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Originally published Friday, March 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Trio of stellar pianists headed to Seattle

Seattle will host some powerhouse pianists in the coming days, and the keyboard community has been buzzing over the impending arrival in...

Seattle Times music critic

Seattle will host some powerhouse pianists in the coming days, and the keyboard community has been buzzing over the impending arrival in Benaroya Hall of Lang Lang, Barry Douglas and Horacio Gutíerrez (all in separate events).

Lang Lang

One of the hottest of today's piano talents is Chinese-born Lang Lang, who will be heard in solo recital Wednesday. He has been generating worldwide excitement since he substituted at age 17 for an ailing André Watts at Chicago's Ravinia Festival, bowling over his audience with the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1. Since then, his Carnegie Hall and London debuts have earned the most enthusiastic reviews in the press ("stunning," "history in the making"), and his recordings have been highly praised.

Now 25, Lang Lang exhibits such an emotional, supercharged presence at the keyboard that he has been criticized in recent years for excessive emoting and for a technique that can be unsubtle (one uncomplimentary nickname: the badly rhymed Bang Bang, since his name is pronounced Long Long). But that's just his style: a gregarious, enthusiastic player who has simply devoured the music, ever since he first started playing at age 3 and performing professionally at age 5. He is the real thing: wunderkind turned artist, not just a loud and percussive player but also a musician of real sensitivity.

It'll be interesting to hear what Lang Lang does with the big recital program he has chosen for next week's appearance here. He starts with Mozart (Sonata K.333) and Schumann (C Major Fantasy), moving on to a regular feature of his concerts: Chinese music. He'll play "Six Traditional Chinese Works" from "Dragon Songs," inspired by original folk music. Then comes Granados' suite "Goyescas" and Liszt's "Liebestod" transcription; Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 concludes the program.

Concert details: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $17-$150 (206-215-4747 or www.seattlesymphony.org).

Barry Douglas

On Monday, highly regarded pianist/conductor Douglas brings his Camerata Ireland to Benaroya in the Visiting Orchestras series, where Douglas (a gold medalist of the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition) will be the featured soloist in the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 14. The crowd-pleasing program will also offer Mozart's "Eine kleine Nachtmusik," as well as Russian works by Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky ("Serenade for Strings") and Stravinsky ("Basel" Concerto).

Founded by Douglas in 1999, the Camerata Ireland is a young orchestra that supports other young musicians through teaching and performance opportunities. Camerata Ireland's international tours extend from South America and China to Finland and Mexico.

Concert details: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Benaroya; $21-$81 (ticket info same as above).

Horacio Gutíerrez

The dynamic Gutíerrez will be the piano soloist in that fabled war horse, Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, starting Thursday. The Seattle Symphony program, led by guest maestro Jun Märkl, also includes the big Saint-Saëns "Organ" Symphony (No. 3), when the Watjen Concert Organ at Benaroya should get a workout.

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Concert details: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. March 29 and 2 p.m. March 30, Benaroya; $17-$105 (ticket info same as above).

Bach spotlight

Don't forget: Bach's great B Minor Mass continues today and Saturday with Gerard Schwarz conducting the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and Chorale. It's one of the all-time choral masterworks and a major challenge to the performers.

Concert details: 1 p.m. today and 8 p.m. Saturday, Benaroya Hall; $17-$105 (ticket info same as above).

Noted harpist

Yolanda Kondonassis, one of the world's pre-eminent harpists, appears tonight in the smaller Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall, under auspices of the Pacific Harp Institute. The much-recorded Kondonassis heads the harp departments at both the Cleveland Institute of Music and Oberlin College Conservatory. She'll perform music by Scarlatti, Handel, Debussy, Hovhaness and Salzedo, plus American composer Donald Erb's Sonata for Harp.

Concert details: 7:30 p.m. today, Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall; $12-$20 (206-292-ARTS or www.ticketmaster.com).

Melinda Bargreen:

mbargreen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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