Farms, parks, and islands: where to hear great music this summer

By Melinda Bargreen

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!)

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