By Melinda Bargreen
“This isn’t a heat wave. This is Festival weather!”
One delighted patron of the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s Summer Festival opined just that as the audience filed in to hear the second program in the festival, which opened June 29 (through July 26) in the Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall.
The Arcadian ambience of the festival’s previous home at the Lakeside School may be gone with the move downtown, but the sunny weather is still a “time for some chamber music!” signal to the region’s music lovers. Thus far, artistic director James Ehnes and his handpicked players have served up some impressive fare in the first two concerts, blending the familiar with the new – on the artist roster as well as the programming.
The opening concert on June 29 had a brief, witty introduction by Ehnes – who always seems to hit exactly the right note, in person and behind the violin – followed by Beethoven, Brahms, and a pair of trumpet showpieces by Enescu and Honegger (starring Jens Lindemann). The performance of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet, with Ehnes and clarinetist Ricardo Morales trading eloquent phrases, was so lovely that many listeners must have wished the performance had been commercially recorded.
The July 1 concert had a delightfully jazzy opening in Martinu’s suite, “La Revue du Cuisine,” with six players (headed by festival artistic director and violinist James Ehnes), followed by a Prokofiev Violin Sonata and an all-stops-out reading of the Tchaikovsky String Quartet No. 3 (a special nod to the passionate and excellent first violin Ida Levin).
So what’s left? Plenty of evenings with stellar potential. Here’s our pick of the most enticing programs and artists; you can find details on the website, www.seattlechambermusic.org.
-- July 5: Ehnes takes center stage for some fun contemporary works, including John Adams’ “Road Movies” and Paul Schoenfield’s “Four Souvenirs” (plus Bach, Britten, and a Saint-Saens rarity).
-- July 8: A world premiere by Lawrence Dillon, courtesy of the SCMS Commissioning Club, plus the return of the divine violinist Augustin Hadelich in a Mozart Divertimento (K.563).
-- July 10: More Hadelich (in a rare outing for Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel’s String Quartet in E-Flat Minor), and a Beethoven sonata pairing two favorites, Ronald Thomas (cello) and Anton Nel (piano).
-- July 15: Don’t miss the brilliant young winners of the 2013 SCMS Monika Meyer Clowes Memorial Award and the KING Young Artist Awards – Sarah Hall and Olivia Marckx, performing with pianist Annie Brooks. Also on tap: Britten’s Cello Sonata Op. 65, with Robert deMaine and Jeewon Park, and the Brahms Clarinet Trio with Sean Osborn, Bion Tsang, and Adam Neiman.
-- July 22: Ricardo Morales is back with the Mozart “Kegelstatt” Clarinet Trio (joining Orion Weiss and Richard O’Neill), and trios by Bernstein and Ives – as well as the beloved Schumann Piano Quartet.
-- July 24: Seattle Symphony concertmaster Alexander Velinzon makes an appearance in the Brahms Piano Quartet; two Shostakovich String Quartets (Nos. 7 and 8) will feature Ehnes with Amy Schwarz Moretti, O’Neill, and deMaine.
-- And finally, on July 26, Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” for piano, four hands (a real balancing act!), with husband-and-wife team Orion Weiss and Anna Polonsky. The Barber String Quartet, with Ehnes and the same group as July 24, just might steal the show.
Happy listening! Act quickly on those tickets, because the best shows sell out quickly.