The 2017 Seattle chamber-music fest promises a world premiere and lots of winds

Seattle Chamber Music Society’s 2017 Summer Festival to feature musical postcards from across Europe, an American composer’s world premiere and a community performance of Bach before the closing open-air concert at Volunteer Park.

“Sometimes the idea for an entire festival will sprout out of one little seed,” says James Ehnes, the internationally renowned violinist and artistic director of the Seattle Chamber Music Society.

Now in its 36th season, SCMS launches the 2017 edition of its Summer Festival on July 3. It includes a total of 12 different concert programs at the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall — three each week — plus such free events as the closing open-air concert on July 29 at Volunteer Park.

Among the 46 musicians on this summer’s roster are such illustrious figures as Noah Bendix-Balgley (first concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic); cellist Astrid Schween, newest member of the Juilliard Quartet; and Tchaikovsky Piano Competition silver medalist George Li.


Seattle Chamber Music Society Summer Festival

July 3-29, with concerts at 8 p.m. each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at Benaroya Hall, Seattle (free prelude recitals at 7 p.m.); $16-$52 (

• “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” a 40-minute family concert, is at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 22, at Benaroya Hall; $12.

• The free outdoor concert at Volunteer Park is at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 29.

In a recent phone conversation from Nova Scotia, where he was finishing up an engagement as resident artist at the Scotia Festival of Music, Ehnes recalled noticing the Bastille Day celebrations last year at Luc, the French café-bar in Madison Valley Park. “It was such a fun scene, and it crossed my mind that we have a concert on that day, so why don’t we make it a program of French music and include postcards from other stops throughout the festival?”

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The idea expanded into a musical itinerary across Europe, with one of each week’s three programs devoted to composers from an area known for its rich musical heritage: in addition to France on July 14, the destinations will be Russia (July 5), Bohemia (July 21) and Vienna (July 28).

While some festivals make a habit of tying programming into a different overall theme each season,“traditionally we do little thematic programing,” Ehnes explains. “I believe there’s much to be said for…

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