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Originally published Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 7:02 PM

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Preview: Seattle Philharmonic stocks Meany concert with 'royalty'

Seattle Philharmonic performs a program of Beethoven, Strauss and Henze on Jan. 23 at Meany Hall.

Special to The Seattle Times

CONCERT PREVIEW

'Beethoven: Defiance Incarnate'

Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra, 3 p.m. Sunday, Meany Hall, University of Washington; $10-$18 (206-528-6878 or www.seattlephil.org).

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You could describe Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra's next program as a king flanked by two emperors.

That's one way SPO's engaging music director and conductor, Adam Stern, characterizes the ensemble's bill, called "Beethoven: Defiance Incarnate," taking place on Sunday afternoon at Meany Hall.

The "king" is a reference to the symphonic section from Act II of Hans Werner Henze's 1955 opera "King Stag," which also stands alone as Henze's one-movement Symphony No. 4. As for the emperors, both are familiar: Beethoven's 1811 Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major ("Emperor," featuring soloist Peter Mack), and Johann Strauss II's 1889 Emperor Waltz.

All this royalty belongs to what Stern says is a program tracing how Austro-German music "has both changed and maintained traditions over time," from Beethoven to Strauss to the still-living 84-year-old Henze.

The title "Defiance Incarnate" is largely a nod to Beethoven, who, Stern says, rejected musical rules all his life.

But defiance was also an aspect of Strauss and Henze's careers. The former went against the wishes of his father, composer Johann Strauss, by becoming a 19th-century master of waltzes and operettas. Henze, schooled in traditional German composition but also influenced by Stravinsky, jazz and atonality, is an avowed Marxist.

Seattle Philharmonic typically mixes great standards with selections not often heard. In years past, Stern has led the orchestra in such relative rarities as Aaron Copland's "Statements for Orchestras" and Ralph Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 9.

As with those, Henze's Fourth Symphony will be a Northwest premiere.

"It's an unbelievably powerful, passionate piece with irregular rhythms and dissonance in line with other 20th-century pieces," says Stern. "It took on life during rehearsal, when it seemed less abstract and more of a logical link from the Romantic era to the modern."

Seattle Philharmonic's exciting April 10 program, "The Firebird: A Magical Concoction," includes J.C. Bach's Sinfonia in E for Two Orchestras (essentially a symphony for two chamber orchestras engaging in a dialogue); and Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1, with local teen soloist Marié Rossano ("an unbelievable talent," Stern says), a despairing work in memory of the Holocaust.

Also on the bill are several pieces by Stravinsky, including Eight Instrumental Miniatures ("lesser-known, children's piano compositions," Stern says).

On May 22, "The Mighty Five" offers a grouping of composers drawing on Russian folk idiom, including Balakirev, Cui, Borodin, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov.

Also

• Mozart's 255th birthday is noted this weekend with Seattle Symphony Orchestra's performances through Saturday of the composer's Requiem, along with his Symphony No. 28 in C major and Horn Concerto No. 2 in E-flat major. (Seattle Symphony is also offering a program for kids, "Mozart's Magnificent Voyage," 11 a.m. Saturday, including music from "The Magic Flute").

8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $17-$80 (206-215-4747 or www.seattlesymphony.org).

• Selections from "The Magic Flute," arranged for two pianos, will also be part of the second annual "Mozart Birthday Celebration" at Town Hall on Thursday. Pianist-harpsichordist Byron Schenkman, a celebrated interpreter of Mozart, will be joined by soprano Linda Tsatsanis, violinist Ingrid Matthews, cellist Nathan Whittaker and pianist Rachel Matthews in a program including the Violin Sonata in F, the Piano Trio in B-flat and "Das Veilchen" ("The Violet").

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Town Hall, 1119 Eighth Ave. Seattle; $13-$20 (800-838-3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com).

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@yahoo.com

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