On Saturday morning I’m playing a children’s concert presented by the Seattle Chamber Music Society which features Peter Schickele’s (aka PDQ Bach) The Emperor’s New Clothes. It’s a fun piece for narrator and mixed ensemble, and is my first chance since 1995 to perform with pianist Paige Roberts Molloy, with whom I last played chamber music at the Tanglewood Music Center (Brahms Piano Quartet in G minor, coached by Leon Fleischer). I’m looking forward to this a lot!
Toby Saks, founder of the Seattle Chamber Music Society and an acclaimed cellist, died early on Thursday (Aug. 1) — sending waves of shock and grief around the world as music lovers got the news. She was 71 when she lost a short battle with fast-moving pancreatic cancer, a diagnosis she met with bravery and calm.
Well, here’s an update of sorts: my info was completely wrong (that’s what you get for trusting rumors, even if they seem to be from a good source) – I’ll have some real information as things move along.Â Mea culpa.
There hasn’t been any press on this as of yet, but I’ve been hearing rumblings of some pretty massive cuts that may have to be made by the Seattle Symphony, and the players are right at the end of their current contract.Â Something in the realm of 30 percent is what I’ve been hearing from sources close to the situation.Â Word is that the usual funding sources who open their checkbooks at the end of each fiscal year are determined not to help at this point now that Gerard Schwartz is a lame duck.
It’s a shame, because the SSO is a great orchestra and the musicians work very hard there, and deserve the pay and benefits they currently receive – and doubtless they deserve much more.Â I warned about this scenario a couple years back – that with the departure of Schwartz they would face a dearth of funding from his major donor friends.Â One would hope that their philanthropy will extend beyond personal loyalty, but it often takes years for such wounds to heal and for such donors to return to an orchestra.
The seemingly tireless Zach Carstensen of The Gathering Noteposted videos and commentary from our concert last weekend in Seattle.Â Swing by and take a look, and be sure to look around the rest of the site – Zach has put together a team of some of the best arts writers in the Northwest to cover ensembles and series that don’t get coverage from the major media outlets (which become less and less major with each passing day, it seems).
Most of the students in the area are now on their spring break, and the Oregon Symphony has joined them.Â Just in the nick of time, as I was in danger of being spring broken.Â I was up in Seattle with cellist Heather Blackburn, violinist Shin-young Kwon, and pianist Cary Lewis performing a program of French chamber music for the Camerata Northwest series.Â The concert was held at the excellent Good Shepherd Center Chapel – one of the gem venues for chamber music performances in Seattle.Â Word was that there are no evening performance slots left for the rest of 2009.Â Pretty amazing!
Heather and Shin led off with the Sonata for Violin and Cello by Maurice Ravel, one of the masterpieces of the duo repertoire (not to mention the chamber music genre as a whole).Â Cary and I then played the Elegy by Henri Vieuxtemps, a lovely but treacherous piece that shows more of the virtuosic (hopefully) side of the viola.Â After a brief intermission, all four of us played the rarely-heard Piano Quartet of Camille Saint-SaÃ«ns.Â The audience was small (it was a dry, early Spring Saturday), but appreciative, and our presenter, John Scanlon, was gracious and supportive.
I came across this video from Zach Carstensen’s Seattle-based arts blog The Gathering Note, and I’m quite impressed by the production values and the message that this video puts across – namely that music belongs everywhere in our lives, and that it is a joyful and affirming activity for listener and player alike.
Also a surprise: that former OSO violist Mara Lise Gearman is featured in this video – it’s about 2’30” into the video, and features the trio playing the opening march from Dohnanyi’s great Serenade for string trio. It’s all put together by the group Simple Measures, founded by cellist Rajan Krishnaswami (who you see first in the video).
Before I let you get to the video itself, what I’m wondering is why such a group isn’t really operating here in Portland.Â Top-notch musicians from the big arts organization in town, interesting locations (we’ve got a streetcar, too, for crying out loud – and we had it first!) and innovative programming.Â We’ve got groups that have two out of three in every configuration, but not all three together.Â Hmmm…
The Cascadia Composers is a group of preeminent Northwest composers who are banding together to, in the words of its mission statement:
Cascadia Composers will promote the composition and performance of contemporary classical music by regional composers, stimulate national and international awareness of this music, Â and gather composers to disseminate information pertinent to its members and the community.
I think that it’s fair to say that in other words, CC will be putting a lot more new music from local composers in front of audiences around the Northwest.Â And that’s a good thing!