Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Piano Trio in A minor, Op.50
Arvo Part For Alina
NOW PLAYING WAGNER: TANNHAUSER; MOZART: Idomeneo; WAGNER: Parsifal
Charles Ives Symphony No.1
KING FM INSIGHT Oksana Ezhokina on Golijov's Tenebrae

The Classical Notebook

Classical KING FM announcers and featured musicians share their thoughts on local concerts, seasonal music and evergreen classical favorites.
by Jill Kimball posted Aug 1 2014 2:48PM

Attending summer festivals and parades in Seattle is all well and good, but sometimes an urbanite just needs a break. Whether the traffic's getting to you or the noise from that neighborhood block party is impeding your sleep, we've already got the perfect escape route planned.

It's simple, really: Get up early, grab your coffee, and drive north to Mukilteo. Breeze across Puget Sound for about 15 minutes on a ferry and you'll find yourself on charming, peaceful Whidbey Island. Then head north on Highway 525 for Freeland, home of the Whidbey Island Music Festival.

This intimate concert series, now in its eighth year, lasts just two weeks long but packs in a lot of beautiful, unexpected music. We'd expect no less from director and violinist Tekla Cunningham, who spends the regular concert series as concertmaster of the superb early music group Pacific MusicWorks, among many other things.

Audiences looking for a healthy dose of traditional chamber music can look forward to the first two series of the festival, featuring Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Cunninhgam herself plays viola in that concert alongside three other esteemed musicians, including Monica Huggett, one of the world's most respected Baroque violinists.

The festival's third concert is probably its most original and inspired. It's a program made up entirely of songs written by the father of American folk music, Stephen Foster. Cunninhgam says she was interested in treating early American music with as much reverence as we do European classical music and finding out what results it may produce. It may well beg the question: Do we take classical music more seriously than other genres because it is superior, or is it superior because we take it so seriously?

Whether that question is answered or not, the concert is sure to be beautiful. A pair of violins joins a guitar, banjo and soprano in performing Civil War-era tunes such as "Hard Times" and "Battle Cry of Freedom," and Westward expansion anthems such as "Cumberland Gap" and "Old Kentucky Home." You can catch this concert on a Friday night at the festival's usual venue, Freeland's St. Augustine's-in-the-Woods, or you can wait until Sunday to take it in at the bucolic Greenbank Farm, situated right in the middle of Whidbey Island and boasting a view of the Sound and neighboring Camano Island. There could hardly be a more appropriate setting.

The festival's fourth and final program delves into the rich folk music tradition in the Scottish Highlands, but with a twist: the entire concert is played on Baroque period instruments. The musicians featured here include guitarist Stephen Stubbs, the music director of Pacific MusicWorks, and Maxine Eilander, a baroque harpist who has played with Tafelmusik and Tragicomedia.

To find out more about the festival and buy tickets, visit its website.
 

Filed Under :
Location : Seattle
by Jill Kimball posted Jul 30 2014 9:51AM

Leslie Katz, a violinist with the L.A. Opera orchestra, leads a group of young violinists as they walk and play in the PAC Plaza Friday afternoon, July 29, 2011. Photo by Matthew Anderson | Western Washington University

When young people and seasoned professionals come together to make music, it's a beautiful thing. That's what happens for two weeks every summer at the Marrowstone Music Festival, presented by the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras. At the Western Washington University campus in Bellingham, high school and college students from all over the region learn the tricks of the trade from nationally-recognized professional musicians in intensive master classes, private lessons and group rehearsal.

Both weeks of the festival culminate in entire weekends of impressive concerts from the students and from the festival's faculty members. From large-scale works to chamber music, and from the greatest hits to the more esoteric, this festival has it all.

The opening faculty concert on Thursday, July 31 at 7:30pm is a fascinating mix of chamber music not often heard in performance. It takes a journey around the world, from Russia (Prokofiev's Quintet) to Germany (Hindemith's Kammermusik No. 1) to Japan (Takamitsu's "Rain Spell") to the Czech Republic (Nelhybel's Trio for Brass) all the way to Brazil (Villa-Lobos' Quintet). The performance is sure to be top-notch, as the musicians in this and all other faculty concerts teach at nationally-respected universities such as Manhattan and Eastman Schools of Music and Oberlin Conservatory, and they play in major orchestras all over the country, including the Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and our own Seattle Symphony. 

The other faculty concert on Thursday, August 7 at 7:30pm contains some of the familiar, such as Stravinsky's A Solider's Tale and Ravel's Introduction and Allegro. There are also some sunny, upbeat surprises, such as Revueltas' Ocho por radio and Barber's Summer Music for Woodwind Quartet. Plus, we'll hear some rare pieces, including a chamber selection composed by Maurice Duruflé and a sextet by Glinka.

In the first Sunday matinee of the festival, on August 3 at 3pm, conductor Stephen Rogers Radcliffe hands his podium over to Gerard Schwarz, the Seattle Symphony's conductor emeritus. Schwarz conducts all the Marrowstone students in a performance of Stravinksy's beloved ballet Petrushka and Elgar's intense, moving Enigma Variations

For the festival's closing concert on Sunday, August 10 at 3pm, there's a change in venue: rather than the usual performances at Western Washington University's Performing Arts Center, the Marrowstone students come together for a last hurrah at the historic Mt. Baker Theatre in beautiful downtown Bellingham. Stephen Rogers Radcliffe conducts a handful of audience favorites, including An American in Paris, The Pines of Rome, and Dvorak's Slavonic Dances.

There are many more excellent concerts to hear, and a full festival schedule is available on Marrowstone's website. If you're coming to the festival from out of town, visit the Bellingham Visitors Bureau website for a few tips on other things to see and do in town.

by Jill Kimball posted Jul 21 2014 2:38PM

Christophe Chagnard, the Northwest Sinfonietta's co-founder and music director, has announced he will step down in February 2015. We asked Chagnard a few questions about his time with the Sinfonietta, the season ahead, and his musical future.

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Q; You’ve been conducting the Northwest Sinfonietta for 23 years. What events during that tenure stand out most in your memory? What makes you most proud?

A:
 I have always felt that sharing music with the Northwest Sinfonietta was a special occasion. There have been plenty of iconic moments: Mozart's Clarinet Concerto with Richard Stoltzman the weekend following 9/11 played to a packed Pantages Theater (I had been told that no one would come and we should cancel); conducting Mozart's Requiem for the first time and every time since; an all-Stravinsky program with dancers among us on stage and brilliant choreography by Donald Byrd; Beethoven's 9th Symphony at Benaroya Hall with eleven Cubans playing with us, received by a standing ovation from 1500 enthused supporters; and most recently, the spiritual transcendence of Bach's St. John Passion.  I am most proud of Kathryn Habedank, the NS co-founder, for her courage, resilience, and complete dedication in the early years, when few believed that we would thrive beyond two or three seasons.

Q: Tell us about the last season you’ll be conducting with the Sinfonietta. 

A: 
I will be conducting three very special concert cycles in October, November, and February. The October program, Gypsy Nights 2,, was inspired by our first exploration of the Bohemian style in April 2010. Those concerts were the second-best attended (only after Beethoven's 9th) and the energy was irresistible. This year we will feature Bulgarian violinist Bella Hristova, whose Slavic passion will ignite this dramatic music! 

The second program will also be dear to me as we will present two new works composed by Greg Youtz and Samuel Jones. The Youtz piece is written for NS and is based on Mozart's "Paris" Symphony and the music of Gluck, to honor his 300th anniversary.  My dear friends Sam Jones and Julian Schwarz will be formidable partners with the performance of Sam's Cello Concerto.  

 It was Mozart who inspired the creation of NS in 1991, so it is fitting to conclude my NS journey with his music. Mozart is the only composer I know who excelled at all musical forms, and I find that he is at the apex of his art in opera. I have selected some of his finest arias and overtures, and three marvelous singers to celebrate my 24 years and say goodbye through music.


The Northwest Sinfonietta.

Q: In the future, the Northwest Sinfonietta will rotate through a handful of conductors each season. What do you think that will be like?

A: 
It is essential for orchestras to get different perspectives from the podium, a practice which is the norm for full-time orchestras. With a smaller season, NS has had fewer opportunities to host guest conductors, so having multiple Artistic Partners each year will be an all-new adventure. I expect great excitement and commitment from NS members who will have adjust to each personality, technique, and vision while keeping the orchestra's identity that has made NS so special.  NS has always been very adventurous, and this change marks a new and welcome leap of faith. There are very few orchestras that have adopted this leadership model, so this is uncharted territory and one that holds great promise.

Q: In addition to conducting and performing classical music, you also play jazz. What do you think are the biggest differences between these two genres?

A: 
Improvisation.  It is interesting that improvisation, which used to be an integral part of classical musical training until the late 19th century is now associated with genres such as jazz and traditional music.  The ability to react and create the music of the moment over any given harmonic structure is one of the most challenging and fulfilling creative acts I know.  When I came to the U.S. in 1983, I studied jazz at the Berklee College of Music and quickly focused my interest on composing and conducting.  I left my guitar in the closet for more than 15 years.  When I picked it up again, it was more generous than ever and immensely gratifying.  I realized how much I had missed that spontaneous freedom. With improvisation back in my life, I feel complete as a musician.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: 
Since composing and conducting Opre Roma in 2010 and Embargo, Suite Cubana in 2012, I have felt a creative thrust in me that I can barely keep up with!  I am currently working on Terra Nostra, a commissioned piece for symphony orchestra to be premiered in June 2015.  The stipulation was that it has to be about climate change, so what a challenge! I just renewed my contract with the Lake Union Civic Orchestraand I feel immensely proud of that partnership and the steadfast growth of its musical path. My band TOUCHÉ (an eclectic music sextet) just finished recording a new CD which is very good, particularly the original compositions which define our style. I also plan to guest conduct, and pursue non-musical, global interests, which in Seattle are plentiful.  I have always greatly admired the unique ability that Americans have to re-invent themselves with such an insatiable optimism, and now it's my turn!

 

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