Arts & Culture

The Salish Sea Early Music Festival kicks off with Russian guitar

Oleg Timofeyev, Russian 18th century guitar expert, will perform Monday in Tacoma with the Salish Sea Early Music Festival.
Oleg Timofeyev, Russian 18th century guitar expert, will perform Monday in Tacoma with the Salish Sea Early Music Festival. Courtesy

Eight-keyed flute, seven-stringed guitar and six concerts — the Salish Sea Early Music Festival heads into its sixth annual tour around Puget Sound, kicking off in Tacoma Monday. The series, held this year in Mason United Methodist Church, includes baroque trio sonatas, music from the court of Versailles, fortepiano, baroque guitar and flute, and Bach’s “Musical Offering.”

But it’s a seven-string guitar that’s the focus of the first concert Monday. A popular instrument in Beethoven’s time, the Russian seven-string guitar was developed in the late 18th century and is similar structurally to the Spanish version, with curvy body but seven (not six) strings. Some had a second neck, with four unfretted strings. Tuned in G major with a low D, it became popular thanks to the ease of playing alternating bass lines with simple chords, and stayed popular right up until the 1917 revolution, when the Spanish guitar became available.

In classical times it made an ideal accompaniment for softer instruments like flute and viola, and Monday’s concert features trios by Gaspard Kummer, Antonio Diabelli, Francois Devienne and Wenzeslaus Matiegka. Festival director Jeffrey Cohan performs on the classical eight-keyed flute, Stephen Creswell on viola and Oleg Timofeyev is a Russian guitar virtuoso.

The series, called a “remarkably intimate and refreshing experience” by Vancouver Classical Music, continues through June at Mason United Methodist Church, and around Puget Sound in venues from Vashon Island to Vancouver, B.C. Here’s the lineup:

Feb. 28: 2 p.m. Baroque Trio Sonatas, with harpsichordist Bernward Lohr and baroque violinist Anne Röhrig (both from Hannover, Germany) joining Cohan in 18th-century solos and trio sonatas.

April 5: 7 p.m. Fortepiano and Flute, with fortepianist Henry Lebedinsky and Cohan playing classical repertoire for flute and piano.

April 16: 7 p.m. A Musical Offering, Bach’s masterwork of 1747 played by harpsichordist Hans-Jürgen Schnoor (Lübeck, Germany), baroque violinist Ingrid Matthews and Cohan on a copy of a flute made for the court of Louis XIV.

May 17: 7 p.m. Versailles, with John Lenti on theorbo and baroque guitar, Joanna Blendulf on viola da gamba and Cohan on baroque flute playing music from the Versailles court of Louis XIV.

June 5: 7 p.m. Virtuoso guitar and flute, with guitarist John Schneiderman and Cohan on an 1820 London-made eight-keyed flute, playing early 19th century duos.

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568, @rose_ponnekanti

Trios for Russian guitar, eight-keyed flute and viola

When: 7 p.m. Monday.

Where: Mason United Methodist Church, 2710 N. Madison St., Tacoma.

Other venues: Seattle, Bellingham, Lopez Island, San Juan Island, Orcas Island, Whidbey Island, Vashon Island and Vancouver, B.C.

Tickets: Suggested donation $15-$25; series pass $75-$125; 18 and under free.

Information: 253-759-3539,