Summer festival season is here

Johannes Moser

The summer festival season starts in earnest tomorrow with the commencement of the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s 6 week long festival. This year’s festival marks the 30 year anniversary of Toby Saks’ affiliation with the festival. She founded the series, played an integral part in recruiting top-shelf talent for the festival, and after this summer she will be stepping down as artistic director, making way for James Ehnes to take up the role. Concerts do sell out, but there are always free recitals an hour before the official concert begins. One (of many) highlights from the recitals this summer will no doubt be Johannes Moser’s performance of Lutoslawski’s Sacher Variations.

Up north in Bellingham, the Bellingham Festival of Music started on July 1 and continues through the rest of the month. Two Seattle favorites — pianist Jeremy Denk and violinist Stefan Jackiw — appear with the festival orchestra this year. Denk will play Liszt’s Second Concerto and Jackiw will play Sibelius’ Violin Concerto. Both Denk and Jackiw play with extreme intelligence and undoubtedly will invigorate both pieces. Britten’s Serenade for Tenor Horn and Strings (a favorite of mine) will also be played on the same program as Denk’s Liszt and there is a concert performance of Fidelio on July 17th to close the festival out.

Local composer Nat Evans is putting on a festival of sorts of his own by taking his music and love of site-specific experiences on the road to Chicago, DC, NYC, and elsewhere. Evans is also featured in this month’s Believer magazine too.


Alan Gilbert on Mahler’s 6th

Alan Gilbert

Alan Gilbert and the NY Phil play Mahler’s 6th Symphony at the end of this month. This short Q&A on the subject comes courtesy of 21C Media Group.

Question: You’ve described the Sixth as possibly your favorite of Mahler’s symphonies. Why?

Alan Gilbert: It’s a very, very pessimistic work that paints a very realistic picture of life’s ups and downs and the search for happiness and meaning. For the particular protagonist in the Sixth Symphony it ends in utter despair, and without hope, which is quite rare in music and art. Usually there is some shred of optimism left! But this piece ends in utter devastation. That’s not what I like about the piece, of course! But the work is such a statement, and is such a powerful expression of life’s experiences; it is an important and indisputably great work.

Q: You’ve already performed the First and Third Symphonies with the New York Philharmonic, and will play the Sixth this week. Later in the season you’ll also do the Fifth. Are you hoping to do all of the Mahler symphonies at some point with the orchestra?
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Jordi Savall’s Jerusalem at Lincoln Center

By Gigi Yellen

With his characteristic blend of deep research and virtuosic performance, historical accuracy and jazzlike improvisation, Jordi Savall and his band have created in “Jerusalem: City of Heavenly and Earthly Peace” a mesmerizing and troubling contemporary performance piece. Maestro Savall, esteemed creator of over 160 honored recordings of early music, combines ancient instruments, chants, recitations of sacred texts, folk tunes and even a Sufi dance in this concert (based on his 2008 2-CD set of the same name), which I was privileged to see performed on May 5 as the focus of a three-day “Jerusalem” event at New York’s Lincoln Center. I wanted to share with you some impressions and some thoughts about this most unusual Savall project.

Silhouetted against a huge dawn-like screen, a robed man blows an immensely long, grandly twisted shofar, the flawless opening notes of a fanfare that expands to include half a dozen players of these beautiful ram’s horns and as many players of the equally long, impossibly slender Arabic trumpets called annafirs. The shofar, a wake-up call most associated in our time with synagogue High Holiday services, is played by the Israeli virtuoso Yagel Harel, one of a collection of multi-ethnic players Savall has carefully gathered to demonstrate how historic enemies can melt their differences in the warm light of their musical similarities.
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Jordi Savall’s Jerusalem seeks to mend cultural fabric

Jordi Savall

By Gigi Yellen

The pre-eminent early-music artist of our time has to be the tireless Jordi Savall, whose combination of scholarship, musicianship, and visionary good will has produced over 150 important recordings. Many of these center on a theme. When this year’s US tour brought Savall and his band, Hesperion XXI, to Seattle (Town Hall, via Early Music Guild) in March, they offered a women-themed program based on their album “Lux Feminae.” Gathering Note’s R.M. Campbell called that concert “a kind of rare adventure.”

New York’s Lincoln Center is hosting Savall and company in another kind of rare adventure, a three-evening series, “Jordi Savall: Jerusalem” part of its Great Performers season. Two of the evenings are concerts based on Savall’s recordings: Sunday May 2, the 2006 album “Orient-Occident,” and Monday, the 2008 2-CD set “Jerusalem: City of Double Peace: Heavenly Peace and Earthly Peace.” It’s my good fortune to be in NY for these, and I want to share with you some of the experience of this series.
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