Not so much a Concert, more a Seattle Anniversary

United StatesUnited States Seattle Chamber Music Society: A 30th Anniversary Celebration 29.7.2011  (BJ) 

It looked like a concert. It sounded like a concert. Well, yes, it was a concert. But, more importantly, the July 29 event in Nordstrom Recital Hall was a celebration and a rite of passage. So, instead of submitting a review in the familiar mould, I shall content myself with commemorating the 30th anniversary of an enormously valuable institution, and paying tribute to the person who brought it into being.

Herself a talented cellist and a respected professor at the University of Washington School of Music, Toby Saks founded what was originally called the Seattle Chamber Music Festival in 1982. Since then, the Society – “SCMF” became “SCMS” ten years ago – has grown into an organization of high aims and notable achievement, with a devoted audience that regularly assures sold-out houses both for its summer series and for the winter concerts that were added to the schedule in 1999.

Stepping down after the current season, Ms. Saks will be succeeded as artistic director by the Canadian violinist James Ehnes, who has recently served as her associate. Her appearance on stage as one of the three cellists in the performance of Bach’s Third “Brandenburg” Concerto that concluded the concert was greeted with an unmistakable outpouring of affection from the audience. A series of video tributes from fellow-musicians during intermission and at the gala dinner that followed, along with speeches from her collaborators over the years, vividly showed how much esteem, and indeed love, she has inspired in the Seattle music community and beyond. No more than fittingly, Mayor Michael McGinn proclaimed July 29, 2011, to be “Toby Saks Day in the City of Seattle.” It is no exaggeration to say that Ms. Saks has totally transformed Seattle’s musical landscape. Her achievement will assuredly not be forgotten.

Bernard Jacobson