The next music director of the Seattle Baroque Orchestra might very well be a member of the heavy-metal band Earthen Grave.
On the other hand, SBO’s next leader could be an Irish fiddler, or a composer of contemporary music or a well-known Baroque dancer likely to take a few steps during one of the orchestra’s concerts at Town Hall.
“The range of abilities in the candidates is exciting,” says Gus Denhard, longtime executive director of Early Music Guild, which presents historically informed music.
The Guild (merged with SBO in 2010) is ready to write a new chapter for the orchestra, founded in 1994 by violinist Ingrid Matthews and harpsichordist Byron Schenkman.
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Matthews stepped down as music director last year, and this season, the orchestra is auditioning director candidates by having them lead concerts throughout the season. A new music director will be named in 2015.
“We’ve been generally impressed with their nontraditional, creative ideas, very much pushing the envelope beyond what the Seattle Baroque Orchestra has considered to be early music,” Denhard says.
Not that SBO is going to become an extension of any finalist’s side project. The seven candidates chosen by Denhard and a search committee are remarkably accomplished and highly qualified Baroque specialists with proven know-how in developing performing arts organizations.
Auditions began in October with a concert led by Elizabeth Blumenstock, artistic director of the Corona del Mar Baroque Music Festival.
On Saturday, Rachel Barton Pine will lead the program “Dresden Concertos,” featuring music written for the viola d’amore, a seven-string instrument invented in the 17th century. Pine, a violin virtuoso of wide-ranging, eclectic musical interests, will play the viola d’amore, a Baroque-era string instrument similar to the violin.
Pine praises the “unique, silvery tone and chordal capabilities” of the viola d’amore, but adds, “It’s very tricky to play because of all those strings.
“It’s a big challenge to know where your fingers and bow go.”
Her personal journey is as riveting as the range of her playing: In 1995, she was in a horrific Chicago-area train accident; she lost her left leg above the knee and part of her right foot and endured more than 20 surgeries.
Pine says her varied career as a violin soloist appearing with symphony orchestras (she has performed all 24 Paganini Caprices live in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C.); a period-instrument musician (she is a member of early-music ensemble Trio Settecento); and her membership in headbanger band Earthen Grave means she doesn’t “fall into easily-defined categories.”
“I started playing early music when I was 14,” says Pine, who also performs on Renaissance violin. “I came across an edition of Corelli sonatas that had improvised elaborations marked on it. I never knew there was such a practice. It was more like jazz than classical music; the melody was just the jumping-off point. It was a totally different kind of creativity I became excited about.”
A prolific recording artist, Pine’s albums include an upcoming release of 18th- and 19th-century black composers (she performed such works in Seattle at a 2011 chamber concert), and the recent “Violin Lullabies.”
Pine’s many activities are visible on YouTube, including Earthen Grave concert footage.
“The more you do as a musician, the more imaginative you become,” she says. “In classical concerts, you wait until the end to know whether an audience liked it. In a rock show, people express themselves in the moment. I can figure out what I’m doing right, and that makes me a better communicator to any audience.”
The next SBO guest conductors: In March, Kevin Mallon, founder of Baroque group Aradia Ensemble (and the above-mentioned Irish fiddler), will present “Bach Cantatas for Lent and Easter.” In April, Alexander Weimann, conductor of Vancouver’s Pacific Baroque Orchestra, leads “Delirio Amoroso: Handel’s Italian Years.” The 2014-2015 season brings Matthias Maute, a composer and director of Ensemble Caprice; the sacred-music specialist Eric Milnes; and Julie Andrijeski, artistic director of the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra and Baroque dance expert.
Tom Keogh: email@example.com