Johann Sebastian Bach - Concerto in D minor for two violins, BWV 1043
John Thomas Autumn
Erich Wolfgang Korngold Die tote Stadt, Op.12 (hosted by Sue Elliot: part 1)
Mily Balakirev (orch. Liapunov) Islamey
Ken Thomson Perpetual

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 Jun 25 2015 8:56AM

How often do you have the chance to hear a 100-year-old concert pianist in recital? A recital, moreover, that encompasses important works of Bach, Mozart, and Chopin?
Well, there was Mieczys┼éaw Horszowski (1892-1993), who died before his 101st birthday (but apparently played his last performance at age 99). And then there was  . . . well, nobody.

Randolph Hokanson’s June 24 recital at his residence, Bayview Manor on Queen Anne Hill, was presented two days after the pianist’s 100th birthday, to a capacity crowd of residents, fans, and music lovers. The astonishing fact about this performance was not just that it took place at all – but how good it actually was.

Hokanson retired in 1984 from the music faculty at the University of Washington, but he hasn’t lost the professorial desire to enlighten his audience with information about the composers and the works he performed. The familiar twinkle in his eyes, the quick quips and obvious deep love for music, are all as evident as always with this beloved artist. He is a little slower to make his way to the keyboard these days, using a walker for balance. But there’s nothing slow about his agile fingers, galloping through Bach Preludes and Fugues, a Mozart sonata (with the excellent violinist and longtime duo partner Marjorie Kransberg-Talvi), and a Chopin set that included two Etudes and a Nocturne.

With his student and friend Judith Cohen at hand to turn the pages, Hokanson explained to the June 24 audience that he had made some substitutions to the planned program because an old hand injury had affected his ability to “stretch” the right hand to a wider compass. He replaced the mighty, thundering Chopin Ballade in F Minor with a different set of shorter pieces. Hand injury or not, those two Chopin Etudes Hokanson chose are definitely not for sissies. The technical requirements of the whole program were uncompromising, and most of the time they were very successfully met.

What a life lesson for all of us! A gifted man, one who inspires tremendous affection and who has taken continued lifelong joy in sharing his gifts with students and audiences, has learned how to make beautiful music even with a few concessions to extreme age. He still has much to teach us, as listeners discovered from Hokanson’s explanatory prefaces to the works on the Bayview program, many of them bearing his own nicknames. The songlike phrasing in the right hand, the telling details, and the obvious love for the music – all longtime Hokanson attributes – are still there.

If you don’t know his wonderful autobiography, “With Head to the Music Bent: A Musician’s Story” (Third Place Press, 2011), you have a treat in store. In this memoir, Hokanson calls up rich details of his eventful life, including his studies “between the wars” in London, his narrow escape from a torpedoed ship during World War II, his concert tours, and his musical experiences with such important mentors as Dame Myra Hess.

Also highly recommended: his nine-CD anthology, “The Pianism of Randolph Hokanson: The University Years (1949-1984),” compiled with the help of UW archivist John Gibbs, and the late audio engineer Al Swanson (with Gary Louie). This substantial souvenir of Hokanson in his heyday should be a part of every music lover’s collection.
by Melinda Bargreen posted Jun 11 2015 3:56PM
One of the nicest Junes in recent history has arrived now, and local music lovers know what that means: Strawberries. Sun hats. And music festival time!

Only a few weeks away, the Olympic Music Festival’s opener on June 28/29 will pay tribute to founder and violist Alan Iglitzin, who started up this little gem of a festival three decades ago on a charmingly pastoral Olympic Peninsula site. Iglitzin, also the founding violist of the now-defunct Philadelphia String Quartet, realized in 1984 that the 55-acre dairy farm near Quilcene would be a great summer home for the quartet. The concerts and the concept grew into the current format, with afternoon concerts on Saturdays and Sundays from late June to mid-September, with familiar regulars and a few newcomers performing chamber music in the bucolic ambience of the barn.

The opening program will feature Iglitzin and five colleagues in two warmly romantic string sextets of Brahms.  The next concert pair gets jazzy for the Fourth of July, with Gershwin’s beloved “Rhapsody in Blue”; further along the horizon there’s a special concert for families (July 18-19), famed violinist Sarah Chang (Aug. 1-2), and a visit from another rising fiddler, Ray Chen, winner of the 2009 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium (Sept. 5-6). Find out lots more here.

Seattle music lovers have been eagerly awaiting the July 6 start of the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s Summer Festival, so expect some serious jockeying for tickets – especially when the likes of pianist Jeremy Denk, violinist/artistic director James Ehnes, and violinist Augustin Hadelich are in town. And the cellists! – nine of them, one great talent after another.

After some tinkering in recent years, the Summer Festival is settling into its former Monday-Wednesday-Friday mode, with pre-concert recitals and subsequent concerts in the Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall. This year’s repertoire does not neglect the tried-and-true classics – plenty of Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms, from sonatas to the “Archduke” Trio – but there’s also an interesting twist: some unusual, and very great, vocal music.

In mid-festival, there’s a sequence of interesting vocal works, including Janacek’s seldom-heard but wonderful “The Diary of One Who Vanished” (for tenor and piano) and Mahler’s “Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen” (“Songs of a Wayfarer”), as well as Respighi’s “Il Tramonto.” A July 25 Family Concert will feature pianist Andrew Armstrong in an audience-engaging program about creating pictures with music.

There’s an array of opportunities to hear the music: a live Volunteer Park concert, live concert broadcasts in other regional parks (“Music Under the Stars”), and – of course – the live radio broadcasts on your favorite station, Classical KING FM 98.1!

Farther to the north, the Bellingham Festival of Music will launch its 2015 season on July 3 with an appropriate piece: Handel’s “Royal Fireworks” Music – as well as a Mozart Symphony and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with soloist Vadim Gluzman. That ought to provide fireworks indeed.

Bellingham offerings include such landmark works as Strauss’ “Four Last Songs” (with soloist Katie van Kooten); the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 with Arnaldo Cohen; and Haydn’s great oratorio “The Creation.” There’s a chamber afternoon with the Calidore String Quartet on July 12. The artistic director is Michael Palmer; the festival runs July 3-19.

 The following month, it’s the turn of the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, where artistic director Aloysia Friedmann and artistic advisor Jon Kimura Parker have scheduled a promising lineup for Aug. 6-22. Among the returning and new artists: the terrific Miro String Quartet, Oliver Aldort, cello; David Harding, viola; Desmond Hoebig, cello; Nathan Hughes, oboe; Lachezar Kostov, cello; Timothy McAllister, saxophone; Lorna McGhee, flute; Charlie Porter, trumpet; Orli Shaham, piano; Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, cello; Viktor Valkov, piano; and Sandy Yamamoto, violin.

There’s a children’s concert; a program for seniors, and some great repertoire, from a Russian-accented program to John Adams’ wild ride for two pianos, “Hallelujah Junction.” As usual, this one is well worth a scenic trip to Orcas Island. (A word of caution: this year, the Washington State Ferries system requires reservations on ferries from Anacortes to Orcas and back again. You can make reservations online here. Don’t just show up at the ferry dock, hoping to get on!)
by Melinda Bargreen posted May 27 2015 2:06PM
Pinchas Zukerman

By Melinda Bargreen

Over the course of nearly 50 years of high-level music-making, Israeli-American violinist Pinchas Zukerman has diversified to an astonishing degree. He is also a violist, and a conductor, and a teacher, and a chamber musician. But Zukerman, who turns 67 this year, has always returned to his roots as a concert violinist, and here is the good news: he’s still one of the greats.

The Seattle Symphony presented Zukerman with the Canadian pianist Angela Cheng in a May 26 recital that nearly filled Benaroya Hall with attentive, involved listeners. Zukerman has always been adept at choosing his musical partners; last year’s programming included duo programs with the wonderful Yefim Bronfman. Cheng, a past gold medalist at the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Masters Competition, proved an adept and graceful partner in the Benaroya Hall recital.

What distinguishes Zukerman’s playing is the combination of technical finesse and tonal beauty in everything he does. Off-center notes and near-misses in pitch are almost totally absent; it’s rare that Zukerman does not hit the note dead center. The tone, round and full of rich warmth, is unfailingly lovely.

With the exception of one work (Beethoven’s D Major Sonata No. 1, Op. 12, No. 1), the program was devoted to music from a fairly narrow time span: mid- and late-19th century works. The earliest of these was Schumann’s “Drei Romanzen” (Op. 94) of 1849; the latest was Elgar’s “Six Pieces” (Op. 22, 1892), and in between were Dvorak’s “Four Romantic Pieces” (Op. 75, of 1887) the Franck Sonata of 1886. All these Romantic-era works were played with an opulently pliant, lovely tone and plenty of violin vibrato, with Cheng providing expertly smooth and slightly deferential partnership at the piano. Inevitably the program began to sound a bit monochromatic; it would have been great to get a bit more feistiness from the keyboard, and some repertoire that veered off the topic of arch-Romantic lyricism.

The Beethoven, composed in 1797-98, provided a much-needed contrast, and was given a more muscular performance with a more assertive piano line.

Curiously, the Franck Sonata – one of the great and beloved works for violin and piano – fell slightly apart late in the fourth and final movement, with a couple of surprising technical gaffes from both players. This came at the very end of the program, but didn’t sound like the result of exhaustion (the recital was slightly shorter than usual).

A very warm audience reception brought a single, familiar encore: Kreisler’s “Liebesleid” (“Love’s Sorrow”), with a final lovely throwaway note from Zukerman that had the audience exclaiming in appreciation.
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