When a musician is hard working and hungry for success there isn’t much they can’t accomplish. That includes convincing a music writer to turn down a chance to hear Renee Fleming and come to their recital instead. A few weeks ago, over espresso at Fuel in Wallingofrd, that is exactly what James Garlick did. Regular readers of the Gathering Note know Garlick is a bright, talented local musician who has one of the busier calendars in Seattle. He plays with the Cascade Symphony, Northwest Sinfonietta, Seattle Baroque, Onyx Chamber Players, and collaborates with a number of other musicians on a variety of chamber projects.
That morning at Fuel, Garlick ran through a lengthy list of projects he is working on. We spent most of our time talking about his concert at the Good Shepherd Center and the pieces he chose for the event. From the very beginning, Garlick was trying to get me to come hear him play. When I told him I was thinking of hearing Renee Fleming sing instead, he admitted, sheepishly, that she was stiff competition. He launched, undeterred, into an explanation of the program and the pieces: Bartok, Debussy, Bach, Corigliano, and Ives. We spent some time talking about Bela Bartok’s solo Violin Sonata and recordings we liked. At almost exactly the same time, we both muttered Christian Tetzlaff’s recording on Virgin as one of our favorites. This was the moment I decided to go hear Garlick play. I couldn’t say no to someone who liked Christian Tetzlaff’s Bartok as much as me.
Garlick might not (yet) be Christian Tetzlaff but he is still a pretty good fiddle player. His Good Shepherd Center program featured dynamic and challenging pieces by Debussy, Bartok, Corigliano, Bach, and Charles Ives that tested the limits of his considerable skills. Garlick is Seattle’s newest Ivesiac. The violinist got a chance to work with Jeremy Denk this summer on a couple of Ives’s pieces, including the Second Violin Sonata. Denk has this habit of leaving new Ives proponents in his musical wake. A recital or pre-concert talk later, and concertgoers who can’t stomach any music written after 1850 are all of a sudden chasing down recordings of Ives’s piano sonatas. For his recital, Garlick dusted off his sheet music for the piece and convinced pianist Judith Cohen to provide piano accompaniment. Before she learned the sonata, Cohen had never performed anything by the New England composer. Thanks to Garlick, Cohen is herself an Ivesiac now.