Tina Chong review: Adventurous women

Portland Piano International rising star recital pairs female composers' new work and neglected classic


The first work that Portland Piano International’s Rising Star Tina Chong played, the first Friday evening in May at Portland Piano Company, did not initially seem to promise any magic moments. True, the title of the 1836 composition was “Nocturne” and the fluid melody and colorful harmony suggested Frédéric Chopin, or at least, a composer who avidly studied and understood that musical conjurer’s newly published works. But like so many Nocturnes, especially by lesser composers, it seemed a simple song in A-B-A form, or if you will, verse / chorus – bridge – verse / chorus (with, as it turned out, a short coda or outro).

And yet something astonishing happened at the end of the bridge. The return of the verse felt nothing like the blithe “oh here we are at home again” restart regurgitated in myriad familiar and forgotten examples of the form. Instead, while the prevailing figuration slyly flowed on underneath, the harmony levitated for a few seconds, skipped the verse’s opening chord altogether and alighted on its first moment of instability. The effect was almost unbearably poignant, as if the adventurer at the keyboard was turned back out onto the open road just when she was at her most vulnerable. One treasures such moments of tone poetry in Chopin, even in Brahms and Beethoven.

Tina Chong performed in Portland Piano International's Rising Star series.

Tina Chong performed in Portland Piano International’s Rising Star series.

Move over, guys. The composer was 16-year-old Clara Wieck, soon to become the wife of much better known composer Robert Schumann. But “composer” was deemed an unsuitable job for a 19th century European woman, and Clara went on to become instead one of the most famous pianists of her time, her own original music buried in obscurity. Two heads are better than one, and no doubt she and Robert influenced each other’s work – there are signs even in this early Nocturne. But Robert got all the credit.


Weekly MusicWatch: Music takes a holiday

Memorial Day is more about reflecting on sacrifice than on hearing live music, but Oregon stages still boast some attractive concerts

Music from 17th century Europe, Central Asia and India takes center stage during a rare slow stretch of Oregon’s music season.

Cascadia Viols
May 27
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 147 NW 19th Ave. Portland
Read my Willamette Week preview of this concert of consort music by William Byrd. A workshop follows the next day for those with a history of viol-ence.

The Florestan Trio performs in Portland May 27.

The Florestan Trio performs in Portland May 27.

Florestan Trio and Friends
May 27
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave. Portland
The esteemed threesome play Mendelssohn’s d minor piano trio, then call for reinforcements to perform Brahms’s big f minor piano quintet.

Tejendra Naryan Majumdar
May 27
The Music Room, 5395 SW Elm Ave, Beaverton
One of the leading sarod masters in Hindustani music is accompanied by Ravi Albright on tabla, then leads a workshop the next day.

“The Knight of the Rose (Der Rosenkavalier)”
May 27
Living Room Theaters, 341 SW 10th Ave. Portland
If you missed the Metropolitan Opera broadcast or PSU’s recent production of Richard Strauss operas, catch the film version of this new Salzburg Festival production of another of the composer’s classics, conducted by the Cleveland Orchestra’s Franz Welser-Most.

“Global Rhythms: Stand Against Violence”
May 28
Portland State Man Choir, Vox Femina and University Choir
Read my Willamette Week preview of the energetic singers’ season-ending concert.

PSU Chamber Choir, Man Choir and Vox Femina perform this weekend.

PSU Chamber Choir, Man Choir and Vox Femina perform this weekend.

University of Oregon Spring Concert
May 28
Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Eugene.
Read Gary Ferrington’s ArtsWatch preview of the premiere of a new Oregon composition at this annual showcase of UO musical munificence.

UO Wind Ensemble joins other University of Oregon performers in the big spring concert.

UO Wind Ensemble joins other University of Oregon performers in the big spring concert.

“San Giovanni Battista”
May 29
Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, 3925 Hilyard Street, Eugene
Renowned UO early music specialist Marc Vanscheeuwijck conducts soloists and a period-instrument orchestra in a reprise of last month’s performance of Alessandro Stradella’s early Baroque oratorio, which sets the story of Salome and John the Baptist that Richard Strauss (see above) famously later rendered as Salome.

Stradella's "St. John the Baptist" repeats in Eugene.

Stradella’s “St. John the Baptist” repeats in Eugene.

Drifting East
May 29
Corkscrew, 1665 SE Bybee Blvd. Portland
Violist Kim Mai Nguyen and cellist Avery Waite met at the Juilliard School and again in Kabul, and when they ended up in the San Francisco Bay area, decided to form an ensemble to perform an evocative original fusion of Indo-Afghan, Western classical, and Central Asian folk music.

Guy & Nadina
May 29
First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive Street, Eugene
Read my Eugene Weekly preview of the Canadian classical duo, featuring familiar and fabulous Oregon Bach Festival trumpeter Guy Few.

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“The Thaw” preview: A transitional journey

World premiere of Oregon composer's new work culminates a collaborative creative process


Editor’s note: The course of a new composition from conception to concert performance can be meandering. Here, in the words of those involved, is a diary of the creative voyage that concludes May 28, when the Oregon Wind Ensemble, led by Rodney Dorsey, and University of Oregon Singers, led by Sharon J. Paul, perform Oregon composer Andrea Reinkemeyer’s The Thaw.

1_Header Photo: 618px wide. Caption: Composer Andrea Reinkemeyer. Courtesy A. Reinkemeyer. 

Composer Andrea Reinkemeyer.

A native born Oregonian, Reinkemeyer studied with Robert KyrJack Boss and Harold Owen while earning her bachelor’s degree at the University of Oregon in 1999, and with University of Michigan faculty members Michael Daugherty, Bright Sheng, and others while working on her master’s (2001) and doctoral degrees in composition (2005).  She’s now Assistant Professor of Music Composition and Theory at Linfield College in McMinnville.

Andrea Reinkemeyer: Composing has always been a part of my training, so it seems strange to me when I meet musicians who don’t compose. As an undergraduate at the University of Oregon, I joined the Pacific Rim Gamelan on a whim, wrote a little piece for the ensemble, and Dr. Robert Kyr  took me aside one day to ask, “Why aren’t you a composition major?” I have been pursuing that path ever since.

Rodney Dorsey conducts the UO Wind Ensemble. Photo: UOSOMD.

Dr. Rodney Dorsey conducts the UO Wind Ensemble. Photo: UOSOMD.


Music in Small Spaces

Small-scale series bring new sounds closer to audiences

In the music world, most of the attention goes to the mega-venues: Keller Auditorium, Moda Center, Schnitzer Concert Hall, arena shows. Yet most of the creativity seems to happen in more intimate confines. Maybe it’s something to do with focus or informality or even lower ticket prices, but for me, cozy clubs, chapels, galleries, small auditoriums somehow make it easier to connect to what’s happening onstage.

That’s why I’ve cherished Music in Small Spaces, which for the past six years has presented new and unusual music in Beaverton and other towns on the west side of Portland’s West Hills (Tualatin Mountains), and Third Angle New Music’s Studio Series and Porch Music, which bring mostly new sounds to inner Southeast Portland’s Zoomtopia studios and the front porches of homes in a leafy old Northeast Portland neighborhood.


Alas, MiSS’s indefatigable majordomo, Judy Castle, has announced that last week’s concert, at Portland’s ironically not-so-small Village Baptist Church, will be the last in the series — a big loss for the West Side and for Oregon music in general. The final two performances, as well as Third Angle’s season-ending (but thankfully not series-ending) show last week show just why these spaces are so valuable. And while it won’t be in a small space, you will have the chance to see a reprise of the final MiSS show this Sunday in downtown Portland.


Murray Perahia review: Finding beauty in the beast

Revered pianist’s recital eventually bridges the gulf between performer and composer


A favorite misquote tells us music has charms to soothe the savage beast. But what happens when a work of music is the savage beast? World-renowned pianist Murray Perahia, in the grand finale of Portland Piano International’s current mainstream season, gave us his answer the afternoon of April 10 at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.


Portland Piano International brought Murray Perahia to Schnitzer Concert Hall.

The program featured works that reflected turbulent times in the lives of über-classic composers Josef Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johannes Brahms and of course, Ludwig van Beethoven. Early on it seemed the beasts were to be tamed, but in the end, something much less one-sided emerged that made one wonder: can man and monster meld into one great soul?


Delgani Quartet preview: Celebrating American sounds and scenes

String quartet's debut season finale blends music and images with music by American composers


Editor’s note: In its inaugural season, Eugene-based Delgani String Quartet has performed to sold out venues, commissioned new music by Oregon composers Paul Safar and Terry McQuilkin, and collaborated with oral interpreter Rickie Birran and guitarist James Bishop-Edwards.

For its final concert, American Portrait, visual artist Mike Bragg joins Delgani in paying homage to American composers Lou Harrison, William Grant Still, George Gershwin and Jennifer Higdon on May 21 at Sprout!, a regional food hub, marketplace, and entertainment venue in downtown Springfield.

Delgani Quartet. Photo: Bridie Harrington.

Delgani Quartet. Photo: Bridie Harrington.

ArtsWatch has been following this exciting new ensemble from its premiere of new works by Oregon composers in November, to its early spring concert featuring contemporary music of Latin America. As the group wraps up its first full season, we asked artistic director True about the ensemble’s inaugural year and its season-ending concert.

Celebrating American Music

Wyatt True: American Portrait was inspired by the Oregon Multimedia Project for violin and piano that I was working on during much of 2014/15 and also by our friendship with Mike Bragg. We love the idea of music with photography and film and feel it creates a real experience for the audience—it’s a concert we would want to go to!


Guest artist Mike Bragg Photo: Delgani Quartet.

Mike specializes in all kinds of visual art but has recently been involved with aerial drone footage. Expect expansive views of the Southern Willamette Valley and the coast but also close-up nature shots.

Coming across Jennifer Higdon‘s Sky Quartet convinced us to pursue this project because Higdon’s piece is inspired by the Western sky. In the program notes from her website, Higdon says: “When I began composing Sky Quartet, I envisioned the wonder and immensity of the Western sky. Every time I’ve been west of the Mississippi, I’ve always marveled at that exquisite canvas of blue and clouds. This work paints musical portraits of the sky in various stages: start of a day, the rapture of its “blueness,” a storm-wrenched fury, and its vast immensity.”

Higdon’s words, along with the music itself, almost require photography or video accompaniment in performance. The music will be accompanied by lots of sky imagery, or course, and especially time-lapse photography. This piece is really the cornerstone of the whole evening.

Portland-born Lou Harrison’s String Quartet Set is a fabulous piece and one that represents an American composer paying homage to European compositional traditions. William Grant Still‘s Lyric Suite is a beautiful work that is reminiscent of the southern United States—Still was born in Mississippi and grew up in Arkansas. George Gershwin‘s Lullaby, a lesser known work by one of our country’s most famous composers, will offer a final calm after the energetic Higdon quartet.

Lou Harrison at his strawbale house in California. Photo: Eva Soltes

Lou Harrison at his strawbale house in California.
Photo: Eva Soltes

The program includes works that geographically cover the entire United States from New York to the deep South to the West Coast. The program also features works that are very different from each other—a feature that is entirely American!


Weekly MusicWatch

Cavalcade of contemporary music and classics on Oregon stages this week

The last big weekend of the spring music season brings an avalanche of new music, much of written right here in Oregon, and a good deal of it emanating from the state’s universities, along with Indian music concerts, vanguard jazz, some excellent choral concerts, and more.

Oregon State University Wind Ensemble and Wind Symphony
May 18
Austin Auditorium, LaSells Stewart Center, 875 S.W. 26th Street, Corvallis
The band premieres Heart of a Forest by Paul D. Miller. Wait, let’s rephrase that. The band premieres Heart of a Forest by one of the 21st century’s most creative artistic mixers of media, composer/multimedia artist/writer DJ Spooky. Inspired by Thoreau and scored for turntables and wind ensemble, the neoclassical piece explores “the collision of data, sound and new ways to think about the absence of origins.” The fascinating program also includes music by Alfred Reed, Ronald Lo Presti, Howard Hanson, Frank Ticheli, Michael Gandolfi, John Adams, David Biedenbender and Percy Grainger.

OSU Wind Ensemble plays DJ Spooky.

OSU Wind Ensemble plays DJ Spooky.

Raphael Spiro String Quartet
May 18
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave. Portland
The ensemble of current and former Oregon Symphony members plays World War II-era quartets by Britten and Shostakovich, and one of Beethoven’s Op. 18 quartets, written during an earlier European war.

MYSfits String Ensemble
May 19
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave. Portland
The Metropolitan Youth Symphony classical string group re-plays contemporary New York composer Cornelius Dufallo’s A Late Walk, which they performed at this month’s FearNoMusic concert, plus one of the great 20th century oboe concertos, by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Tchaikovsky’s delightful musical postcard, Souvenir of Florence. The MYS jazz ensemble plays classics by Lee Morgan and Gigi Gryce as well as David Hazltine’s “Pentimento.”

Peter Brötzmann Quartet, CATFISH
May 19
Mississippi Studios, 3939 N. Mississippi Ave. Portland
One of the living legends of European free jazz returns to Oregon, preceded by the low key offshoot of Oregon’s Blue Cranes.

In Mulieribus
May 20, St. Stephen’s Catholic Church,  1114 SE 41st Ave. Portland, and May 22, Proto-Cathedral of St James, 218 W 12th St. Vancouver
The fabulous women’s vocal ensemble sings Renaissance music by  Binchois, Dunstable, Bisnois, Ciconia, and one of the era’s greatest composers, Guillaume Dufay, who was doing what composers like Lou Harrison did half a millennium later: integrating musical elements from diverse cultures of his time (Italian, French, English) to create a rich new hybrid sound.

Dema Ensemble performs at the University of Oregon.

Dema Ensemble performs at the University of Oregon.

Dema Ensemble
May 20
Dougherty Dance Theatre, University of Oregon
The UO’s African music/dance ensemble performs traditional African drumming, dance, singing and storytelling.

Beaverton Symphony
May 20 & 22
Village Baptist Church, 330 SW Murray Blvd, Beaverton
Alone among Oregon orchestras, the Beaverton Symphony displays a commitment to the music of its homeland with an annual, affordably priced ($10) performance by a composer from the area via its Northwest Composers Project. This spring’s entry is Washington composer Ryan Hare’s Maracanzo, an again-timely 2011 composition inspired by an (in)famous 1950 World Cup championship game. The concert also includes Beethoven’s stirring third symphony and performances of movements from famous classical concertos by the winners of the orchestra’s also admirable young artists competition.

Unistus Chamber Choir
May 20, First Christian Church, Portland, and May 22, Milwaukie Lutheran Church, Milwaukie
One of the state’s hidden musical treasures, the choir performs the world premiere of A Choral Calendar, with the Los Angeles composer/poet Carol Worthey reading the original poetry she wrote for the piece. A jazz quartet joins the show, too.

Lonnie Cline leads Unistus Chamber Choir Friday in downtown Portland.

Lonnie Cline leads Unistus Chamber Choir Friday in downtown Portland.

Marshanne Chamber Players
May 20, MarshAnne Landing Winery, and May 22, Wildish Community Theater, Springfield
Eugene Symphony concertmaster Searmi Park, Oregon Symphony clarinetist Louis DeMartino and pianist David Riley play a sweet program of trios by Giancarlo Menotti and Aram Khachaturian, Francis Poulenc’s lovely clarinet sonata, and Jascha Heifetz’s arrangements of tunes from Gershwin’s _Porgy & Bess_ for violin and piano.

“A Finale of Firsts”
Portland Chamber Orchestra, May 21, Nordia House, 8800 SW Oleson Rd. and May 22, Lewis and Clark College, Agnes Flanagan Chapel, Portland
The season-ending show presents the first symphonies of Beethoven and Prokofiev, along with Mendelssohn’s ever popular Violin Concerto in e minor and the superb Portland composer Kenji Bunch’s liltingly lush Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra.

Vancouver Symphony 
May 20 & 21
Skyview Concert Hall, 1300 NW 139th St. Vancouver
The orchestra closes its season with performances of Shostakovich’s first (1925) and final (1971) symphonies — extremely different orchestral statements befitting the extremes of the composer’s eventful life.


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