The eternal lure of the chamber music festival is the chance to hear great works leap to life again in an entirely new way – with a new configuration of fine players combining to put their unique spin on the music.
The five musicians who gathered in the Nordstrom Recital Hall to play Shostakovich’s landmark Piano Quintet (Op. 57) may never have performed this piece together in concert, and might never do so again. But the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s audience on Monday evening (July 14) got to hear a new spin on the fiery energy and ironic melancholy of the Shostakovich, as this newly formed quintet (Martin Beaver, Augustin Hadelich, Jonathan Vinocour, Ronald Thomas, and Orion Weiss) had their own excellent way with the music. (What a piece of “luxury casting,” too, to have Hadelich – rated by many as one of the finest violinists performing today – playing second violin in this piece.)
Every year, the festival also offers a brand-new work, brought to life by its Commissioning Club, which underwrites the composition. The 2014 premiere, presented Monday evening, was “Death with Interruptions for Violin, Cello, and Piano,” by the award-winning American composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel (a former student of Seattle native son William Bolcom, among others).
Bermel’s new work, inspired by the death of his father, is an attractive and contemplative trio. It opens with almost childlike descending passages that have a pop-music feel, but the music soon grows in complexity with larger-scale, louder rhythmic and tonal departures. The clearly indicated heartbeat, the pulse of the music, gradually slows and dwindles into nothingness. The excellent players, all clearly committed to the new score, were James Ehnes, Bion Tsang and Anna Polonsky.
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Three strong musicians – violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti, violist Cynthia Phelps, and cellist Efe Baltacigil – gave a mellow, warmly expressive account of Schubert’s B-flat String Trio (D.581). Moretti’s vividly shaped, strong lead (sometimes a bit on the forceful side) was answered in kind by the other two players. It wasn’t an ideal performance, but it had both artistry and vitality.
The rest of this week introduces several vocal selections in the mostly instrumental lineup, including Brahms’ warmhearted “Liebeslieder Waltzes” and Vaughan Williams’ celestial “On Wenlock Edge.” It’s another and welcome turn of the musical kaleidoscope.
Melinda Bargreen also reviews concerts for 98.1 Classical KING FM. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.