David Sabee
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David Sabee

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David Sabee is the Grammy award-winning music director and principal conductor of the Northwest Sinfonia. Following his early musical education as a pianist, Sabee began cello studies at age 17 with Johan Lingeman, former solo cellist of the Concertogebouw, and continued with Paul Olefsky and Harvey Shapiro. His primary conducting work was with the esteemed Swiss opera conductor and former Toscanini assistant, Walter Ducloux. In New York, Sabee joined the American Composers Orchestra under Dennis Russell Davies, performing world premieres of works by composers ranging from Ralph Shapey and David Del Tredici to Laurie Anderson and Keith Jarrett. A founding member of the Naumberg competition finalist Tafelmusik, which juxtaposed contemporary and early music, he worked with composers Lukas Foss, Frederic Rzewski, Charles Wuorinen, Meyer Kupferman, Tania León and Elliott Carter. Appointed by Lukas Foss to the Milwaukee Symphony, he performed there with the earliest iterations of Present Music. A member of the Seattle Symphony since 1986, Sabee was instrumental in the selection of both Ludovic Morlot and Thomas Dausgaard as music directors. A founding member of Seattle Chamber Players (SCP), he was involved in the commissioning of over 100 works from a long list of composers, including John Luther Adams, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Anna Clyne, Paul Dresher, Mason Bates, Valentin Silvestrov, Nico Muhly, Helena Tulve, Trimpin, Peter Bruum and Vladimir Martynow, and appeared with the SCP at music festivals such as Warsaw Autumn, Beijing Modern, Moscow Autumn, Kyiv Music Fest, Turin EstOvest, Riga Autumn’s Chamber Music Festival, Sacramento’s Festival of New American Music and Gaudeamus Muziekweek in Utrecht. In Seattle with the SCP, Sabee co-produced seven bi-annual Icebreaker festivals: concerts, symposia and educational events that presented contemporary music from all over the world. Recipient of Seattle’s Mayor’s Arts Award for Film, he has conducted the recording sessions of hundreds of motion pictures, and collaborated with composer Gustavo Santaolalla and director Ang Lee on the recording of the score to Brokeback Mountain, which was awarded the Golden Lion (Venice Film Festival), several Golden Globes, and three Oscars, including Best Director and Best Original Score. A strong advocate of the works of living composers, he continues to support the compositions of composers including Christopher Tyler Nickel, Louis Andriessen, Alexander Raskatov, Boris Filanovsky, Alexander Wustin, Chen Yi and Agata Zubel through commissions, recording and live performances. In the press, Sabee has been called “confident and colorful” by The New Yorker, while La Nación, in San José, Costa Rica, characterized his perforrmance as “infused with insight and passion.” He and his wife, Patricia Isacson Sabee, the celebrated museum administrator, live between Seattle and Washington D.C.