Portland music, like most Portlanders, hightails it from the concert halls to the wide open spaces this summer. Classical music, jazz, even opera go alfresco as the summer music season heats up, and there’s plenty of indoor musical delight available at concert halls, clubs and churches around town. Here’s a few of this month’s musical highlights, which we’ll update and augment in our weekly MusicWatches. Feel free to tell our readers about anything we’ve missed in the comments section below.
Chamber Music Northwest
The venerable summer festival brings back its usual array of New York classical music stars and rising young players, and adds a few welcome new wrinkles: partnerships with other arts organizations, a new noon concert series showcasing contemporary chamber music in short, hour-long concerts—and a happy infusion of humor in a field that too often takes itself way too seriously. Most concerts take place at Reed College and Portland State University.
Contemporary music takes the stage at a free noon concert at the Portland Art Museum on July 2 with Debussy’s gorgeous string quartet and Portland composer David Schiff’s sparkling arrangement of music from Debussy’s Children’s Corner that premiered at last year’s festival, and another free community concert July 24 at Mt. Hood Community College featuring the Akropolis Reed Quintet also offers music from this century and the last.
Most happily, the new@noon series features contemporary music, starting with the July 3 show spotlighting CMNW’s Protege Project composer Chris Rogerson, plus a klezmer piece by the wild and wonderful American composer Paul Schoenfield and a sonata by Portland’s own compositional eminence, Tomas Svoboda. A quintet of world premieres showcases the voice of Protege Project soprano Evanna Chiew at the July 10 noon show.
New music graces the main stages on July 6-7 with premieres by one of Oregon’s (and America’s) finest composers, Kenji Bunch, and Pulitzer Prize winning Bang on a Can composer David Lang, plus a couple of late-career beauties by Mozart, and the July 23-24 concerts that continue the festival’s long tradition of commissioned new works, especially by Reed College’s own David Schiff, another of Oregon’s finest composers, with his new Nonet alongside music by Shulman and Schubert. The popular Club Concerts return July 8 with a sold out show of music at Jimmy Mak’s jazz club by 20th century kings of complexity Elliott Carter and Charles Wuorinen, a centuries-spanning concert of French music (from Rameau to Messiaen) featuring Protege Project players on July 15 at Alberta Rose Theatre, and a pair of highly recommended shows on July 22 featuring BodyVox dancers and music of Igor Stravinsky and new works written in the past couple of years, including a premiere by John Steinmetz, at the dance company’s studios.
Laughter erupts on July 17 when CMNW throws a birthday bash on for PDQ Bach’s amanuensis Peter Schickele, a fine composer in his own right (and byline), followed by a midday July 18 family concert in which he narrates The Emperor’s New Clothes, and the world premiere of his new Clarinet Quintet, which CMNW commissioned for the Miro Quartet on July 18-19, in a program that also includes a pair of gorgeous classics by Haydn and Brahms. Humor intensifies on July 20 with the uproarious duo of Igudesman & Joo, classical fiddler and pianist who follow in the pratfalls of Victor Borge, Anna Russell and others who know where to find the laughter in classical music; watch for our upcoming preview.
Of course, museum music remains a festival mainstay, including a three concert series of Beethoven violin sonatas begins on July 3 with further installments on July 9 and July 16. Fourth of July fireworks erupt in four-hand piano music of Schumann, Brahms, Schubert and more (both at Reed College). Several shows are already sold out, including the July 5 concert collaboration with the Oregon Bach Festival (you might be able to catch the July 3 Eugene performance), the renowned Emerson quartets July 11-12 shows, and the July 21 show with dueling string quartets. Viola fans can ignore the jokes after seeing the July 13-14 viola extravaganza featuring Paul Neubauer and other festival regulars play Schubert, Schumann and more. The festival closes with July 25-26 performances of immortal concerti by J.S. Bach and Mozart, starring piano legend André Watts.
“Cadence Festival of the Unknown”
Classic Pianos, SE Powell and Milwaukie Ave., Portland.
Read my Willamette Week preview of this new series of jazz and other improv-oriented music sponsored by the venerable jazz magazine now based in Oregon.
Oregon Bach Festival
July 1-July 12
Various venues, Eugene.
The venerable festival continues with artistic director Matthew Halls leading a July 2 concert at Silva Hall featuring a Bach cantata, Brahms symphony, and Bruckner’s Te Deum with singers from the Stangeland Youth Family Academy, who get their own showcase July 8 at Eugene’s First Methodist Church. At Beall Hall, OBF’s partnership with CMNW brings a recital of Beethoven violin sonatas July 1, while July 3’s CMNW collaboration stars two of the most esteemed leaders of the historically informed performance practice movement: Masaaki Suzuki, founder and director of the Bach Collegium Japan (which made a legendary series of recordings of Bach’s cantatas on period instruments) and Monica Huggett, who ran the Juilliard historical performance program and leads Portland Baroque Orchestra and other major ensembles. They’ll join members of the festival’s new Berwick Academy in some of the most celebrated music of the era: one of J.S. Bach’s orchestral suites (with a very famous air), one of his Brandenburg Concertos and one of the concertos from Handel’s finest set, his Op. 6.
On July 5, another CMNW collaboration offers premieres by one of Oregon’s (and America’s) finest composers, Kenji Bunch, and Pulitzer Prize winning Bang on a Can composer David Lang, plus Mozart’s Flute Quartet in D Major and his magnificent String Quintet in D Major. Pianist Ya Fei Chuang plays Schubert, Chopin and more at Beall July 6. Suzuki leads the festival chorus and orchestra at Silva in Haydn’s rousing Lord Nelson Mass plus Stravinsky’s Pulcinella ballet music and Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 July 7. That same night at Portland’s Trinity Cathedral, the great organist Paul Jacobs plays Bach, Brahms and Reger. On July 9, venerable OBF founder Helmuth Rilling returns to lead the first sacred work he conducted at the festival 45 years ago, J.S. Bach’s mighty St. John Passion. Harmonica virtuoso Joe Powers returns July 11 at the Hult Center’s Soreng Theatre with his characteristic mix of jazz, pop and classical. The festival closes July 12 with Matthew Halls leading orchestra, soloists and chorus in Mahler’s choral-orchestral epic Resurrection Symphony.
Siletz Bay Music Festival
Various venues, Lincoln City
Wednesday’s jazzy chamber concert at Salishan Spa features jazz clarinetist Ken Peplos playing Mozart with venerable pianists Dick Hyman and Gerald Robbins, plus the great Portland singer Rebecca Kilgore. Friday’s concert offers young pianist Adam Jackson soloing in Beethoven’s Piano concerto #1, while Robbins and Mei-Ting Sun take the keyboards for Mozart’s two-piano concerto K. 365. The orchestra plays the Northwest premiere of Daniel Kellogg’s “Mozart’s Hymn” and Prokofiev’s first symphony. The Fourth of July show has a suitably American character, with classics by Copland, Samuel Barber, Rodgers & Hammerstein, and the western premiere of Hyman’s piano concerto Independence Day. Sunday’s Sinatra showcase with Peplowski, Hyman and Kilgore (plus guests) features tunes made famous by the kid from Hoboken and the kind of old Jazz Age tunes that Hyman and Peplowski specialize in.
Newport Symphony Orchestra
Newport Performing Arts Center.
The dizzy Portland band 3 Leg Torso joins the orchestra Friday, while the holiday show features movie soundtrack classics.
Dick Hyman and Friends
Scandinavian Heritage Foundation, 8800 SW Oleson Road, Portland/
Hyman, Kilgore, Peplowski et al bring their Sinatra tribute to Portland in a benefit for Portland Chamber Orchestra.
Leander Star and Elise Blatchford, Headwaters Theater, 55 NE Farragut St. #9, Portland.
The excellent French hornist and flutist, who’ve played in Portland Opera and the Oregon Ballet Theater orchestras as well as the nationally acclaimed City of Tomorrow wind ensemble, collaborate with lighting designer Alex Deahl for a concert of music for horn, flute, and pre-recorded electronics written by Northwest composers Tomas Svoboda, Sarah Bassingthwaighte, Nat Evans, Hildegarde Westerkamp, and more.
“In Good Hands”
Cascadia Composers, The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave., Portland.
Where some 21st century kids may be bored by Brahms, it’s no surprise that they sure seem to perk up when playing music of their own time and place. That’s what happened at last year’s edition of “In Good Hands,” Cascadia Composers’ annual collaboration with local music teachers that connects tomorrow’s Oregon musicians with today’s Oregon music. One of the most valuable contributions to Oregon music, this year’s show includes 15 Oregon composers (including Tomas Svoboda, Lisa Ann Marsh, Daniel Brugh and Paul Safar), 25 students (of ten Oregon music teachers) and as many compositions, culminating in Portland composer Jennifer Wright’s “X Chromosome” for five toy pianos. It’s a wonderful snapshot of Oregon music’s present and future.
Cathedral Park Jazz Festival
Cathedral Park, Portland.
The oldest continuous free jazz festival west of the Mississippi River enters its 35 year with a new presenter, the Jazz Society of Oregon, and more than a dozen performers, including rising star Hailey Niswanger’s PDX Soul, Blueprints Trio, Thara Memory’s national award-winning American Music Program, Portland Youth Jazz Orchestra, La Rhonda Steele, and more. There’ll also be a late night venue for nocturnal jamming.
“The Elixir of Love”
July 17, 19, 23, 25 & 30; August 1
Portland Opera, Newmark Theatre.
The company closes its 50th anniversary season with Gaetano Donizetti’s fizzy 1832 ode to intoxicants and placebos, which tells the story of Nemorino, who tries to fulfill his lust for the abundantly endowed (financially, that is) and polyamorous Adina, with help from a spurious potion (not a date rape drug, but rather the 18th century equivalent of MDMA) that allegedly will make him irresistible to women, supplied by the huckster Dr. Dulcimara. Antics and reversals ensue, and the real aphrodisiac is revealed to be something more noble (as well as something else less so — money) than a magic cocktail. Conducted by Nicholas Fox and directed by Ned Canty, this version, like Eugene Opera’s production last year, is set in America’s late 19th century Wild West. The August 1 performance is preceded by a daylong, family-friendly Street Fair beginning at noon, followed by a free outdoor simulcast of The Elixir of Love that evening.
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