — Now in its 29th year, the Seattle Improvised Music Festival features a roster of local musicians and a visiting artists in a weekend of live improvisation.
Feb. 8 – 9 — Seattle Pro Musica celebrates the 100th anniversary of Benjamin Britten’s birth with some of the composer’s most beloved choral works.
Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production of “Sleeping Beauty” (Photo: Angela Sterling)
This week’s featured concerts:
Jan. 30 — The early music specialists of Pacific Musicworks join forces with the University of Washington Symphony for an evening of music by Haydn, C.P.E. Bach, and Gabrielli.
Jan. 30 – Feb. 1 — Seattle Symphony celebrates the 20th and 21st centuries with music by Shostakovich and John Adams, including Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with guest soloist Alexander Melnikov.
Jan. 31 – Feb. 1 — The singers of the Byrd Ensemble perform contemporary choral works inspired by all things spiritual and mystical. Their program features pieces by Arvo Pärt, Peter Hallock, and others.
Jan. 31 – Feb. 2 — The musicians of the Racer Sessions commemorate four years of improvised music and performance with Cry & Roar IV, a weekend-long festival.
Jan. 31 – Feb. 9 — Tchaikovsky’s music comes to life in Pacific Northwest Ballet‘s production of the fairy-tale favorite Sleeping Beauty, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Seattle Opera’s “Rigoletto”, with Marco Vratogna as Rigoletto and Barry Johnson as Marullo (Photo: Elise Bakketun)
This week’s featured concerts:
Jan. 20 – 27 — True to its name, the Salish Sea Early Music Festival tours the Washington coastline from Bellingham to Tacoma with a whirlwind of seven concerts in one week. This installment of the festival features chamber music of 18th century France performed on period instruments.
Jan. 22 – 25 — This is the final weekend to catch Seattle Opera‘s Rigoletto. Verdi’s classic comes alive in this re-staging of a 2004 production set in Mussolini-era Italy.
Jan. 23 – 24 — Experience the latest in electronics, video, and interactive media at “Crotchets, Quavers…and Silicon Parchment“, a two-night festival hosted by the UW Center for Digital Arts & Experimental Media (DXARTS) and the Wayward Music Series.
Jan. 24 – Feb. 2 — The Seattle Chamber Music Society‘s 2014 Winter Festival brings Beethoven, Schumann, Dvořák, and a host of other favorites to Benaroya Hall, along with a special performance by the Ehnes Quartet.
Choral Arts (Photo: Choral Arts)
For those on the go during the holidays, Choral Arts‘ annual Christmas concert provides an tiny oasis of calm during December’s hustle and bustle. The choir’s hour-long program, sung with no breaks between pieces, is perfectly tailored to busy holiday schedules. The first of two performances of this yuletide program, the December 14th concert at First Hill’s Trinity Church drew a crowd that filled most of the church’s central pews, making for a cozy atmosphere. A second performance was held the next night at the roomier Capitol Hill’s St. Joseph’s.
Ranging from medieval chant to contemporary carols, the medley of choral gems sparkled in Trinity’s intimate space. Despite the emphasis on meditative works that invite reflection and relaxation, the hour seemed to fly by, smoothly flowing from one tune to the next. At the helm, Artistic Director Robert Bode tied the program together with clear conducting and careful pacing. As a final touch, Bode and the ensemble wrapped each piece up with a perfectly-executed conclusion, final chords hanging in the air for just a moment before fading away. This is an ensemble that has mastered art of the juicy ending.
Seattle Pro Musica rehearses at St. James Cathedral (Photo: Seattle Pro Musica)
As one of the 20th century’s most beloved composers, Benjamin Britten stands out for his outstanding choral offerings. Born in 1913, the English composer left a legacy of vocal repertoire that continues to inspire to this day. In celebration of the Britten Centenary, the singers of Seattle Pro Musica have dedicated their annual holiday program the composer’s Christmas-themed choral works, including yuletide favorite A Ceremony of Carols.
The concert pairs Britten classics with lesser-known gems by contemporary composers, making for an appealing blend of new and old that’s bound to delight fans of choral music. Festivities began with two performances at Town Hall on December 7 and continue with two more on December 14 at the Bastyr University Chapel. The program focuses on Britten’s fascination with historical texts, from 15th century British carols to 19th century poetry. Throughout his career, Britten drew upon older pieces of writing as compositional sources, passing on his penchant for combining ancient text with new music to many of today’s choral composers.
Northwest Boychoir’s “A Festival of Lessons & Carols” (Photo: Northwest Choirs)
The holiday concert season may already be in full swing, but there’s still a full calendar of festive musical events set to spread Christmas cheer all around the Seattle area. Our list is just a small sampling of the vast seasonal offerings at this time of year, but we guarantee that you’ll find something here for everyone, from grandma to your hipster cousin. Christmas overload? We’ve included a few non-holiday-themed offerings for yuletide-weary souls.
JP Jofre (Photo: Sergio Reyes)
With its expressive, reedy tone and air-filled bellows that can expand more than three feet, the bandoneón is one of the world’s most dramatic instruments. Related to the accordion and concertina, the bandoneón was invented in Germany and brought to Argentina in the 19th century by German emigrants, missionaries, and sailors. It’s known for its role in Argentine tango music, where its soulful melodies and crackling chords convey the passion of the dance. Today, tango and the bandoneón are virtually inseparable.
A youthful upstart hailing from the tradition of great Argentine bandoneónists, New York-based Juan Pablo Jofre brings explosive energy to the tango genre with his lightning-fast chops and flair for drama. After starting his musical career as a drummer in a metal band, Jofre switched to bandoneón and found an outlet for his creative energies. His first album, Hard Tango, combines Jofre’s own compositions with arrangements of tango favorites. In February 2012, during their first visit to Seattle, Jofre and his ensemble blew Town Hall audiences away with tracks from the 2011 release. The energy in the hall was downright electric, with Jofre and his three-member band locked into a solid groove and amping up the excitement level with each successive tune. It was one of the most memorable performances I attended that year.
Haruko Nishimura dances in a performance of Degenerate Art Ensemble’s “Warrior” at the Triple Door in June 2013. The piece was performed again with the Kronos Quartet in November 2013. (Photo: Bruce Tom)
On November 16, the University District’s historic Neptune Theater buzzed with energy as an excited crowd packed into the auditorium’s two tiers. Fans young and old came to help the Kronos Quartet celebrate their 40th anniversary as an ensemble. The Grammy Award-winning string quartet is renowned for their adventurous globe-trotting repertoire and support of contemporary composers. In their forty-year history, the ensemble has commissioned over 800 works. Not content to stay within the boundaries of the classical, jazz, and rock genres, Kronos has thrived on decades of exploring the world’s musical traditions, including collaborations with top artists from around the globe.
What many listeners might not know is that Kronos, based in San Francisco since 1978, was actually born in Seattle. The brainchild of a young University of Washington violinist named David Harrington, the group played its first concert in Seattle in November 1973. Three of Kronos’s original members still perform with the quartet, with Harrington and John Sherba on violins and Hank Dutt on viola. Cellist Sunny Yang joined the group in June 2013, after the departure of Jeffrey Zeigler.
Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra (Photo: SMCO)
Just as the blustery, wet weather is making us want to scuttle off to the nearest concert hall, the October calendar looks like it’s filling up with an impressive list of appearances by some of classical music’s biggest names. The coming month is also burgeoning with performances by local artists and ensembles, all looking to kick-start the concert season with exciting repertoire and top-notch music-making.
Mandolinist Chris Thile (Photo: Danny Clinch)
This week’s featured concerts:
Oct. 1 — Originally known as a member of bluegrass ensembles Nickel Creek and the Punch Brothers, mandolinist Chris Thile‘s current work spans folk, classical, and jazz traditions. The 2012 MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient performs Bach and a medley of his own compositions as part of the UW World Series.
Oct. 3, 5 – 6 — Three rising stars join the Seattle Symphony for a performance of Beethoven’s monumental Triple Concerto, which juxtaposes the traditional piano trio (violin, cello, and piano) against the backdrop of the full orchestra.
Oct. 3 – 6 — Founded in 1987, the AXIS Dance Company has won worldwide acclaim for groundbreaking choreography that features dancers with and without disabilities. AXIS visits Seattle this week for three evenings of performances with the UW World Series.
Oct. 5 — Music of Remembrance honors victims and survivors of the Holocaust with a free concert at the Seattle Art Museum. Hear works by composers who perished during the Holocaust alongside pieces commemorating the struggles of the European Jewish community during World War II.
Oct. 5 – 6 — Choral Arts opens the 2013-14 concert season with three different settings of Ave Maria, featuring versions by Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Grieg. The diverse program jumps from the Renaissance to modern day and includes two world premieres.
Oct. 6 — Harpsichordist and pianist Byron Schenkman kicks off his new concert series with three Beethoven piano quartets. Dubbed “Byron Schenkman & Friends”, the series explores chamber music masterworks with performances by some of Seattle’s brightest musical luminaries.