The Best Classical Concerts in Seattle This Spring

Picks from Seattle Art and Performance
March 2, 2016
Don't miss Gluck's Orphée, featuring tenor Aaron Sheehan, who just won a Grammy for his role as Orphée in Charpentier’s opera and now brings his talents to the same role in Pacific Musicworks’ production.

Find a complete list of classical concerts in Seattle this spring on our Things To Do calendar.

THROUGH March 12

recommended Mary Stuart

You don't see this opera much, but it tells the fantastically juicy story of the real-life 16th-century battle to the death between Mary Queen of Scots, the Catholic, and Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin icon. It's not too dramatic to say that this battle was crucial in shaping the course of modern Western history. What's more, the opera was written by an Italian composer, Donizetti, a man steeped in the Roman Catholic world, who was not as sympathetic to Elizabeth as history turned out to be. Facing off will be the tremendous sopranos Mary Elizabeth Williams (that name!) as Elizabeth (a local favorite after last winter's Tosca and this summer's Abigaille in Nabucco) and Italian Serena Farnocchia making her Seattle Opera debut as Mary. (In the alternate cast, they're also debut-making singers: Lebanese Joyce El-Khoury and American Keri Alkema.) Warm up the scaffold. JG

recommended Brian Schenkman & Friends: Mozart Piano Quartets

Seattle University and Cornish professor Byron Schenkman, a harpsichordist and pianist who has been lauded by the Seattle Times and the New York Times, founded the Byron Schenkman & Friends baroque and classical chamber music series in 2013. This performance, the penultimate in the 2016 season, features Mozart's Piano Quartets in E-Flat Major and G Minor from Liza Zurlinden on violin, Jason Fisher on viola, Nathan Whittaker on cello, and Schenkman on piano.

March 10

recommended Bdenie

The remarkable choral group The Esoterics has expanded to 48 singers for this momentous occasion: a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Rachmaninoff's All Night Vigil, the work he wrote during World War I for the Russian Orthodox Church. It was soon banned in his native land, and he fled, never to return, but he requested that one of its movements be performed at his funeral. For Eric Banks, the founder and director of The Esoterics, this work is a landmark in choral-music history: It is "the end of an era." And with that, the end of Russian romantic music for voice. Hear that moment in time again. JG

April 2–3

recommended Everything Broadway

250 "fabulous men" singing show tunes from throughout the history of Broadway? Yes, please!

April 7–9

recommended Brahms Symphony No. 4

Conductor David Zinman comes to Seattle to lead the orchestra for Brahms' magisterial Fourth Symphony. Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto will also be reimagined by violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja.

April 9

recommended Anoushka Shankar

Shankar is known worldwide for her inventive juxtapositions of traditional Indian sounds, electronic music, jazz, flamenco, and Western classical.

April 16

recommended Bach Six Solos

Let's see, how should we say this? Given the website's images of the films by David Michalek that will be accompanying Gil Shaham's performance of all six of Bach's sonatas and partitas for violin on this night, you may want to consider a blindfold. Why Bach needs a filmmaker is beyond me, but Shaham is sure to deliver some pleasures. Closed eyes, full hearts, can't lose? JG

recommended [UNTITLED] 3

Sound artist Trimpin—MacArthur grant winner, subject of a New Yorker profile, Black Forest refugee located for many years in a tinkerer's wonderland in Madrona—is the "composer" for tonight's concert. Trimpin builds instruments, and he and others play them. He once told me that the only music that exists is music that happens live, in real-time sound vibrations that you receive right then, and that all recorded music is not music but sculpture. You should hear what happens at this late-night concert, then, because it will not come around again. (And if you are not acquainted with this late-night series, it is fabulous: people sit on the carpet, lie down, range across the balconies, get close to the musicians.) Do this. JG

April 28–30

recommended Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4

Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto is a landmark of the literature. Imogen Cooper is an English pianist who didn't really begin to come to worldwide attention until she was in her late 50s; now she's in her 60s and known for her interpretations of Schubert and Schumann. It will be interesting to see what she does with Beethoven. Music director Ludovic Morlot conducts, leading the orchestra in a program that also includes Henri Dutilleux's Timbres, espace, mouvement, a piece the composer wrote in 1978 in tribute to Van Gogh's painting Starry Night, and Prokofiev's Seventh Symphony, written under pressure from Stalin in 1952. Both Stalin and Prokofiev would die in 1953. JG

May 20–21

recommended Gluck Orphée

Tenor Aaron Sheehan, who just won a Grammy for his role as Orphée in Charpentier's opera, now brings his talents to the same role in Pacific Musicworks' production, directed by Gilbert Blin and conducted by the Grammy-winning Stephen Stubbs.

May 22

recommended Out of Darkness

Notable composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer have written an opera after Auschwitz. Their work in three parts, each part premiering in Seattle with Music of Remembrance, begins with the life and work of daring Auschwitz survivor, poet, and songwriter Krystyna Zywulska. Now comes the third and final part of Out of Darkness, called For a Look or a Touch, written for baritone and actor. It's based on the story of the young lovers Gad Beck and Manfred Lewin, just two of the so many gay men persecuted and killed in the Holocaust. JG

May 24

recommended Benjamin Britten's Second String Quartet

In 1945, the 32-year-old English composer and pacifist named Benjamin Britten met the American Jewish violinist Yehudi Menuhin, and the two set out on a tour performing music to survivors of the concentration camps in Germany. Their audiences were barely surviving and came to hear the music wrapped in blankets. After Britten returned home, he wrote his Second String Quartet, to be performed here by the remarkable cellist Joshua Roman, NY violinist Arnaud Sussman, Canuck violinist Karen Gomyo, and Westchester Philharmonic violist Kyle Armbrust. Also on this program is the newly commissioned piece by Grammy-nominated pianist Andrius Zlabys, and Zlabys will be here performing with the other four musicians in his own work, as well as in the piano quintet by Shostakovich, another composer haunted by authoritarian terror. JG