I hate the term "classical music." It acts as an intimidating imprimatur, as if anything found under the rubric of classical must be great or at least really good. There's plenty of bad, boring, and overrated classical music (e.g., early Mozart symphonies), but a few pieces belong in the slender category of delightful trash.
The Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra's upcoming concert includes one such adorable tidbit: Emmanuel Chabrier's "España." The sonic, and by now stereotyped, romance of 19th-century Spain—strumming guitars, picturesque religious processions, languid evenings, bullfights, etc.—has been captured by better composers (Debussy, Ravel) in better pieces (Ibéria, the Rapsodie espagnole). Yet somehow "España" soars, despite brimming with clunky cymbal crashes, and blaring, pompous tutti sections that inevitably collapse into a tinkling triangle and frolicking woodwinds. It's as if Chabrier (1841–1894) composed with a razor blade, paring sections of this rhapsodie pour orchestre and retaining enough details to make the piece interesting. Keep your ears open for the muffled bass drum bombs mimicking distant fireworks, glimmers of muted brass, and few measures set aside for a percolating bassoon tune. "España" is not great, but it's fun.
The program, led by SYSO conductor Stephen Rogers Radcliffe, does sport a pair of sure-fire hits, the first movement of Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 with soloist Lindsay Hills and Brahms's certifiably great Symphony No. 1. Les Préludes, Franz Liszt's third "Symphonic Poem" rounds out the program; Liszt (1811–1886) tried to continue the legacy of Beethoven by transforming tiny melodic cells into a cohesive work. He failed, but not without grandly foreshadowing Wagner with hortatory brass lumbering alongside sky-bound strings.
The Seattle Youth Symphony performs Sun Jan 28 at Benaroya Hall, 200 University St, 362-2300, 3 pm, $8–$35.
FRIDAY JANUARY 26
The symphony's series of free neighborhood concerts concludes at City Hall with Copland's rambunctious "Hoe Down" from Rodeo, a Telemann viola concerto, the "Romance," op. 42 of Jean Sibelius, Walter Piston's boring Divertimento, and some Haydn, the Symphony No. 49 in F minor. Seattle City Hall, 600 Fourth Ave, 684-7171, noon—1 pm, free.
SATURDAY JANUARY 27
Percussionist Jeph Jerman returns from Arizona to reconvene an ensemble dedicated to making gorgeously hushed music with unamplified natural objects such as rocks, leaves, and sand. The AO features many stalwarts from Seattle's avant scene: Dave Knott, Mike Shannon (Aono Jikken), Rob Millis (Climax Golden Twins), Eric Lanzillotta, Rachael Jackson, Matt Shoemaker, Susie Kozawa, and others. Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, 8 pm, $5—$15 sliding scale donation.
TOM BAKER QUARTET
Baker and his confreres couple the dissonant feints of the avant-garde with the rhythmic energy and unpredictable dialogue found in freely improvised music. The result: quietly tolling tocsins, fast-picking fretless guitar that doubles as a theremin, and undulating clarinet tremolos. This gig celebrates the release of the TBQ's new disc, Look What I Found (Present Sounds). Cafe Solstice, 4116 University Way NE, 675-0850, 8:30 pm, $5.
MONDAY JANUARY 29
This month's installment of the ongoing showcase for bassist Geoff Harper's almost uncountable number of groups surveys the music of pianist Keith Jarrett. With saxophonist Hans Teuber and drummer D'Vonne Lewis. Seattle Drum School, 12510 15th Ave NE, 364-8815, 7:30 pm, $7.
SEATTLE WOMEN'S JAZZ ORCHESTRA
Singer Greta Matassa, a sassy vocalist with a commanding set of pipes, joins the band for standards, obscure chestnuts, and originals. Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave, 441-9729, 7:30 pm, $20.
TUESDAY JANUARY 30
Back in the 1970s, I thought Sanborn's hiccupping sax licks—irruptions that occasionally teeter toward spastic squealing—marked him as a flash in the pan. I was wrong, but then, who is a prophet at the tender age of 12? Sanborn endures, turning out album after album of smooth, creampuff jazz and occasionally burning it up on funky up-tempo numbers. Through Sun Feb 4. Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave, 441-9729, 7:30 pm, $30.50—$32.50.
WEDNESDAY JANUARY 31
This British sound artist, astrologer, and former Buddhist monk creates brooding, meditative electroacoustic soundscapes. Yours truly opens with lo-fi field recordings and electromagnetic drones. Gallery 1412, 1412 18th Ave, 322-1533, 8 pm, $5—$15 sliding scale donation.
Few cassettes have terrified me as much as the tape I received from Vagina Jones (AKA Berlin-based artist King Leah). Shouts, scrapes, and a pitilessly long yet compelling track called "His Name Is Gomez" remain burned in my brain for life. Here, Jones collaborates with avant singer-songwriting Katharina Tunicata. The duo shares a triple bill with Jesse Paul Miller's Liminal Combo and Kazu Namura's the Pwrfl Power, an enticing solo project that entails "wielding a guitar and employing vocal shambles." Rendezvous, 2320 Second Ave, 441-5823, 10 pm, $5.