Sunday, November 4, 2018

a play and two concerts in Seattle

I found all of these from listings in the arts section of the Seattle Weekly. (The Times was of no help whatever for cultural activities.)

The play was Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man, one of the two non-Shakespeares being done this season by Seattle Shakespeare, in a small theater buried in a large, officious building in Seattle Center. Sumptuous costumes, impressive sets, pretty good acting. Sergius, the pompous twit character, was played by a dead ringer for the young Peter Bowles, who got plenty of laughs by striking pompous poses.

One concert, Sunday afternoon in a tiny but acoustically impressive room up in an office/retail tower in downtown Bellevue, of all the strange places, was a string quartet event put on by a group called the Russian Chamber Music Foundation of Seattle. It was not well-attended - my friend J. and I were probably the only paying attendees who did not speak Russian, or at least much Russian - but it was well worthwhile. An imported Russian group called the Rimsky-Korsakov String Quartet played ... a Rimsky-Korsakov string quartet, his Op. 12 in F. I'd never heard this piece before, or even of it, but like his other chamber music that I have heard, it's worth the unearthing. It's packed with fugatos and canons, and has a startlingly Mendelssohnian scherzo. They also played the Shostakovich Third Quartet, one of his best, with solemn dignity but not without intensity. Cellist Anton Andreev, with Foundation director Natalya Ageyeva as pianist, also played, with more passion than intonation, a couple short emotional pieces by Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky.

The other was a lecture/recital at the UW Music School last Thursday evening, by pianist Leslie Amper on the topic of WPA music, i.e. music commissioned by the U.S. government arts program in the 1930s. The lecture material was thin; short pieces by the likes of William Grant Still, Ruth Crawford, Ernest Bloch, David Diamond, Henry Cowell, and Roger Sessions mostly demonstrated the variety of styles available. But a full-length Piano Sonata by Aaron Copland, another work new to me, was eerie and hypnotizing, especially in its quiet Andante sostenuto finale.

Also, while I'm here, one from home: my latest Symphony Silicon Valley review, featuring pieces by Debussy and Strauss that I was not bursting with eagerness to hear, but which came out very well.

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