Over the last few years the Seattle Chamber Music Society (SCMS) has gradually extended its beloved and usually sold-out Summer Festival into new territory with a late summer shindig at the Overlake School in Redmond and the upcoming Winter Festival at Benaroya Hall. As with its Summer Festival, the program, which harbors the usual suspects (Mozart, Beethoven, et al.), and performances should be quite good to sublime. But this year I'm not going.
Although the SCMS festivals have expanded geographically, I believe that on the cusp of its 25th anniversary season the SCMS should use some of its muscle to champion at least some of the crucial chamber music of the 20th century.
So instead I'm holding my own mini Winter Festival with me and a few ultra-attentive pals listening to chamber music—all of it composed over 25 years ago—on superb speakers.
One highlight is George Crumb's 1970 classic, Ancient Voices of Children; though I love the early 1970s recording with Jan DeGaetani, the serpentine melismas of soprano Tony Arnold sound equally stunning on Complete Crumb Edition Vol. 9 (Bridge). No other 20th-century composer ever matched Crumb's inventive scoring: The opening of the work's unforgettable second movement, "I have lost myself in the sea many times," swoons in undulating layers of harp, vibraphone, musical saw, and amplified piano.
Also on the docket: Morton Feldman's String Quartet (1979). Naxos just reissued an excellent recording of this 78-minute opus in which muted strings quietly exhale vaporous harmonics while hollow bow strokes toll gently, as if marooned from all other music. Other pieces are on deck; e-mail me for the rest of the list. CHRISTOPHER DeLAURENTI
The SCMS Winter Interlude runs through Sun Feb 5, Recital Hall at Benaroya, 200 University St, 283-8808, 7 pm, $8–$134.