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Friday, April 13, 2007 - Page updated at 02:09 AM

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Classical Music

See the keys bounce and the strings quiver

Seattle Times music critic

Ever wish you could zoom in on the fingers, and the facial expressions, of the artists you hear at the Seattle Symphony?

Now you can, with a new TV special featuring the orchestra in concert with music director Gerard Schwarz and piano soloist André Watts — airing Saturday and Wednesday on KCTS and at several times on KCTS' high-definition channel (see information above). "Seattle Symphony from Benaroya Hall: Brahms, Kernis and Kodály" is produced by the award-winning John Forsen, an experienced director whose cameramen get you up close to everything — from the Hungarian cimbalom to the ultra-powerful fingers of Watts himself.

Shot in high definition at Benaroya Hall, the special captures the two-hour concert program of Kodály's "Háry János" Suite, Aaron Jay Kernis' "Newly Drawn Sky," and Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2. There are preview features with the ultra-articulate Schwarz, Kernis and Watts discussing the music and their approach to it, plus some historical perspective and a lot of "you are there" footage that includes Schwarz and Watts backstage during the curtain calls.

Almost every orchestra player is featured in one shot or another, in a piano glissando or a piccolo riff or a viola solo. Adding an extra bit of luster is the orchestra's very telegenic new principal cellist, Joshua Roman, who plays an extended, lovely solo in the Brahms.

And there is Watts as you've probably never seen him before, with the camera showing just what he can do with those amazing hands in the huge Brahms concerto. We also see his expressive face (and his propensity for singing along with the music).

Tune in and see what the orchestra can do — and how the players do it. It's an ear- and eye-opening program.

Nadja fans rejoice: She's back

On TV


"Seattle Symphony from Benaroya Hall: Brahms, Kernis and Kodaly" airs at 9 p.m. Saturday and 3 a.m. Wednesday on KCTS. The show also is available on KCTS-HD (high-definition channel 108 on Comcast) at 6 p.m. Sunday, 7 p.m. Monday, 7 p.m. Wednesday and 6 p.m. next Friday.

Fans of the flamboyant, passionate violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg — and there are legions of them — are in luck Sunday, when she arrives in Tacoma's Pantages Theater for a duo concert with another top artist, pianist Anne-Marie McDermott. The pianist, who has been heard in solo recital on the President's Piano Series here in Seattle, should be a partner in every respect for Salerno-Sonnenberg's very expressive music-making.

The repertoire also is promising. The program, presented by Tacoma Philharmonic, has the three violin sonatas of Johannes Brahms: Sonata No. 1 in G Major, Op.78 ("Regenlied"); Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 100; and Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 108. There's a free pre-concert lecture an hour before performance time by Dr. John Falskow, chairman of the Music Department at Tacoma Community College.

Salerno-Sonnenberg is one of the most magnetic of all classical personalities, a fact well documented in her many recordings, as well as TV appearances (profiles and appearances on all the major networks) and the 2000 film "Speaking in Strings," a documentary of her career that was nominated for an Academy Award. She also is the author of a 1989 autobiography written for children, "Nadja: On My Way." The concert takes place at 3 p.m. Sunday, Pantages Theater, Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, 901 Broadway, Tacoma; $32.50-$62.50 (253-272-0809 or the Pantages Theater ticket office, 253-591-5894, or www.TacomaPhilharmonic.org).

Youth leading youth

The Seattle Symphony has the young Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski as soloist in two remaining performances of a program including Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3, plus Debussy's "La Mer." Trpceski's debut here five years ago was particularly well-received, and he's been back since then; next season, he also is scheduled to play the President's Piano Series at Meany Theater.

On the podium for this weekend's Symphony concerts: guest maestro Ilan Volkov in his Seattle debut. The young Israeli-born (in 1976) conductor also leads Stravinsky's "Fireworks" ("Feu d'artifice") and "The Ascension" ("L'Ascension") of Olivier Messiaen. Start times for this program are 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday; $15-$89 (206-215-4747 or www.seattlesymphony.org).

Melinda Bargreen: mbargreen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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