"What's so great about music?"

Northwest Focus words of the month: "concert" and "concerto"

What's the deal with Italian terminology and classical music? Consider my friend - a nurse by training and profession, a hardworking wage-earner and community volunteer - who approaches me for suggestions of concerts to attend. She's perused some Web sites and decided to try one of this month's Seattle Symphony concerts, where she'll hear, she says, a "con-serr-toh."

Do I correct her? It's one of those delicate balances we often strike: Fix it or forget it? Some wise teachers showed me by example how to give back a word, correctly pronounced, in a casual response, without saying it's an actual correction. I usually got the hint.

My friend does, too, but truly, it doesn't matter how she says it. She's up for an adventure, and I don't want to dampen her enthusiasm. Venturing into unknown music can be intimidating for people who approach it for the first time.

Checking the April Northwest Focus calendar, I would love to hear Seattle Symphony do that Dvorak "Cello Concerto," when a player I haven't heard before, Xavier Phillips, will sing with his strings some music I have heard - fine folk-infused tunes - backed by the biggest band in town. This is one of those concertos (forgive me, Italians) that showcases a star.

Yes, it's a conversation between the soloist and the group, but the subject of the conversation is more than just musical ideas: It's also the thrill of watching a virtuoso take risks and succeed.

Among the hundreds of concertos Antonio Vivaldi wrote are lots of showcases for virtuosity, including his famous "Four Seasons." This is actually just a set of four violin concertos out of a bigger collection of 12, but the title, the nature theme and their recent use in films and other media have made this 300-year-old music a hit. No doubt that's why you'll often find Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" on Seattle Symphony programs, as you will later this month.

Often, a concerto features more than one soloist. A particularly lively concerto for four violins by Vivaldi so inspired J.S. Bach that he re-wrote it, exchanging the violins for keyboards. In the 1700s, you could do that and not be concerned with any copyright lawsuits.

This kind of music-making has so much in common with jazz that every now and then somebody makes that overt connection: Seattle Baroque Orchestra, last month, teamed up for concerts with the Susan Pascal Jazz Quartet.

A give-and-take between a solo instrument and a group is the stock in trade of concerts the world over - jazz or pop or classical. Sellouts happen when an adventurous performer takes risks in front of an audience and shows enough skill to fly where just about anyone else would crash.

Great music reaches across borders, including linguistic ones. That's why we wrangle with all those languages on the radio in the interest of sending wonderful musical adventures your way.

You can catch me juggling multilingual challenges on a regular basis, weeknights from 7 to midnight, as music host at 98.1 KING-FM, streaming at www.king.org. Our Northwest Focus music starts at 8 p.m.

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