Camille Saint-Saens - La serenite
Camille Saint-Saens Le lever de la lune
George Frederic Handel Rodelinda (hosted by Sue Elliott: part 3)
Alexander Glazunov Symphony No.7 in F, Op.77 "Pastoral"
Paul-Baudouin Michel Mouvements

The Classical Notebook

Classical KING FM announcers and featured musicians share their thoughts on local concerts, seasonal music and evergreen classical favorites.
by Melinda Bargreen posted Mar 31 2015 9:56AM

The submission deadline for KING FM's Young Artist Awards Competition is 6am on Monday, April 6, 2015. Enter here.

The first time I was asked to join the judging panel for the Classical KING 98.1 FM Young Artists Awards Competition, I accepted – with a few misgivings. Would I have to listen to performance after performance of widely varying quality? Might there be lots of “not quite ready for prime time” talent? Many well-meaning and hopeful but unready young players?

Imagine my surprise and delight when I heard an array of performances so excellent that it was excruciatingly difficult to single out the finalists. The level of talent was so high that hearing these gifted, excited young musicians practically lifted me out of my chair. I went back again and again to watch the video clips of the best ones, in a quandary of indecision. This one was so technically polished – but that one was so lyrically inspired! Or how about the one whose obvious nerves almost obscured a fleet-fingered finesse that still managed to shine through in the performance?

For listeners, it’s a simple matter: outstanding young performers thrill music lovers and give them hope for the future of the art we all love. Especially in a field where there are perpetual warnings about the “greying of classical music,” it is heart-warming to realize that the ranks of great performers are constantly being renewed. (And on that former subject: four decades ago, when I started reviewing classical events in Seattle, a common lament here and elsewhere was that the classical audience members were mostly middle-aged and older, and soon there would be no one left in the concert halls. Wrong!)

Here are a few more reasons – besides the entertainment and inspiration of the audiences! – that young artist competitions are important.

1. Young musicians need goals. Knowing that a competition lies ahead, in which one’s musical mettle will be thoroughly tested, is an inspiration to practice diligently and to make the most of one’s talent.

2. Competitions are wonderful practice for live performance, and help to promote a valuable skill set: learning to focus, learning to control nerves, learning to truly master the competition music and to present oneself confidently.

3. Matching up one’s talent against the achievement of others is a great motivator (“I’ve got to practice really hard so I can be as good as this fine player, or better!”).

4. Competing alongside gifted peers is also an excellent way to take stock: How am I doing? Have I improved? Am I reaching a level where my goals of a life in music are possible? How do I stack up against other musicians my age? This is the best possible way to find out.

5. Competitions can give a young player excellent feedback. It’s one thing to hear what your teacher thinks; what about comments from judges and other people who hear your performance?

6. A young artist competition teaches musicians how to audition, and gives them practice for those upcoming college/conservatory auditions. You’re already performance-ready on your competition repertoire, and that can be a huge advantage.

7. Finally, the competition can make you famous! Winners of Classical KING FM’s fourth annual Young Artist Competition will not only perform live on the radio (which means not only the local listeners but also your great-uncle in Tokyo or your college friend in Iceland can also tune in via They’ll also have several live performance opportunities around the area (last year’s winners were heard in recital during the prestigious Seattle Chamber Music Society’s Summer Festival).

So performers, on your marks – and listeners, get ready for a new array of talent. Let the fourth Classical KING FM Young Artist Awards Competition begin!

Filed Under :
Location : SeattleTokyo
by Melinda Bargreen posted Mar 18 2015 5:16PM
Seattle is in the middle of a veritable Finn-fest this week and next. And for fans of Sibelius’s music, it’s a wonderful time to be in this city, where all seven of the Finnish master’s symphonies are being performed through March 28 by the Seattle Symphony under the dynamic direction of Thomas Dausgaard.

Classical KING FM 98.1 listeners will get a huge Sibelius bonanza, too, on March 29 when all the composer’s symphonies will stream in a 24-hour marathon on the Symphonic Channel. Don’t forget to tune in!

But that’s not all. In celebration of Sibelius’ 150th birthday, three generations of the composer’s family have been in Seattle for this festival of “Luminous Landscapes: The Sibelius Symphonies”-- including pianist Ruusamari Teppo (Sibelius’ great-great-granddaughter), who has been performing in seven “Jewels of Sibelius” chamber programs in area schools.

In Benaroya Hall, Dausgaard – the Seattle Symphony’s principal guest conductor – has been lighting a fire in the orchestra, whose players seem unusually inspired by his tremendous enthusiasm and his fresh interpretations of this repertoire. The opening concert, featuring Sibelius’s first two symphonies and the majestic symphonic poem “Finlandia,” was met with rapt attention, standing ovations, and loud cheering.

In an interview after the first of the Seattle Symphony concerts on March 12, Dausgaard discussed his long-term fascination with Sibelius ever since discovering the Finnish master’s music as a teenager. So deep is his knowledge of the seven complicated symphonies that he will probably conduct all three concerts without a score. Dausgaard has made an extensive study of the folk and church music influences on Sibelius’ compositional style. He has even seen the stove in which the composer, whose pen grew silent in last years, burned the manuscript of what would have been a final, eighth symphony.

The “Luminous Landscapes” programs are resonating in new ways with Seattle audiences. A March 13 repeat of the opening March 12 concert featured a stirring innovation: a performance of the “Finlandia” in which members of the Seattle Symphony Chorale were joined by an estimated 200 Nordic audience members – several of them in folk costume – to sing along the anthem whose melody is at the heart of this work. (The melody is one of Finland’s most beloved national songs, and has been sung in several languages; in English, it is most commonly heard as the hymn “Be Still My Soul.”)

Audience members were at first surprised and then thrilled by the “surround sound” of the hymn resonating through the audience. What a wonderfully innovative and inclusive development in a festival that is now Seattle’s cultural “talk of the town”!
Filed Under :
Location : Seattle
by Jill Kimball posted Mar 10 2015 1:59PM

The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius has been everywhere this concert season, as December marks the 150th anniversary of his birth. Given the Seattle area's strong Nordic ties, there have been plenty of Sibelius tributes to choose from, including Philharmonia Northwest's season opener, the Lake Union Civic Orchestra's February concert, and the month-long extravaganza at the Seattle Symphony, happening now at Benaroya Hall. (If you're a world traveler, check out this comprehensive international list.)

But before you go see the SSO's tribute, titled Luminous Landscapes, you might want to brush up on your Finn facts. Below, we offer a few tidbits about the composer who's known for his groundbreaking symphonic writing.

1. He faced rejection. Mozart may have been labeled a prodigy well before most of us could even hold a pen, but not all famous composers had it so easy. It took Sibelius a while to discover his passion: in his first years at Imperial Alexander University, he studied law before he quit to take up violin studies. Even then, things didn't come easily to him: after an unsuccessful audition at the Vienna Philharmonic, Sibelius finally admitted to himself that he'd never achieve his dream of becoming a violin virtuoso. "It was a very painful awakening when I had to admit that I had begun my training for the exacting career of a virtuoso too late," he once wrote. Whoever said "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" must have had Sibelius in mind.

The Finnish landscape.

2. He loved nature. The Finns experience such short winter days that they've learned how to take full advantage of their stunning surroundings in the few hours of daylight. Sibelius would spend hours scanning the skies for geese, looking out for spring blossoms, and reveling in the long summer days when they arrived. Given that Finland is home to the Northern Lights and stunning vistas year-round, it's hardly surprising to note that Sibelius found musical inspiration in his surroundings.

3. His music met mixed reception. Many English composers, including Arnold Bax and Ralph Vaughan Williams, venerated Sibelius' music and paid tribute to it in their own compositions. In his region, Sibelius was always popular, often lauded as a genius. Americans grew to like him, too, when Eugene Ormany and Leopold Stokowski began to program his music in their symphony halls. But a handful of influential critics believed him to be reactionary and unoriginal. Washington Post critic Tim Page once famously said, "There are two things to be said straightaway about Sibelius. First, he is terribly uneven...Second, at his very best, he is often weird." Sibelius paid no mind to these comments, positive or negative. He once said, "Pay no attention to what critics say. No statue has ever been put up to a critic."

Finnish currency pays tribute to Jean Sibelius.

4. In Finland, Sibelius can do no wrong. The Finnish are extraordinarily proud to call Sibelius their much so that his face has appeared on national currency and stamps, the national Flag Day is also known as the Day of Finnish Music and occurs each year on Sibelius's birthday, and...well, look at this list of concerts honoring his 150th anniversary. 

5. A health scare influenced his music. Sibelius had his fair share of cocktails and cigars, and as a result, he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1907, at age 42. At the turn of the century, the mortality rate for those diagnosed with cancer was nearly 80 percent, but the Finnish composer beat the odds and survived a serious surgical operation. Sibelius claims the scare heavily influenced more than a few moments of musical brilliance, including his Fourth Symphony and the tone poem Luonnotar.

A Sibelius memorial in Helsinki.

To hear the extraordinary music of Sibelius this month, visit the Seattle Symphony's website for concert information, or check out a few of these tributes over the weekend:

Port Angeles Symphony: Symphony Concert No. 4: SIBELIUS’ VIOLIN CONCERTO
Hear the original, masterly, and exhilarating Violin Concerto of Sibelius, featuring violinist Monique Mead. The piece is performed alongside Haydn’s Symphony No. 102 and Elgar’s moving Enigma Variations. Everyone 16 and under is admitted free when accompanied by an adult.
Saturday, March 14 at 7:30pm, Port Angeles High School Auditorium
Vancouver Symphony: Tea & Trumpets: Sibelius at 150
Celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of great composer Jean Sibelius, with selections from many of his best-known works: Finlandia, Karelia Suite, The Swan of Tuonela, and the Violin Concerto. 
Thursday, March 12 at 2pm, Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver BC
From Finland with Love: Songs of My Great Grandfather
To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, two Finnish musicians, cellist Jussi Makkonen (YOO-see MAH-koh-nen) and pianist Ruusamari Teppo (ROO-sah-mah-ree TEH-poh), will perform an all-Sibelius concert. Teppo is a great-great-granddaughter of Sibelius.
Sunday, March 15 at 6pm, Brechemin Auditorium, UW campus, Seattle
Filed Under :
Location : Seattle
People : Jean Sibelius
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