I think there should be a Commissioner of Venues for classical music. Sworn to ensure that the acoustic space is recognized as a crucial element in performance, our illustrious commissioner would travel the country, issuing citations to those who perform in venues too large or too small for the music. Repeat offenders would be required to redo the concert at a venue with acoustics that won't reduce the music to distant mush.

Concertgoers could then expect to hear performances in an acoustically sensible setting: baroque music and early Haydn symphonies in auditoriums and other intimate venues, Strauss tone poems and Mahler symphonies in modern concert halls, and so forth.

To kick off its 30th season, the Northwest Chamber Orchestra has put together an adventurous program of pieces whose sonic detail (especially with the harpsichord, a chronically hard-to-hear instrument) and precision might otherwise vanish in larger halls: Haydn's Symphony No. 83 (dubbed "La Poule"), the recently commissioned Concerto for Harpsichord and Chamber Orchestra by Philip Glass, and Schnittke's Concerto Grosso No. 1 for Two Violins, Harpsichord, Prepared Piano, and Strings.

I'm not a huge fan of Haydn's symphonies, but if you like a crisp, melodic, classical symphony, this is the gig for you: Benaroya's recital hall is perfect for orchestral chamber music. The Glass concerto is a world premiere, so I haven't heard it, but Glass' keyboard works tend to be his best. But what makes this concert a must-hear is the Schnittke concerto, a masterpiece that begins humbly with warbled notes on a prepared piano, and then wends its way to a thrilling, near-satanic duet for violins. CHRISTOPHER DeLAURENTI

The Northwest Chamber Orchestra performs Sat Sept 21 at 8 pm and Sun Sept 22 at 2:30 pm (Recital Hall at Benaroya, 200 University St, 343-0445), $30/$35.