Are we back to normal yet, concert-wise? Getting there. Some classical presenters are combining live and streaming performances; if you go to a live performance, best to check the organization’s mask and vax protocol beforehand. Here are six dates you should definitely circle on your calendar.
Seattle Symphony Opening Night Gala
Our hometown orchestra’s record with hometown music is … well, to put it diplomatically, not what it should be. (To put it undiplomatically, I’ve watched them all but ignore local composers for 27 seasons now.) But to their credit, they have been paying richly deserved attention for several years to a talented composer who’s actually from the area.
Their collaboration with Angelique Poteat (raised in Snohomish and on Whidbey Island) began as she participated in the orchestra’s Young Composers Workshop, and moved into the professional sphere when they brought a work of hers on their triumphal 2014 tour to New York City. It’s grown into her appointment this season as the organization’s artist in residence and their commission from her of a new piece, “Breathe, Come Together, Embrace,” for their season-opening concert. As the orchestra searches for a new music director to replace Thomas Dausgaard — the end of whose blink-and-you-missed-it directorship left everyone gobsmacked in January — his predecessor Ludovic Morlot will step in for the night, and a few more times throughout the season too, to conduct. Soloists on hand will be pianist Jan Lisiecki and two SSO members, concertmaster Noah Geller and first-chair cello Efe Baltacıgil, joining the orchestra for music by Chopin, Saint-Saëns and Ravel.
Sept. 17; Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; tickets from $63; 206-215-4747, seattlesymphony.org
Guru Vandana: The Music of Khansahib
A cousin of the sitar, but with a slightly mellower tone, the sarod is fretless, so pitch sliding, almost like a steel guitar does, is a vital component of the technique. One of its supreme masters was Ali Akbar Khan (1922-2009), honorifically known as Khansahib, whose centennial is being celebrated in a concert (Guru Vandana means “reverence for the teacher”) produced by the nonprofit Pratidhwani, which has been bringing the performing arts of the Indian subcontinent to Seattle for nearly 20 years. Richard Russell, a sarod virtuoso who studied with Khan himself at the Ali Akbar College of Music in California, has gathered several area musicians, on both Indian and Western instruments, to help him pay tribute to his mentor.
Oct. 1; Bellevue Youth Theater, 16051 N.E. 10th St., Bellevue; $12-$20, pratidhwani.org
“Tristan & Isolde”
Coincidentally or not, the first two works in Seattle Opera’s season involve love potions: “The Elixir of Love” in August, and in October, at the extreme opposite end of the seriousness spectrum, Richard Wagner’s 1859 “Tristan und Isolde,” in which an Irish princess betrothed to a Cornish king is traveling with a Breton knight when — Hey! What did you put in this chalice anyway? In his groundbreakingly opulent score, Wagner uses the avoidance of traditional harmonic expectations as a metaphor for unsatisfied desire (in “Tristan,” unlike in “The Sound of Music,” ti rarely brings us back to do), opening new sound-worlds for composers. The title roles go to Mary Elizabeth Williams, whom I’ve loved for decades in everything she’s done for the company, from “Don Giovanni” to “Porgy and Bess,” and Stefan Vinke, Siegfried in Seattle Opera’s most recent (not last, let’s pray) “Ring” cycle in 2013.
Oct. 15-29; McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer St., Seattle; tickets from $35; 206-389-7676, seattleopera.org
Sō Percussion with Caroline Shaw
On composer Caroline Shaw’s most recent Seattle visit, in January 2019, she brought a piece of confidently traditionalist cut, a new work for piano and orchestra playing with ideas from Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (a congenial compositional strategy for her, which she’s puckishly referred to as “classical-music fan fiction”). But of course the piece Shaw won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for (as the youngest winner ever) was thrillingly avant-garde: a boundary- and jaw-stretching vocal octet titled “Partita.” She’s returning to exploratory, I-never-dreamed-a-singer-could-do-that vocal work in this performance of “Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part,” co-composed with the quartet Sō Percussion.
Nov. 10; Meany Hall — Katharyn Alvord Gerlich Theater, 4040 George Washington Lane N.E., University of Washington, Seattle; tickets from $33; 206-543-4880, meanycenter.org
Emerald City Music Evolution Series: The Cello
A solid bass among the strings yet a poignantly romantic tenor voice when it wants to be, few instruments in the classical tradition are as versatile, sonically and expressively, as the cello. Four cellists, Nathan Whittaker, Caroline Nicolas, Mihai Marica, and Henry Kramer, will tag-team while guiding us through the instrument’s diverse history, from 17th-century pieces from the dawn of its repertory through a bit of a Bach suite (his six solo suites are the cello’s Old Testament) to expansive, exploratory recent works by Kaija Saariaho and John Zorn.
Nov. 11 at 415 Westlake, 415 Westlake Ave. N., Seattle. Nov. 12 at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. S.E., Olympia. Tickets from $10; 206-250-5510, emeraldcitymusic.org
The World of Joseph Bologne
His career split between music and the military, Joseph Bologne (1745-99) was the son of a Guadeloupe plantation owner and an African enslaved woman, and educated in Paris, becoming highly skilled with both violin bow and sword. The charm of his music, gilded by his swashbuckling adventures leading an all-Black regiment in the French Revolution (he aches for a biopic), has made him by far the most renowned composer of African descent before Scott Joplin. If you don’t know his dashing, genteel chamber music, the Seattle Baroque Orchestra is presenting a tasty sampler, most of it spotlighting his beloved violin.
Nov. 12, Town Hall Seattle, 1119 Eighth Ave., Seattle; Nov. 13, Bastyr University Chapel, 14500 Juanita Dr. N.E., Kenmore; tickets from $20; 206-325-7066, earlymusicseattle.org