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Friday, May 5, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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World premiere for Seattle son ; Composer David Kechley returns home for Seattle Symphony's performance of his work

Seattle Times music critic

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Concert preview

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Several Northwest threads will be woven together tonight, when a Seattle Symphony "Music of Our Time" performance brings the 8 p.m. world premiere of David Kechley's new cello concerto "Flow: Transcending Passages for Cello and Orchestra."

The concerto in three uninterrupted movements, written for cellist Walter Gray (a Seattle Symphony member and also a founding former member of the Kronos Quartet), is the latest work of Seattle native Kechley - who, in turn, is a member of the ultra-talented Kechley family of musicians and artists (father Gerald and brother Robert also are respected composers). The new concerto is dedicated to Eva Heinitz, the legendary UW cello professor who premiered David Kechley's first cello sonata, and who recently was honored by Janos Starker as this country's "grande dame of the cello."

Kechley calls his compositional style "a fairly straightforward modal language, (which is) quite satisfying to work in, having written lots of chromatic music as well." From a look at the new score, the concerto is accessible and written with considerable clarity, but it also is extremely demanding, taking the cello throughout nearly all its compass and putting the solo voice in the foreground throughout.

Kechley, who earned degrees at the University of Washington and the Cleveland Institute of Music, now teaches at Williams College in Massachusetts. His long list of orchestral premieres stretches back to 1968, when the Seattle Symphony first played his "Second Composition for Large Orchestra," and it includes 1998's "Tuakhu: A Dark Samba for Orchestra," premiered by the Auburn Symphony Orchestra. The latter work, as well as the earlier "Transformations," will join Kechley's touching song cycle, "The Skylark Sings," on an upcoming CD. That latter work was written in memory of Kechley's brother Peter, who was a prominent member of the music community here prior to his death. Peter's widow, soprano Thomasa Eckert, is the soloist in "The Skylark Sings"; the disc will be released later this spring on the Liscio label.

Conductor for tonight's performance is Richard Pittman, the founder and music director of the Boston Musica Viva ensemble, as well as conductor of the Concord Orchestra and music director of the New England Philharmonic. His program also will include Copland's "Three Latin American Sketches," Magnus Lindberg's "Arena II," and "Shahnama," written by the British composer Nicholas Maw. Pittman will join Maw and Kechley in a post-concert discussion; Kechley and cellist Gray will also present a pre-performance discussion at 7 tonight, talking about the dialogue between composer and performer during the composition process. Both discussions, like the concert, take place in the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya. They're free to concert ticketholders ($15; 206-215-4747).

Short works for violins

On Sunday, you can play "name that tune" with the Seattle Violin Virtuosi, who are uniting again under the direction of Seattle Symphony violinist Michael Miropolsky for a 7:30 p.m. concert of "brilliant miniatures" by Bach, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Kreisler and other composers. The all-violin ensemble, drawn mainly from the membership of the Seattle Symphony, is accompanied by pianist Victoria Bogdashevskaya in performances of audience-pleasing short works, many with familiar melodies.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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