Bright Sheng sits down with TGN

Bright Sheng, a name familiar to SSO audiences, sat down with the Gathering Note earlier this month. The composer was in town to hear the orchestra perform two of his short pieces. One of them, Prelude to Black Swan, a world premiere. The other, Shanghai Overture, a Seattle premiere.

Sheng came onto the classical music scene in the 1980’s when he and a number of other Chinese composers settled in New York to continue their studies and also begin careers. A young Gerard Schwarz noticed the composer, commissioned a piece for his chamber orchestra, and helped launch Sheng’s career.

Schwarz and Sheng’s creative partnership has resulted in countless commissions and premieres, and two stints for the composer as Seattle’s composer in residence.

Bright Sheng talks with TGN from gatheringnote on Vimeo.

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Mara Gearman and Alexander Bishop talk about their upcoming recital

Composer Alexander Bishop’s music came into wider awareness last spring when SSO violist Mara Gearman played two of his works as part of Paul Taub’s May Day, May Day festival. Gearman was looking for a couple of new pieces of music to play for the festival, and Bishop was seeking a violist to to play two short pieces he wrote for Viola. Bishop and Gearman are taking their partnership one step further on December 1st with a an all Bishop recital featuring two brand new works: a viola sonata and a string quartet. Composer and violist sat down with me last Saturday to talk about the recital, their creative partnership, and even the possibility of new Bishop compositions for the viola (a viola concerto perhaps?)

For your Thanksgiving and Black Friday viewing pleasure!

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Seattle Percussion Collective plays Gallery 1412

Seattle Percussion Collective Plays John Cage from gatheringnote on Vimeo.

Last night the Seattle Percussion Collective played a show of late John Cage percussion works at Gallery 1412 at the collision of Capitol Hill and the Central District. I’ll be writing a longer post about the experience later today.  In the meantime I urge you watch the video above — a performance of two composed improvisations played simultaneously. If you have even a passing interest in percussion music the Collective is playing another show tonight at the Good Shepherd Center’s Chapel Performance Space. The music won’t be Cage, but there will be a number of premieres for percussion and other instruments, including Greg Sinibaldi’s Quintet for Percussion and Piano. Since they formed in 2009, the Seattle Percussion Collective has generated a loyal following. Gallery 1412 was almost completely full. Dale Speicher told me last night that their Chapel performances have always generated big crowds. If you go to their Chapel performance, it would be wise to get their early.

The show starts at 8 PM. The Chapel Performance Space is located in the Wallingford Neighborhood at 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N, 4th Floor, Seattle, WA.

Questioning the conductors: Meet Morlot!

Our conductor interviews end with the person chosen to lead the SSO to new artistic heights and performance excellend — Ludovic Morlot. Morlot was one of the few conductors I didn’t meet. I was in New York when he was here last fall and when he returned in the spring, an exploding volcano in Iceland and compressed rehearsal schedule prevented an interview then too.

Seattle met Ludovic Morlot today. Not for the first time of course. Morlot guest conducted the SSO twice last season. But it was the first time as the SSO’s music director designate. Morlot will assume his music director duties officially in 2011, but he is already planning his first season with the orchestra and making friends with orchestra musicians, orchestra staff, and of course the city. I will be posting more video from today’s public introduction. Until then, here is a video of my interview with the young maestro from yesterday.

SSO music director designate Ludovic Morlot talks with TGN from gatheringnote on Vimeo.

Quarter notes: SCMS edition

Update: SCMS is putting a limited number of rush tickets on sale for $25 30 minutes before tonight’s performance.  On the program is Debussy’s Piano Trio, Barber’s String Quartet (with its famous adagio), and Brahms’ Op. 8 Piano Trio.  With the sun lost behind the clouds this summer, let chamber music brighten your day.

Although I am still buzzing from the Ludovic Morlot announcement last week, it is time to focus on something different. The Seattle Chamber Music Society’s summer festival starts today. Once again the SCMS is bringing together a fine line-up of musicians at different stages of their career. Some are festival reliables (like Adam Neiman, Richard O’Neill, Anton Nel etc.) others are newer (Erin Keefe, Austin Hadelich etc.) and as always there are a few musicians who are brand new to the festival (Jeremy Turner, Andrew Wan, etc.). This year, the festival takes up residency in Benaroya’s Nordstrom Recital Hall. Nordstrom may not have comforting green lawns, full shade trees, and the suitable ambiance for drinking wine, but it does boast superior acoustics. Seems like a fair trade off to me. Besides, listeners who need a break from the urban hurly-burly can find relief in the Garden of Remembrance.

We’ll be covering the festival from start to finish, reviewing every (or pretty close to every) concert and talking with a handful of musicians about pieces of music that have impacted them as artists.  Check back regularly for updates, enjoy the chamber music festival, and if you can’t get concert tickets, remember there are always free recitals an hour before each concert.  Tonight’s recital is Bartok’s Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano played by James Ehnes and Andrew Armstrong.

For a refresher on the great chamber music the festival presents each year, here are a few short videos of festival musicians playing chamber music. More videos after the jump.

Augustin Hadelich playing Ysaye
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The last word on Leonard Bernstein this season…

“I have rarely met a composer who is so faithfully mirrored in his music; the man is the music. We are all familiar with the attributes generally ascribed to his compositions: vitality, optimism, enthusiasm, long lyrical line, rhythmic impetuosity, bristling counterpoint, brilliant textures, dynamic tension. But what is not so often remarked is what I treasure most: the human qualities that flow directly from the man into the works – compassion, fidelity, insight, and total honesty.”