Violinist Serena McKinney returns to the festival this year. File photo by Marcy Stamper

Violinist Serena McKinney returns to the festival this year. File photo by Marcy Stamper


Concertgoers will have a rare opportunity to appreciate changing styles in classical music and its interpretation at this year’s Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival.

Musicians on the concert stage during the first weekend of the festival, beginning Thursday (July 25), come from an older tradition that prizes interpretive freedom, said Kevin Krentz, artistic director of the festival. Audiences may notice the artists using more variations in tempo and rhythms and contrasting shades of tone color to convey their individual emotional take on the music, said Krentz.

The younger musicians featured in the second week of the festival apply their precise, beautiful style and technical mastery to express a greater fidelity to the composer’s intentions, said Krentz. “I see beauty in both styles,” said Krentz. “It’s one thing I’m thinking of when I program groups of artists.”

The evolution in musicians’ approach to interpretation parallels changing musical tastes and styles in chamber music over the course of the past few centuries, said Krentz. The Baroque period – epitomized by composers such as Bach and Handel – was characterized by lavish ornamentation, which gave way to a greater emphasis on form and structure in the classical works of Mozart and Haydn.

The Romantic period that came next ushered in a renewed emphasis on emotion (in the work of composers such as Beethoven and Schubert) before the focus shifted again to form and structure – accompanied by new explorations that often altered the rules of composition, said Krentz.

The older tradition will be exemplified – literally – by the 1706 violin played by virtuoso Paul Rosenthal during the first two concerts. “That violin has the soul of an instrument from an incredible golden age when guys were inventing this stuff,” said Krentz.

Rosenthal is an expert in the music of the 19th-century Russian composer Sergey Taneyev, whose work is featured in the first two performances. “It’s a lot like Brahms meets Tchaikovsky,” said Krentz. “People will swoon when they hear these pieces. The music will bring people back to their basic selves.”

Krentz has also programmed a witty piece called “Minimax” by the 20th-century German composer Paul Hindemith. Known for his erudition in music theory and incursions into atonality, Hindemith actually wrote the piece for a party. “It’s the lighter side of Hindemith, showing him as a bit of a prankster,” said Krentz. Even the titles for the movements, such as “Overture to Water Poet and Bird Cage,” are tantalizingly suggestive.

Other festival highlights include a piece for French horn and piano by the 20th-century French composer Francis Poulenc, showcasing Jeffrey Fair, the principal horn player with the Seattle Symphony. Fair will also be featured in the horn trio by Brahms. “It’s one of the most beloved chamber music pieces of all time,” said Krentz.

The final concert features a piano trio by Maurice Ravel that rarely makes it onto concert programs. “It’s fiendishly difficult – you don’t usually get to hear it,” said Krentz.

The final evening includes the premiere of “Ice Caves,” a piano quartet by returning festival cellist Paul Wiancko. In six short movements, Wiancko meanders through jazz, Slavic-inspired dances and unexpected rhythms, all with considerable humor, said Krentz.

The festival also delves into more-familiar works by Mozart and Rachmaninov.

The Fellowship Quartet, a group of juniors and seniors in the performance program at Seattle University, joins the festival artists this year. Besides learning from and working closely with the festival musicians, the quartet will perform at informal venues around the valley and coach campers at the Pipestone Summer Music Camp.

In addition to five main concerts, the festival includes four free concerts from Mazama to Sun Mountain; free daily open rehearsals where people can get a glimpse of how the musicians assemble their performances; and lectures about the music before the main concerts. There is even the chance for a celestial foray into astronomy with local stargazer David Ward.

The festival runs from Thursday (July 25) through Saturday, Aug. 3. Main performances are at Signal Hill Ranch between Winthrop and Twisp and cost $25 each. A free community concert will be performed in the Twisp park on Sunday (July 28) at 2 p.m.

See the festival’s website at for detailed program and ticket information.


Chamber Music Festival at a glance


Thursday, July 25

7:30 pm Center-stage concert


Saturday, July 27

7:30 pm Center-stage concert


Sunday, July 28

2 pm Free community concert at the Twisp Park


Monday, July 29

5 pm Free community concert at Sun Mountain Lodge


Tuesday, July 30

7:30 pm Center-stage concert


Wednesday, July 31

6 pm Free community concert at Mazama Store


Thursday, Aug. 1

7:30 pm Center-stage concert


Friday, Aug. 2

5 pm Free community concert at Lost River Winery Tasting Room, Winthrop


Saturday, Aug. 3

7:30 pm Center-stage concert


All Center-stage concerts are at Signal Hill Ranch between Winthrop and Twisp.

Open rehearsals held daily at Signal Hill Ranch at 9 am


More details at