In this household, some of the pianos have names. There's Nannette, for example — the Nannette Streicher replica fortepiano that sits proudly in the household of musicians...

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In this household, some of the pianos have names.

There’s Nannette, for example — the Nannette Streicher replica fortepiano that sits proudly in the household of musicians Tamara Friedman and George Bozarth. And, more recently, there’s also Else, a Viennese-style instrument modeled by builder Philip Belt after a Louis Dulcken instrument (1780s-1790s). Else is named for her former owner, the late and legendary UW pianist/teacher Else Geissmar, who championed fortepianos long before they were “rediscovered” (and whose estate still owns the instrument).

“Else is a Stradivarius among fortepianos,” says Bozarth, a keyboard connoisseur who teaches at the University of Washington. Friedman demonstrates the instrument, which has a surprisingly feisty bass response.

“It’s clear as a bell,” she says of sparkling treble notes.

These fortepianos, 18th- and early-19th-century versions of today’s concert grand, keep company with a museum’s worth of early and modern keyboard instruments in the household, where there always seems to be a corner somewhere for something promising. Like the beautiful John Broadwood square piano, an English instrument dating from 1815 with a surprisingly robust and colorful Broadwood sound that Haydn so appreciated during his visits to London in the late 18th century.

It’s not easy keeping these historic instruments happy; essentially they are “big violins,” in gently-strung wooden cases that do not share the tougher attributes of modern instruments.

Else and the Broadwood will be heard in tomorrow’s Gallery Concerts event, “A Tale of Two Pianos,” at 8 p.m. in Town Hall, with Friedman playing Haydn, Mozart and other composers of the era on these two instruments. The different sounds these two pianos make allows attributes of the differing music to shine.

Else, with her quick, crisp response, is similar to the Stein fortepianos that Mozart enjoyed — and which influenced his keyboard compositional style. Same with Haydn and the Broadwood, whose varied tonal qualities among the different registers (the treble sounds more fluty, the middle more viola-like) were shown off in much of his keyboard writing.

The program is dedicated to the memory of Geissmar, Seattle’s first fortepianist and a remarkable personality. As usual, Gallery Concerts’ very liberal educational policy provides for one child 14 and younger admitted free with each paying adult (one-to-one basis; specify child’s ticket at time of purchase). Call 206-726-6088 or visit www.galleryconcerts.org.


Voices raised


Remember that Seattle Opera opens Puccini’s tuneful “Manon Lescaut” at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow in McCaw Hall, with diva Carol Vaness as the convent girl gone astray and Jay Hunter Morris as her Chevalier des Grieux. Antonello Allemandi conducts; Bernard Uzan did the staging. The alternate cast, which sings Sunday at 2 p.m. and Jan. 21 and 28, has Victoria Litherland and Ted Lee as the starring pair. For tickets, call 206-389-7676 or go to www.seattleopera.org.

More great singing: Soprano Renée Fleming, one of the world’s leading divas, comes to Benaroya Hall for a solo recital at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Call 206-215-4747 or go to www.seattlesymphony.org for tickets (and see this Sunday’s paper for a profile on her).

Songs and arias by Handel, Schumann, Berg, André Previn, John Kander and Carlisle Floyd are on the program, with the outstanding pianist Hartmut Höll as Fleming’s keyboard partner. Most highly recommended.

Swedish organist Hans-Ola Ericsson, in residence this week at the UW, will be heard in recital tonight in St. James Cathedral.


Scandinavian visitors


The renowned Swedish organist Hans-Ola Ericsson is in residence this week at the University of Washington, and he will be heard in recital tonight in St. James Cathedral, playing repertoire of which he is an acknowledged master. (Ericsson has recorded the complete organ works of Olivier Messiaen, who was his teacher.)

Tonight Ericsson plays an almost all-French program including works of Franck, Alain, Messiaen, Grigny and University of Washington faculty member Joël-François Durand. The “almost” refers to the fact that Ericsson, who also is a composer, will play some of his own music.

The program starts at 8 p.m. at the Cathedral; keyboard students can call ahead for a free pass to the concert, and others can get information, at 206-382-4874.

On Sunday, the highly regarded Mostly Nordic Chamber Series starts off 2005 with a Norwegian program featuring the Collegium Vocale Chamber Choir of Norway. A lot of anniversaries will be celebrated: the 10th for the Mostly Nordic series, the 20th for the Nordic Heritage Museum (where the concerts are held), and the 100th anniversary of Norwegian independence (from Sweden). As always, the 4 p.m. concerts are followed by a gourmet smorgasbord (included in the ticket price) from the featured country, which means Norwegian goodies — mmmmm. For details and tickets, call 206-789-5707 or visit www.nordicmuseum.com.

Melinda Bargreen: mbargreen@seattletimes.com