Ear Supply: Sharing the Spotlight

The traditional view of classical-music genres puts concertos and chamber music at opposite ends of the taste spectrum: flashy, shallow, and crowd-pleasing vs. highbrow and emotionally and intellectually profound. Or popular vs. elite, to put it that way. But this difference hardly obtained in the 18th century. Mozart, for example, devised the wind parts in some of his piano concertos to be dispensable, so that the piece would function with only string-quartet accompaniment and thus be marketable for domestic use. Meanwhile some Handel and Haydn works can be played as keyboard solos—the accompanying instruments in their entirety are optional. To open his chamber-music concert series, keyboardist Byron Schenkman has chosen a smaller format for two concertos by Handel and one by Haydn: instead of an orchestra, just one string player to a part. Does his playing change with this change of context from spotlighted soloist to one among equals? “Yes! Playing these one on a part allows us all much more freedom to be playful and spontaneous, especially with a group of musicians as comfortable playing off each other as this group is,” he says. “The Haydn has the potential to be funnier (dare I say goofier?), the Handel more dramatic, and both composers more intimate. One of these days I will do some of the Mozart concertos this way too.” Benaroya Recital Hall, Third Ave. & Union St., 215-4747, byronschenkman.com. $10–$42. 7 p.m. Sun., Sept. 27.

Gavin Borchert writes about classical music, performing arts, and sometimes soccer for Seattle Weekly. He can be reached at gborchert@seattleweekly.com or 206-467-4368.

 
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