Friday, September 30, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Classical Music

Seattle honor: Lill's symphony debut

Seattle Times music critic

John Lill just might be the most famous pianist you've never heard of before.

The British-born artist, who turns 61 this year, doesn't get to this coast much, but he has a mighty distinguished résumé.

More than 35 years ago, he won the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow, the same competition that catapulted a young Van Cliburn to fame and fortune. Lill, too, saw his career launched by that victory, and over the years he has played in 50 countries. He has performed with many American orchestras, but lists just two West Coast performances on his résumé: at the Hollywood Bowl and with the San Diego Symphony.

Here in Seattle, Lill will perform in his symphony debut a concerto by a composer with whom he has long been closely associated: Beethoven. Lill chose the last and most popular of the concertos — No. 5, the "Emperor" — for his program with Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony.

The first concert is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, followed by repeats at 8 p.m. next Friday and Oct. 8, and at 2 p.m. Oct. 9. All performances are in Benaroya Hall (206-215-4747).

Dvorák's popular "Slavonic Dances" and the "Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta" of Bartók round out the program.

Definitely worth attending: George Fiore's pre-concert lecture (an hour before concert start times), dubbing the concerto "Beethoven's Other Fifth Symphony, with Piano Obbligato."

Back in town

Karl-Ove Mannberg, the Seattle Symphony's former concertmaster during the 1976-1983 directorship of conductor Rainer Miedel, is returning to the Northwest for a pair of concerts with Seattle pianist Lisa Bergman. The pair will be heard at 7:30 tonight in the Nordic Heritage Museum, 3014 N.W. 67th St. in Seattle (tickets at 206-789-5707).

Swedish-born Mannberg returned to his home country in the mid-'80s, and has taught at leading music colleges in Gothenburg and Stockholm. He has been concertmaster of several orchestras, including the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and the Peterson-Berger Orchestra. He recently retired from the orchestras and conservatories, but Mannberg still is an active soloist throughout Scandinavia.

"I still play as long as I can move my arms and fingers," reports the wry Mannberg.

Tonight's recital features the world premiere of "Six Diversions for Violin and Piano," by Seattle composer Ken Benshoof. This work will be heard alongside Erich Korngold's "Four Pieces" and works of Swedish composers Wilhelm Peterson-Berger, Lille Bror Söderlundh and Hilding Rosenberg.

"It's such a pleasure to play with this musician's musician," says Bergman of Mannberg.

"He is not a big flashy star, but his playing has tremendous, personal understanding and refinement."

Bergman herself is on the way to Northern Ireland next month with baritone Tony Brown, an African-American singer who is her frequent partner in spirituals and related repertoire. The duo was invited to Belfast as part of ongoing efforts to promote reconciliation and racial tolerance, using music as a catalyst. They'll appear in community centers, colleges, churches and schools.

Gulf Coast benefit concerts

Sunday's 3 p.m. Mozart concert by the Seattle Chamber Singers and Orchestra Seattle will benefit the musicians of the hurricane-tossed Gulf Coast, through the Gulf Coast Orchestra Relief Fund (administered through the American Symphony Orchestra League). For tickets, call 206-682-5208.

The concert, held in Meany Theater on the University of Washington campus, includes three Mozart works: the Overture/Opening Scene to "Don Giovanni," the Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor (Mark Salman, soloist), and the composer's last (and uncompleted) work, the Requiem. Vocal soloists are Anne Carolyn Bird, Melissa Plagemann, Robb Asklof and Sam Handley.

George Shangrow, who has studied the original manuscript of the Requiem in the Austrian National Library in Vienna, will conduct a version of the Requiem edited by tenor and musicologist Jon Lange.

The New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Fund will be the beneficiary of a multichoral concert, "Can't Blow the Blues Away," at 7:30 p.m. Sunday in the Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall. Playing and singing in several genres from classical to zydeco will be the City Cantabile Choir (Fred West, director) and Mount Zion Men's Chorus (Kent Stevenson, director), as well as the Seattle Peace Choir and Shoreline Unitarian Choir.

They'll be joined by Les Femmes d'Enfer, an all-women Cajun band, and Grand Trevillion, which plays New Orleans blues and gospel. Tickets are available via Ticketmaster outlets or at the door.

Melinda Bargreen:

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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