The January 16 MOT concert ranges from unabashedly tonal works by Francis Thorne and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich to more exploratory music like Chiffre IV by Wolfgang Rihm. With an ear for unusual instrumental textures and forms, Rihm, along with Helmut Lachenmann, is one of Germany's most compelling composers. Also on the program are two composers of whom I know nothing, Detlev Glanert and Patrick Clark. Kudos to the Seattle Symphony for taking the welcome risk of presenting unfamiliar names.
Visiting orchestras offer the chance to check out world-class groups, so the remaining two concerts should also be a treat. On January 28, the Orchestre de Lyon, led by former Ensemble InterContemporain conductor David Robertson, is nominally in town to play 20th-century classics: Debussy's Jeux, Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. The next night, members of the band crowd into the Recital Hall for Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony No. 1, Stravinsky's overlooked masterpiece Symphonies of Wind Instruments (keep your fingers crossed for the 1920 version), and Originel by Pierre Boulez. CHRISTOPHER DeLAURENTI
The Seattle Symphony performs Thurs Jan 16 (Recital Hall at Benaroya, Third & Union, 215-4747) at 7:30 pm, $24. The Orchestre de Lyon performs Tues Jan 28 (Benaroya, Third & Union, 215-4747) at 7:30 pm, $26-$80, and Wed Jan 29 (Recital Hall at Benaroya, Third & Union, 215-4747) at 7:30 pm, $24-$40.