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Originally published July 9, 2012 at 5:30 AM | Page modified July 9, 2012 at 6:45 AM

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Free Seattle chamber-music recitals can be worth their weight in gold

A tip for chamber-music fans: In Seattle, hearing world-class music doesn't have to bust your budget. At the Seattle Chamber Music Society Summer Festival's free preconcert recitals, audiences hear works that the renowned musicians themselves have chosen. The SCMS fest runs through July 29, 2012.

Seattle Times arts writer

Festival preview

Seattle Chamber Music Society Summer Festival

The society's annual festival runs through July 29; preconcert recitals are at 7 p.m., concerts are at 8 in the Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $15 and $45 (206-283-8710 or www.seattlechambermusic.org).
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Most concertgoers at the Seattle Chamber Music Society's Summer Festival know that the 7 p.m. recitals that precede each 8 p.m. concert are free. What they may not be aware of is that those 30-to 40-minute recitals offer performers a chance to double as programmers.

While all the regular concert fare is planned by society Artistic Director James Ehnes, the preconcert recitals are programmed by the musicians themselves. And some of them seem to pounce on the opportunity.

Five or six years ago, for instance, pianist Jeremy Denk kicked off his recital by proclaiming that to his mind, no adequate recording of Robert Schumann's Davidsbündlertänze had ever been made. Schumann's cycle of brief piano pieces posits a musical/philosophical showdown between two fictional characters of the composer's own creation that, Denk felt, demanded a slightly schizoid keyboard touch.

If we wanted to hear it done correctly, he added, we had better listen to him now.

Sure enough, Denk's performance was a revelation.

Denk is back again this year and, in his 7 p.m. Wednesday solo recital, will be making a case for Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 35. In other words, for no cost at all you'll get both music and, most likely, some opinionating from Denk. And Denk, as anyone who's read his blog "Think Denk" (jeremydenk.net/blog) knows, is a world-class opinionator.

Other recital programs to look forward to: On Friday, violinist Augustin Hadelich and pianist Orion Weiss serve up items by Stravinsky (Divertimento for Violin and Piano) and Tchaikovsky (Valse-Scherzo, Op. 34).

Next week, pianist Adam Neiman performs Fauré's Ballade, Op. 19, and his own Nocturne and Étude-Caprice, 7 p.m. July 18. Neiman's String Quartet is also recital fare at 7 p.m. on July 16.

And in the closing concert of the festival, Ehnes himself fills the free-recital slot with Bach's Partita No. 2 for Violin in D minor, BWV 1004.

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

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