MusicWatch Weekly: Festival flips and spectacular settings

Summer sounds in scenic spaces

This week, Oregon bids farewell to another big summer festival and howdy to several more, and some free concerts and shows set in glorious Oregon venues also highlight this week’s music performances. Please add other recommendations to the comments section below.

Chamber Music Northwest
July 27-30
Reed College and Portland State University
The festival’s closing week offers a smattering of new music to go with the CMNW Protege Project composer Andrew Hsu’s short, drifting 2014 tone poem Sea Meadows (inspired by the — for now — ice covered Arctic waters) provides a 21st century garnish on Wednesday night’s attractive program at Alberta Rose Theatre that also features violin and piano music by Mozart, Messiaen, and two of the most beautiful works for that combination: Debussy’s and Franck’s sonatas.

Clarinetist David Shifrin joins the Miró Quartet at Chamber Music Northwest. Photo: Tom Emerson.

Clarinetist David Shifrin joins the Miró Quartet at Chamber Music Northwest. Photo: Tom Emerson.

On Thursday at Reed, Miró Quartet plays classics by Brahms and Beethoven. Friday’s New@Noon concert at Portland State includes world premieres by the young Hsu and the veteran Portland composer Bryan Johanson; read my Willamette Week preview. Friday and Sunday’s unusual performances at PSU and Reed, respectively, mingles late Brahms music with theatre, as explained in my WWeek preview.

The closing concerts on Saturday and Monday at Reed and PSU once included the sterling mezzo soprano Sasha Cooke, who canceled a while back, and piano legend Andre Watts, who just withdrew from the July 30 performance to undergo cancer treatment; the excellent pianist Melvin Chen, who’s been delivering solid performance throughout the festival, fills in on Dvorak’s famous Piano Quintet. The Miro Quartet will play Schubert’s gorgeous single movement for string quartet (D 703), then be joined by David Shifrin for Mozart’s winsome Clarinet Quintet. Anyone driving to Reed for Thursday or Saturday’s shows and planning to use the Sellwood Bridge will find it impassable; consult your map app for alternative routing.

Mount Angel Abbey Bach Festival
July 27-9
Mount Angel Abbey, Saint Benedict
The 45th annual festival remains unique in its spectacular Willamette Valley views, monk-provided picnic dining, and proximity to one of Oregon’s artistic treasures, the Aalto library.
Wednesday’s keyboard concerts include organist Marcia Hauff playing Bach and Langlais, followed by pianist Alon Goldstein playing Bach’s great solo Italian concerto, a Schubert fantasy, some beautiful Debussy and Listz’s arrangements of music by Verdi and Wagner.

The view from Mt. Angel Abbey.

The view from Mt. Angel Abbey.

Willamette Master Chorus music director Paul Klemme leads St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Octet (which includes Portland vocal stars Catherine van der Salm, Patrick McDonough, and more) to open Thursday’s concerts with sacred music by Elgar, Josquin, Palestrina and more. Then prize winning Montreal early music chamber music ensemble Les Boréades play an all-JS Bach program of partitas and sonatas. On Friday, SPECE sings Byrd, Purcell, Gibbons, and other Brits, along with Bach. Cavatina Duo play flute and guitar arrangements of music by Bach, Sor, Clarice Assad and more.

On The Town
July 29-August 7
Oregon Festival of American Music, Jaqua Concert Hall, The Shedd Institute, Eugene
Seven decades before Hamilton, 25 year old composer Leonard Bernstein and his upstart young (average age 27) drinking buddies singer-songwriter-comedians Betty Comden and Adolph Green (who also starred) and choreographer Jerome Robbins blitzed wartime Broadway with On the Town, with cutting edge dance and bubbly music propelled by both jazz and unprecedentedly sophisticated contemporary classical sounds.

Oregon Festival of American Music opens with Leonard Bernstein's 'On the Town.'

Oregon Festival of American Music opens with Leonard Bernstein’s ‘On the Town.’

Although then-raging World War II is never explicitly mentioned, the story of three sailors on one-night shore leave (taken from Bernstein and Robbins’s hit ballet Fancy Free earlier that year) sports a “let’s have our fun tonight, because who knows what’ll happen tomorrow” vibe. They fall for an anthropologist, a taxi driver, and a Coney Island baby while soaking up Big Apple bustle. The era’s dark side emerges only implicitly, in poignant instrumentals and songs like “Some Other Time”  and “Lonely Town” that lend a depth and emotional counterpoint to brassy tunes like the immortal “New York, New York.”  The Shedd’s new production, which opens at Jaqua Concert Hall Friday for a one week run, reunites its team of director Peg Major, music director Robert Ashens, and choreographer Caitlin Christopher to bring this still exuberant and surprisingly forward looking show into the 21st century. OTT opens the Shedd’s annual Oregon Festival of American Music.

The Italian Girl in Algiers”
July 27-August 6
Portland Opera, Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland
Read Angela Allen’s ArtsWatch review. On Wednesday, Portland Opera offers a free simulcast projected on a screen outside the Newmark Theatre.

Aleksandra Romano as Isabella with Taddeo in "The Italian Girl in Algiers.'"

Aleksandra Romano as Isabella with Taddeo in “The Italian Girl in Algiers.'”

“In Good Hands”
July 28
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave. Portland
Instead of imposing boring centuries old pedagogy on young piano students, this free afternoon concert by Cascadia Composers offers them the opportunity to play music of their own time and place — new music by Oregon’s own creators. Read Maria Choban’s ArtsWatch story about the 2014 performance and my ArtsWatch review of last year’s show.

Skerik’s Bandalabra
July 28
The Goodfoot, Portland
Read my Willamette Week preview of the Seattle jazz punk’s show.

“Natural History”
July 29-30
Britt Crater Lake Project, Crater Lake National Park
Britt Festival Music Director Teddy Abrams leads 40 members of the Britt Orchestra, 15 members of Steiger Butte Drum, 30 brass and percussion students from Southern Oregon University, and a regional choir made up of 50 voices in six concerts at one of the world’s most beautiful places, featuring the world premiere composition by New York-based composer Michael Gordon, commissioned by Britt and inspired by Crater Lake. Can a quintessentially urban East Coast composer create music suitable for one of the West’s great natural vistas? Stay tuned for ArtsWatch’s review. The concerts open the Britt Orchestra’s season.

Britt Festival presents Michael Gordon's new work inspired by Crater Lake at Crater Lake.

Britt Festival presents Michael Gordon’s new work inspired by Crater Lake at Crater Lake.

Vancouver Symphony
July 29
Esther Short Park, Vancouver WA
The free, family friendly concert features music from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, Prokofiev’s Symphony #1, Rossini’s William Tell Overture and singers from Opera Quest Northwest in operatic bon bons.

The Piano Guys
July 29
Oregon Zoo
Gateway drug to real classical music, worthwhile entertainment on their own, both or neither? The Utah piano and cello duo has half a billion YouTube views, serious classical repertoire (Rachmaninoff, Vivaldi, et al along with movie and pop tunes) and chops, and an audience any musician would envy.

Portland Festival Symphony
July 30, Cathedral Park, July 31, Laurelhurst Park, Portland
Venerable Portland classical music legend Lajos Balogh joins his designated successor Gregory Vajda (familiar to Oregon Symphony fans), in the 35th annual summer series of free classical music concerts. This year’s program, performed at various Portland area parks over the next month, includes music by Bizet, Vivaldi, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Vaughn Williams and the usual kid-participation Toy Symphony. The Laurelhurst concert features brass music.

Beaverton International Celebration
July 30
Howard M. Terpenning Recreation Complex, 15707 SW Walker Rd. Beaverton
The annual party in the park offers music and dance from Asia, Latin America, Europe and beyond.

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Want to learn more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch.

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