Classical music, 1999

High Scores: Three of this year's coolest new works were, strikingly enough, composed by youngsters. Mirror and Fugue for piano trio, by 20-year-old Adam Neiman and heard at the Seattle Chamber Music Festival (7/16), was daringly spare in texture. The maximalist Avenues, by Theodore Shapiro (age 27), was played 11/18 by pianist Awadagin Pratt and the Seattle Symphony, and explored the clash between raucous urbanity and bucolic nostalgia. Orchestral Prelude no. 1, by Josh Deutsch (age 17), played 5/15 at an SSO kids' concert, was a beautifully harmonized revisitation of the fin of the last si裬e.

Syzygy: One amazing week in April saw four brilliant contemporary-music performances: Bryan Gilliam's Brechemin Auditorium recital of Ives' monumental Concord Sonata (4/15); Dawn Upshaw at Benaroya singing gorgeous songs by Messiaen, Primosch, and Golijov (4/16); more Messiaen at St. James Cathedral as James Savage led his Technicolor Trois petites liturgies (4/18); and Ensemble Intercontemporain's fascinating Meany Hall concert of Durand, Ligeti, Stravinsky, and Xenakis (4/21).

Theme nights: The Esoterics commemorated the centennials of four composers—Francis Poulenc, Randall Thompson, Carlos Chavez, and Lajos Bardos—from four points of the stylistic, as well as geographic, compass. Flutist Paul Taub celebrated his fifth-of-a-century at Cornish College by commissioning 10 works for himself, all premiered in one recital (5/2). And conductor Gregory Sullivan Isaacs is saluting the end of the century that saw our nation's musical coming-of-age with an all-American season for his Cascade Symphony (next concert, 1/10/00).

Venues: Benaroya Hall is so 1998. Check out the visual and aural beauty of Town Hall (Eighth and Seneca) and Pilgrim Congregational Church (Broadway and Republican). Speaking of venues, we also lost a favorite this year: The avant-music nerve center that is the Speakeasy's back room (2304 Second) fell victim to some stupid noise ordinance last summer.

Best debut: The Hubert Ensemble (violinist Holly Eckert, cellist Rich Eckert, soprano Thomasa Eckert, and keyboardist Robert Kechley) combined jazz, classical, and humor (sometimes all in the same piece) at a first-rate concert (11/5).

Great opera, unwatchable production: Weber's Der Freischtz at the Seattle Opera (August).

Hard-on-the-ears opera, opulent production: Barber's Vanessa at the Seattle Opera (February/March).

Wardrobe splendor: In soprano Jane Eaglen's all-Wagner concert with the SSO (8/14), she sang four works and two encores—wearing a different outfit for each one. Her final eye-popping patchwork-quilt ensemble, brought out for the "Ride of the Valkyries" scene, was nearly as dazzling as her triumphant high Bs and Cs.

Out-of-town: Cincinnati percussionist Allen Otte's recital at Evergreen College in Olympia (1/27) was leftist new-music theater at its best. Robert Lepage's surreal staging of Schoenberg's Erwartung and Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle for Vancouver Opera (May) was mesmerizing. Also, Evergreen's first annual New Music Northwest festival gave the premiere of an elegantly constructed musique-concr败 sound documentary by Chris DeLaurenti with the grant-committee-provoking title Cocaine (11/6).

Master of his domain: Renowned cellist Janos Starker, at present a visiting musician at UW, delivered a resplendent version of Dvorak's Cello Concerto (12/7), cementing his reputation for brilliant, songlike musicality.

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