Weekly Concert Round-up: June 3 – 9

Spectrum Dance Theater's "A Cruel New World / the new normal" (Photo: Nate Watters)

Spectrum Dance Theater’s “A Cruel New World / the new normal” (Photo: Nate Watters)

This week’s featured concerts:

Jun. 5 – 9 — After rave reviews in April, Spectrum Dance Theater artistic director Donald Byrd’s visceral choreographic commentary on the aftermath of 9/11 returns for a series of encore performances at the Emerald City Trapeze aerialdrome. More info

Jun. 6 — Hear what happens when a bassoon is fitted with fifteen microphones, each piping sound to speakers placed around the auditorium. Wayward Music Series presents a concert by bassoonist Leslie Ross, who will perform works for for micro-amplified bassoon and quadraphonic speakers. More info

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Adoration of the Rite: 100 Years of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the premiere of Stravinsky’s monumental ballet Le Sacre du printemps (“The Rite of Spring”). Inspired by traditional songs and dances of tribal Russia, the work depicts an ancient sacrificial ritual in which a maiden is selected to dance herself to death in honor of the changing seasons. The original production combined Stravinsky’s pounding rhythms and sensuous melodies with visceral choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky.

Pina Bausch's choreography for The Rite of Spring (Photo: Angela Taylor / Arenapal)

Pina Bausch’s choreography for The Rite of Spring (Photo: Angela Taylor / Arenapal)

As legend goes, during the premiere performance on May 29, 1913, the audience at Paris’s Théâtre des Champs-Élysées was so scandalized by the ballet’s jarring timbres and jumpy dance movements that a riot broke out, overcoming the entire auditorium. Though it’s still unclear if the Rite riot was orchestrated by the ballet’s producers to generate buzz or if the chaos truly arose spontaneously, the work’s storied debut remains one of the great moments in classical music history.

A hundred years later, the searing musical energy and sheer orchestral power of Stravinsky’s work continues to enthrall musicians, dancers, and audience members alike. I first experienced the Rite as a music student at the University of Washington, where I watched the Joffrey Ballet’s 1989 re-creation of Nijinsky’s original choreography in a music history class. I became obsessed with the piece, combing through YouTube in an attempt to watch every single performance and choreography I could find. Years later, The Rite of Spring remains one of my favorite musical works of all time.

In honor of today’s Rite centennial, I’ve compiled a collection of my favorite recordings, choreographies, and related media. Happy 100th birthday, Rite of Spring!

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Weekly Concert Round-up: May 27 – June 2

This week’s featured concerts:

May 30, Jun. 1 & 2 — Violinist Alina Ibragimova joins the Seattle Symphony for Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major. Dvořák’s Symphony No. 6 and Smetana’s Wallenstein’s Camp round out the program.

May 31 — Throw back a cold one while enjoying the music of 20th century Italian composer Luciano Berio. The   University of Washington’s Inverted Space Ensemble presents “Beerio”, an evening of beer and Berio’s Sequenzas, at the University District’s Solstice Cafe.

May 31 – Jun. 9Pacific Northwest Ballet debuts a new work by choreographer Christopher Wheeldon at their annual “Director’s Choice” production. The world premiere is accompanied by two George Balanchine favorites, “Agon” and “Diamonds”.

Jun. 1 — All the world’s a stage in “Music in Space”, Seattle Modern Orchestra‘s final concert of the 2012-13 season. The program features works by György Kurtág, Iannis Xenakis, and SMO co-founder Jérémy Jolley that play with dynamic staging, exploring how movement of the performers throughout the concert space affects musical sound.

Jun. 2 — Experience keyboard fireworks for four hands at the latest installment of the Nordic Heritage Museum‘s “Mostly Nordic” concert series. Norwegian pianist Inger-Kristine Riber will be joined by Italian pianist Georgia Alessandra Brustia for a program of piano duets.

Weekly Concert Round-up: May 20 – 26

This week’s featured concerts:

May 20 — Experience opera up close and personal with Opera on Tap. This lively group of singers performs a program of French, German, and Spanish art songs in the casual atmosphere of Greenwood’s Naked City Brewery.

May 22 Seattle Opera celebrate Wagner’s 200th birthday with a free party at the Seattle Center Armory. Festivities include a costume contest, “Hojotoho” competition, and birthday cake.

May 14 — Cellist and composer Lori Goldston performs a recital in preparation for her impending European tour. She’ll be joined onstage by violinist Julie Baldridge and percussionist Greg Campbell for this program of composed and improvised works.

May 24 – 27 — The Northwest Folklife Festival brings together musical and cultural traditions from around the world on the sprawling grounds of Seattle Center. Classical music offerings include performances by the Southeast Seattle Community Youth Orchestra, the Dusty Strings All-Guitar Orchestra, and Eckstein Middle School Wind Ensemble.

The Medieval Women’s Choir Fills St. James Cathedral With Ethereal Song

As a Seattle native, I feel a little sheepish admitting that I paid my first visit to St. James Cathedral only last Saturday. One of the city’s grandest landmarks, the cathedral’s twin spires have adorned First Hill since 1907. In 2002, St. James famously hosted Conan O’Brien’s wedding to Seattle native Liza Powel.

Celebrity marriages aside, the cathedral is an important space for Seattle’s choral and early music communities, and for a good reason — the building’s echoing acoustics bring the sound of vocal music to life. St. James did not disappoint during my first visit. From my seat on a pew in the cathedral’s grand nave, the voices of the Medieval Women’s Choir transported me back to the ancient churches of Renaissance Europe, where choirs of nuns sung Gregorian chant in the candlelight.

Margriet Tindemans (Photo: William Stickney)

Margriet Tindemans (Photo: William Stickney)

Nearly fifty members strong, the Medieval Women’s Choir was created in 1990 by Margriet Tindemans. A local powerhouse for the early music community, Tindemans does it all. In addition to her position as artistic director of the Medieval Women’s Choir, she plays the vielle (an ancient cousin of the violin), composes, and researches the musical traditions of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The choir performs three times a year, bringing the timeless simplicity and beauty of the vocal music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance to Seattle’s grand old churches and cathedrals. To complete the package, they’re accompanied by musicians playing on period instruments.

This season, the choir explored the life and work of St. Hildegard of Bingen with three concerts devoted to the medieval mystic. Last Saturday’s performance brought together a collection of songs and antiphons — responsive Gregorian chants — that Hildegard may have heard during her lifetime.

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Weekly Concert Round-up: May 13 – 19

This week’s featured concerts:

May 14 — Learn about the astounding life of poet Krystyna Zywulska, member of the Polish Resistance and survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Music of Remembrance presents the world premiere performance of Jake Heggie’s Farewell, Auschwitz!, which brings Zywulska’s poetry to life.

May 16 — The Wayward Music Series presents an evening of “flexible music” at Wallingford’s intimate Chapel Performance Space. Organized by local composers Paul Kikuchi and John Teske, Any Ensemble brings together a variety of musicians to perform works created without a specific instrumentation in mind.

May 16 – 17 — The Seattle Symphony celebrates Shostakovich with two concerts of the composer’s most beloved works. On May 16, the orchestra performs the dramatic Symphony No. 5 along with Piano Concerto No. 1, featuring guest soloist Ignat Solzhenitsyn. The next evening, May 17, hear Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 performed by 21-year-old Julian Schwarz, son of SSO Conductor Laureate Gerard Schwarz.

May 17 — The vocal quartet Canonici: Consort of Voices traces the development of Italian Renaissance madrigals with a concert of French and Flemish music, including works by Josquin des Prez that were influential in Italy at the time.

May 18 — Revel in some of Gershwin’s most famous melodies as pianist Sara Davis Buechner joins the Puget Sound Symphony Orchestra for a performance of Rhapsody in Blue. Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite round out this evening of orchestral favorites.

May 18 – 19 — Devoted to performing vocal music of the Baltic region, the seven-member Mägi Ensemble explores the past hundred years of choral music in Estonia and Latvia, featuring pieces by living Estonian composers Arvo Pärt, Veljo Tormis, and René Eespere.

May 18 – 19Seattle Pro Musica presents “Lucis”, a program of contemporary choral music that centers on the theme of light. Hear Finnish composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi’s Canticum calamitatis maritimae, written in honor of the 1994 MS Estonia shipwreck.

UW Musicians Explore the Strange World of Charles Ives

Charles Ives

Charles Ives

Charles Ives may be the most important American composer you’ve never heard of. An eccentric, reclusive figure whose music often treads the line between lyrical beauty and pure noise, his work inspired an entire generation of composers, but never quite captured the public imagination in the same way as the music of American figureheads like Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber. For most of his life, Ives lived a modest existence, selling insurance by day and writing music by night. Active in the decades before and after the turn of the 20th century, he penned hundreds of compositions, ranging from solo piano pieces to works for full orchestra.

This week, from May 6 to 8, the University of Washington shines the spotlight on Ives with three days of lectures and performance exploring the composer’s life and work. Organized by UW School of Music professor Larry Starr, “A Festival of Ives” kicked off yesterday with a performance by the UW Symphony, conducted by Jonathan Pasternack. The highlight of the evening was an appearance by baritone William Sharp, who joined the orchestra for Ives’ Orchestral Songs. An acclaimed devotee of modern American composers, particularly Ives, Sharp is in town for all three days of the festival, presenting performances each evening.

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Weekly Concert Round-up: May 6 – 12

This week’s featured concerts:

May 6 – 8 — The University of Washington School of Music explores the strange world of American composer Charles Ives with three days of events. Hear Ives’ orchestral works on May 6, his devilishly difficult “Concord” Piano Sonata on May 7, and a collection of songs and chamber music on May 8. More info

May 8 — Pianist Jon Kimura Parker shows off his chops at the UW’s Meany Hall with his own solo piano arrangement of Stravinsky’s infamous ballet Rite of Spring. As if a full-length performance of Rite isn’t enough, Parker also throws in Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and works by Prokofiev and Rachmaninoff. More info

May 10 – 12 — A recent winner of the International Tchaikovsky Competition — one of the classical music world’s most prestigious contests — 24-year-old violinist Mayuko Kamio joins the Northwest Sinfonietta for a performance of Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1. More info

May 11 — Soprano Marian Seibert joins the Medieval Women’s Choir for “Music of the Spheres,” a tribute to 12th-century abbess and religious mystic Hildegard of Bingen. Travel back in time to the Middle Ages with this choral performance, accompanied by period instruments. More info

May 11 — Experience the sound of a full-fledged piano choir with Ten Grands. The benefit concert brings ten pianists and ten pianos to the Benaroya Hall stage for a medley of music that includes classical, jazz, and pop favorites. More info

This Month in Seattle: Classical Music Picks for May

As the weather gets warmer, things are starting to heat up in the Seattle classical music scene. Catch world premiere performances from today’s hottest composers and choreographers. Explore great works of the 20th century with Shostakovich at Benaroya Hall and a Charles Ives festival at the University of Washington. Or travel further back in time with the Medieval Women’s Choir as they transport audiences to 12th century Germany.

Soprano Soprano Nuccia Focile in Poulenc's La Voix Humaine (Photo: Tristram Kenton)

Soprano Soprano Nuccia Focile in Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine (Photo: Tristram Kenton)

May 3 — The Oregon Symphony rolls into town for a performance at Benaroya Hall. Our orchestral neighbors from the south bring along a diversity of musical treats. Hear Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony alongside music by Ravel and Kurt Weill (of “Mack the Knife” fame). A special performance of a work by Thai composer Narong Prangcharoen rounds off the evening.

May 4 – 18 — Seattle Opera brings two unusual tales of damsels in distress to the McCaw Hall stage. The operatic double bill begins with Francis Poulenc’s The Human Voice. Based on a 1930 play by Jean Cocteau, the one-woman opera captures one side of the conversation as a despairing Parisian woman is dumped via telephone. After intermission, Puccini’s Sister Angelica transports the audience to 17th century Italian convent, where a young nun struggles with hidden secrets from her past.

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“New Expressions” Showcases Seattle Symphony Composers

Seattle audiences are most familiar with the musicians of the Seattle Symphony as a collective, coming together to perform beloved works the Benaroya Hall stage. On April 26, symphony fans got a chance to see their favorite local performers in a different light, as accomplished composers exploring a wealth of different musical styles and modes of expression.

Seattle Symphony musicians perform Ben Hausmann’s Oboe Quartet No. 2 (Photo: Seattle Symphony)

Seattle Symphony musicians perform Ben Hausmann’s Oboe Quartet No. 2 (Photo: Seattle Symphony)

The concert, dubbed “New Expressions”, turned the spotlight over to individual musicians, showcasing three new compositions by members of the orchestra alongside striking works by composers Chinary Ung and Anna Clyne. This concert of world premieres was part of the symphony’s “Untitled” series, meant to draw new, youthful audiences to Benaroya Hall. Held in the sumptuous Grand Lobby, “Untitled” events create a casual setting for adventurous programs of 20th century and contemporary works.

Seth Krimsky’s Love Song combines an unusual palette of sounds, blending the rich coffee-like tones of the bassoon with sensual strings and echoing chimes. Beginning with solemn notes from two sets of long metal chimes, the principal bassoonist’s composition features a winding melodic line that curls upward like a wisp of smoke.

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