It's a staple of symphony concerts across the country: the all-Spanish program. Every orchestra, from big-league professional outfits such as the Seattle Symphony to scrappy (and sometimes fun) community orchestras like the Lake Union Civic Orchestra (aka LUCO), plays pieces that evoke the brass bands, bullfighters, languid siestas, and other fabled pageantry of 19th-century Spain.
Composers on all-Spanish programs tend to be familiar, sometimes famous (Debussy, Ravel, de Falla), while others (Chabrier, Granados, Albéniz, Rodrigo) remain in the repertory for a "hit" or two.
For their all-Spanish concert, LUCO eschews the two most popular works in the genre, Debussy's Ibéria and Ravel's Rapsodie espagnole, so I'm intrigued by what LUCO has lined up: Three Spanish Dances by Granados, Albéniz's Catalonia, the rambunctious España by Chabrier (who was born in France but visited Spain for a few months in 1882), and several scenes from a ballet by de Falla, The Three Cornered Hat.
Do these pieces truly represent Spain in the 19th century? España vacillates between cymbal crashes and jolly tunes. In parts of Three Cornered Hat, the orchestra resounds like a giant flamenco guitar, as if Mendelssohn retired to Seville and spent his old age in a late-night café cantante watching the guitarists and dancers.
The common complaint is that all-Spanish programs perpetuate sonic stereotypes of the exoticized Spain, a picturesque land of castanets and curvaceous senoritas modestly fanning themselves on evening promenade. Instead, I hear these works as crude field recordings, admittedly imperfect yet delightful sonic snapshots by composers who wanted to preserve what they heard on the streets but lacked the requisite technology.
Lake Union Civic Orchestra performs Fri June 29 at Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave, 652-4255, 7:30 pm, $8/$14.
THURSDAY JUNE 28
"The symphony," declared Gustav Mahler (1860—1911), "should be like the world. It must contain everything." From angelic choirs to the rustling sounds of nature to demonic waltzes, Mahler's symphonies stake out breathtakingly broad, often cosmic, territory. Conductor Gerry Schwarz and the band sally through Mahler's bone-rattling tuttis and convulsive anguish superbly. With the dusky-voiced Ewa Podles, the Northwest Boychoir, and the Seattle Symphony Chorale. Not to be missed. Also Fri June 29 and Sat June 30 at 8 pm as well as Sun July 1 at 2 pm. Benaroya Hall, 200 University St, 215-4747, 7:30 pm, $15—$89.
EAT THAT FROG
Flutist/saxophonist Kenny Mandel and guitarist Ed Petry host a free-jazz jam with assorted guests. Christoff Gallery, 6004 12th Ave S, 767-0280, 9 pm—midnight, free.
FRIDAY JUNE 29
BYRON AU YONG
A master at scenting traditional instruments and theatrical staging with a whiff of the avant, Au Yong duets with Tokyo-based flutist Christopher Yohmei Blasdel. I heard Blasdel a few years ago and still remember his ravishing tone on shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute). Au Yong brings his usual eclectic collection of instruments, which includes piano, voice, water, and an assortment of Asian percussion. Fourth floor Chapel Performance Space, Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, 8 pm, $14/$18.
SATURDAY JUNE 30
GREG SINIBALDI BAND
Saxophonist and composer Greg Sinibaldi's quintet plays tunes that stay funky even when swerving into quick asides. Keep your ears open for the discreet commentary adeptly inserted by drummer Byron Vannoy. Egan's Ballard Jam House, 1707 NW Market Street, 789-1621, 7 pm, $5.
MONDAY JULY 2
JIM KNAPP ORCHESTRA
Why have so many local top-drawer musicians gravitated into this jazz orchestra? Knapp's charts not only swing but skirt the usual clichés of big band jazz. With flutist Paul Taub, saxophonists Mark Taylor and James Dejoie, trumpeter Jay Thomas, pianist John Hansen, bassist Jon Hamer, and others. Seattle Drum School, 12510 15th Ave NE, 364-8815, 8 pm, $5/$10.
TUESDAY JULY 3
RICHARD PINHAS TRIO
A feast for prog-rock fans, this triple bill features French guitarist Richard Pinhas of the underrated band Heldon in a trio, with ex-Magma drummer Antoine Paganotti and Jerome Schmidt on electronics. Also, guitar saboteur Bill Horist, who shoves broken cymbals, quivering rods, and other unlikely items between the strings and loops them all into a polyphonic stew, serves up a solo set. Moraine, a string quartet plus drums ensemble led by Dennis Rea, opens. Sunset Tavern, 5433 Ballard Ave, 784-4880, 9 pm, $10.
WEDNESDAY JULY 4
ARONOFF CHAMBER MUSIC SERIES
This festival is a splendid alternative to the suffocating Fourth of July crowds. On the program: Samuel Barber's Sonata for Cello and Piano, Dvorák's Quartet in F Major, op. 96, (nicknamed "American"), the seldom-heard "Chahagir" for solo viola by the late Alan Hovhaness, and Daniel Ott's Oboe Quartet. The series starts Sun July 1; see viola.com/aronoff for a full program. Bastyr University Chapel, 14500 Juanita Drive NE, Kenmore, 253-474-6922, 7:30 pm, $10 suggested donation.