A Festival Tradition

Within the past few seasons, the Seattle Symphony has presented annual festivals of exciting music focusing on composers from various regions of the world, including the Pacific Rim, Silk Road region, Latin America, Central Europe and the United States.

In 2005 and 2006, the Seattle Symphony presented a two-part Made in America Festival, showcasing those American composers who created a distinctive American symphonic voice. Various festivals have also taken place in recent years to celebrate the works of specific composers, including a Mozart festival in honor of the composer’s 250th birthday, and two Shostakovich festivals.

In spring 2007, the Seattle Symphony presented Music of Central Europe: Bridging the 48th Parallel. Conducted by Gerard Schwarz, the festival repertoire and community partner presentations spanned seven decades of the 20th century. A major highlight was the concert-staged performance of Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, featuring sets by renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly.

In the 2008–2009 season, the Symphony presented a year-long “festival” that celebrated works by immigrant composers. The festival culminated in two special weeks of performances in May and June 2008. Performances of the rarely performed Genesis Suite featured narration by Academy Award winners F. Murray Abraham and Patty Duke, as well as visuals by Seattle Symphony Artist in Association Dale Chihuly. Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra shared the program with a semi-staged presentation of Kurt Weill and Bertholt Brecht’s The Little Mahagonny.

In fall 2009 and 2010, Schwarz opened each season with the hit Beethoven & Wine Festival, showcasing the best Northwest wines and the music of one of classical music’s masters, Ludwig van Beethoven.

In the 2012–2013 season, Music Director Ludovic Morlot led RachFest, a special January festival featuring four talented, award-winning young artists performing the full cycle of Rachmaninov’s piano concertos in two nights. Seattle Symphony Conductor Laureate Gerard Schwarz returned for two weeks in May to conduct a “Russian Spectacular” featuring music by Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, with guest artists Vladimir Feltsman and Ignat Solzhenitsyn.

In January 2014 the Seattle Symphony presented TchaikFest!, a rare opportunity to be fully immersed in the breathtaking music of Tchaikovsky and experience all four instrumental concertos — three piano concertos, one violin concerto — performed over two nights. The festival was led by guest conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto and featured talented, up-and-coming young soloists.

The 2014-2015 season will commemorate the 150th anniversary of Jean Sibelius' birth, celebrating the great Finnish master with a complete cycle of his symphonies over a three-week festival, led by Principal Guest Conductor Thomas Dausgaard.

These celebrations support the creative efforts of composers and serve to bring vital new audiences to the concert hall. The festivals also often incorporate community and educational activities, children’s events, seminars and panel discussions related to the composers and their music.