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Originally published Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 2:33 PM

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Mendelssohn brings ’em to their feet at chamber fest

A review of the July 9 concert in the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s 2014 Summer Festival, which included a breathtaking performance of Mendelssohn’s D Minor Piano Trio, as well as a rare outing for Stravinsky’s Octet for Winds.

Special to The Seattle Times


Seattle Chamber Music Society Summer Festival

Festival continues through Aug. 2, most events at Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall, Seattle; $16-$48 (206-283-8808 or


Sometimes, when music lovers are very lucky, they get a performance like this one: the great Mendelssohn D Minor Piano Trio in a reading to take the breath away.

Augustin Hadelich (violin), Efe Baltacigil (cello), and pianist Jon Kimura Parker played the trio in a manner that literally gave the listeners nothing further to wish for. Warmly soulful, incredibly speedy, consistently inventive, and artful in every line, the Mendelssohn was so refined and nuanced that it made other versions seem somehow crude.

The first movement was taken at a speed possible only for a pianist like Parker, whose perfectly even arpeggios set the tone for the white-hot performance. After the movement concluded, the hall was full of the suspended sound of an overexcited audience trying not to applaud and break the trio’s spell.

The applause came later, after the lovely freedom of the second movement, the “faster than a speeding bullet” supercharged scherzo, and the impassioned finale. The listeners charged to their feet, shouting and whistling and applauding through several curtain calls. Everyone in the hall knew what was happening Wednesday night: a performance you hear only rarely, the sound of gifted musicians creating lightning together. This is why people go to concerts: waiting for that lightning strike, for the kind of thrill that can never really be captured in anything but live music.

Anything afterward would surely be anticlimactic, and that was the fate of a very fine reading of the first of Beethoven’s Op. 59 string quartets. Violinist and festival artistic director James Ehnes gave a beautifully shaped, patrician lead to the quartet, which included violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti, violist Richard O’Neill, and cellist Robert deMaine: not a weak link anywhere. The level of ensemble playing was remarkably high, and the playing sounded fresh, unforced, and natural.

The evening opened with a rare outing for the Stravinsky Octet for Winds, a jaunty, high-energy piece featuring not only a pair of trombones (Ko-ichiro Yamamoto and Carson Keeble), but also a pair of bassoons (Stéphane Lévesque and Seth Krimsky) and trumpets (Jens Lindemann and David Gordon), along with a lone flute (Lorna McGhee) and clarinet (Anthony McGill). Good-humored, picturesque, and occasionally hilarious, the performance had a few ensemble problems but lots of virtuosity.

This opening week of the festival, not surprisingly, is sold out. Wednesday’s Mendelssohn alone should cause a run on the box office for the remaining programs.

Melinda Bargreen also reviews concerts for 98.1 Classical KING FM. She can be reached at

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