MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Seattle Chamber Music Society Launches Its 2022 Summer Festival

Ehnes Quartet; image © Jorge Gustavo Elias

And they’re off to an auspicious start… Here’s my review of opening night for Bachtrack:

Nothing could stop this show from going on — not even a popped viola string nearly midway through Béla Bartók’s grueling String Quartet no. 6 at the center of the program that opened the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s 2022 Summer Festival

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Filed under: Bartók, Beethoven, Brahms, review, Seattle Chamber Music Society

Seattle Chamber Music Society Concert Truck

To tee off the 2022 Summer Festival, which starts on 5 July, Seattle Chamber Music Society is introducing the Concert Truck: a mobile concert hall equipped with piano and professional lighting and sound. The Concert Truck will be giving free chamber concerts at stops around the Seattle region in the days leading up to the opening of the Festival.

The Schedule:

Thursday, June 23/Program A

1:00pm: Wedgewood Presbyterian Church

5:00pm: Lake City Farmers Market

Friday, June 24/Program B

1:00pm: Westlake Park

7:00pm: Magnuson Park (near Kite Hill)

Saturday, June 25/Program B

12:00pm: Bellevue Botanical Garden

 5:00pm: Gasworks Park

Sunday, June 26/Program A

10:00am: Ballard Farmers Market

 5:00pm: Madison Park North Beach

Tuesday, June 28/Program C

6:00pm: Seattle Chinese Garden

Wednesday, June 29/Program C

11:00am: Freeway Park

5:30pm: Columbia City Farmers Market

Thursday, June 30/Program C

11:00am: Bridge Park Retirement

5:30pm: Central Park (in Columbia City)

Friday, July 1/Program C

11:00am: Pier 62

4:00pm: Ashwood Park (Bellevue)

Saturday, July 2/Program C

11:00am: Pike Place Market (Victor Steinbrueck Park)

7:00pm: Volunteer Park


And the programs:

PROGRAM A:
Thursday June 23 & Sunday June 26

Felix Mendelssohn Piano Trio No. 1

Gabriel Fauré Après un rêve

William Grant-Still Mother and Child

George Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue

Eleanor Alberga 3-Day Mix

PROGRAM B:
Friday June 24 & Saturday June 25

Sergei Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata in g minor

Gabriel Fauré Après un rêve

George Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue

Eleanor Alberga 3-Day Mix

PROGRAM C:
June 28 through July 2

Antonín Dvořák Piano Quintet in A major

William Grant-Still Mother and Child

Henri Vieuxtemps Souvenir d’Amerique

Beethoven Eyeglasses Duo

George Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue

Eleanor Alberga 3-Day Mix

Filed under: music news, Seattle Chamber Music Society

Winter Festival

This weekend marks the start of Seattle Chamber Music Society’s two-weekend Winter Festival.

And see the video above for a lecture by Michael Kannen, cellist, founding member of the Brentano String Quartet, and Professor of Chamber Music at the Peabody Institute, about the piano quintets of Antonin Dvořák, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Cesar Franck — all featured this winter.

Filed under: Seattle Chamber Music Society

Winter Festival: Seattle Chamber Music Society

Week 2 of Seattle Chamber Music Society’s 2021 Winter Festival continues on Saturday with a program of Schumann, Sibelius, Massenet, and Prokofiev. And since the performance is streamed online, no worries about how the coming winter storm will shape up.

Every concert is available to stream on demand from its release through March 15. Subscriptions for all 6 concerts are $100.

Filed under: chamber music, Seattle Chamber Music Society

A Virtual Festival of Chamber Music


[clip from the earlier incarnation of the James Ehnes Quartet, which launches Seattle’s Virtual Summer Festival this week]

The Seattle Chamber Music Society launches its Virtual Summer Festival this evening. This isn’t just a visit to the archives but a 12-concert series of all brand-new live performances that will be taped before being released to the public as streams.

The concerts will be made available on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule at 7pm PST. These will be “on-demand”: in other words, you won’t have to view them at the specific streaming time but can access all concerts for which you have purchased a pass through 10 August 2020 — as many times as you like.

This is an experiment and a risk. How many will pay for internet performances, as opposed to free streams? Each concert costs $15, or you can purchase a pass to all 12 programs for $125. For the first time, SCMS’s Chamber Festival is thus available to anyone anywhere with internet access, and performances cannot be “sold out.”

I wrote about the planning that went into this approach for the Seattle Times.

Artistic Director James Ehnes and his quartet will perform part two of their complete Beethoven quartet cycle in the three concerts on offer this week. This continues and concludes the journey they began in January — under normal circumstances — at the shorter Winter Festival.

Meanwhile, Ehnes put his quarantine time to use at his home in Florida by recording the solo partitas and sonatas of J.S. Bach and the corresponding Ysaÿe sonatas. He will be releasing these in a series, starting here.

Filed under: Beethoven, chamber music, COVID-19 Era, festivals, James Ehnes, Seattle Chamber Music Society

Seattle Chamber Music Society’s Summer Festival Goes Forward

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James Ehnes, Seattle Chamber Music Society artistic director, in the recording studio he set up while sequestered at his home near Tampa, Florida, where he just completed recording Bach’s solo violin Sonatas and Partitas. (Courtesy of Kate Ehnes)

Here’s my story about Seattle Chamber Music Society’s plan to go forward with its beloved, month-long Summer Festival with an online version.

Along with its terrible human toll, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the performing arts. Cancellation announcements are now so routine that the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s (SCMS) decision to proceed with a 2020 Summer Festival comes as a welcome respite…

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Meanwhile, here’s something from James Ehnes’s makeshift home studio. I’ll write more about his latest project there in an upcoming post.

Filed under: chamber music, James Ehnes, music news, Seattle Chamber Music Society

Seattle Chamber Music Society’s 2020 Winter Festival

This year really seems to be racing along at breakneck speed. We’re already in the middle of the 2020 Winter Festival presented by the Seattle Chamber Music Society.

I’ve got a bad case of FOMO since I wasn’t able to catch any of the the first three concerts last weekend. SCMS’s artistic director James Ehnes and his string quartet (violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti, violist Richard O’Neill, and cellist Edward Arron) launched the season with a major #Beethoven250 undertaking. They played no fewer than half of the Beethoven quartets, each program mingling examples from the three periods.

The clip above is of the Ehnes Quartet from some years ago playing Beethoven (I believe in Seoul)–at that time, the formation included Robert deMaine as the cellist. Anyone who was able to experience last weekend’s half-cycle: please share your reactions in the comments.

Tonight starts the second and final weekend of Winter Festival. The programming idea for Friday and Saturday is now about twos, threes, and fives: violin sonatas by Grieg and Mozart, piano trios by Schubert and Ravel, and the two magnificent string quintets of Brahms.

Sunday brings a matinee concert (3pm) of J.S. Bach concertos: Concerto for 2 Violins and Orchestra in D minor, BWV 1043; Concerto No. 5 for Harpsichord and Orchestra in F minor, BWV 1056; Concerto No. 4 for Harpsichord and Orchestra in A major, BWV 1055; and Concerto for 3 Violins and Strings in D major, BWV 1064R.

And each of these three concerts is prefaced by half-hour prelude recital, starting one hour before the concert begins and free of charge. There’s also an open rehearsal today, at Nordstrom Recital Hall, of the Op. 88 Brahms String Quintet, at 1:15pm.

Complete 2020 Winter Festival Calendar

Filed under: James Ehnes, Seattle Chamber Music Society

An Enescu Discovery

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My latest piece for STRINGS magazine is on the very belated US premiere of an early string trio by George Enescu:

Fellow musicians — especially string players — have resorted to some striking superlatives to characterize George Enescu (1881–1955). Pablo Casals, a frequent chamber partner, once remarked that since Mozart, there had been no greater musical phenomenon, while Enescu’s student Yehudi Menuhin believed the Op. 25 Third Sonata (“dans le caractère populaire roumain”) represented “the greatest achievement of musical notation” he had ever known…

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Filed under: chamber music, George Enescu, Seattle Chamber Music Society, Strings

Intriguing Voyage Out Anchored by 19th-Century Delights in Seattle

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Sebastian Currier

My review of Monday evening’s Summer Chamber Festival concert, which presented the world premiere of Sebastian Currier’s piano quintet Voyage Out, along with music by Fanny Mendelssohn* and Antonín Dvořák:

Under the smart and tastefully reliable artistic direction of the distinguished violinist James Ehnes, the Seattle Chamber Music Society has basically hewed to a longstanding programming formula: an overlooked work by a familiar composer, a piece featuring instrumentation unusual for the chamber format, and a blockbuster or two, typically from the 19th century…

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*This observation was cut from my review, but since the event has still left me seething, I want to include it:
As if patriarchal strictures hadn’t suppressed Fanny Mendelssohn’s voice sufficiently during her own lifetime, contemporary technology continued the insult to this wonderfully gifted composer in the form of entitled, inexcusable rudeness: in both the first and second movements, the same audience member had to silence a cell phone’s intrusions (not before the beastly device rang out a full cycle of Westminster chimes as the Adagio was supposed to have ebbed into silence).

Filed under: Antonín Dvořák, commissions, Fanny Mendelssohn, James Ehnes, review, Seattle Chamber Music Society

New Piano Quintet by Sebastian Currier in Seattle

Looking forward to this evening’s world premiere of Voyage Out: Quintet for Piano and Strings by Sebastian Currier — this summer’s Seattle Chamber Music Society commission. Currier will introduce the piece in a talk at 7pm. Also on the 8pm program are Fanny Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E-flat major and Dvořák’s Op. 87 Piano Quartet.

Above is a fascinating interview with Currier conducted by Frank Oteri in 2012, in which the composer discusses his aesthetic.

Filed under: commissions, Seattle Chamber Music Society

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