MusicWatch Weekly: Festivals unfurled

Summer festivals signal summer sounds ahead

Let the festivals begin! You can’t necessarily tell by looking out the window, so you know it’s summer in Oregon when the big summer classical music festivals return like Vaux’s Swifts to that chimney. Please alert ArtsWatch readers to other musical celebrations or concerts in the comments section below.

Sergey Antonov stars at the Astoria Music Festival and its Portland preview concert this weekend.

Sergey Antonov stars at the Astoria Music Festival and its Portland preview concert this weekend.

Astoria Music Festival Portland Preview
June 17
The Old Church Concert Hall, 1422 SW 11th Ave. Portland
For Portlanders who want to hear what the Astoria Festival is all about, chamber musically at least, this show brings Boston-based Russian cellist Sergey Antonov, red violinist Elizabeth Pitcairn and versatile pianist Cary Lewis to play old-school masterpieces by Grieg, Mendelssohn, and Dvorak’s dazzling Dumky Trio. They’ll repeat the show at Astoria’s Liberty Theater the following afternoon.

Portland Piano International Summer Festival
Read my Willamette Week preview of the annual summer orgy of pianistic prowess and education, which this year celebrates one of the “golden ages” of piano prominence, back just before TV and other screens made our keyboarding less about active musical creation than passive entertainment viewing. Along with the usual lectures, films, workshops, a wellness program, and of course recitals, director Arnaldo Cohen has added chamber musicians, including top Oregon Symphony players and the former concertmaster of Amsterdam’s great Concertgebouw Orchestra. The intimate atmosphere and under-an-hour recitals help avoid pianistic overwhelm.

Astoria Music Festival 
June 18-July 3
Liberty Theater and Grace Episcopal Church, Astoria
After last year’s administrative upheaval, in which music director Keith Clark apparently emerged triumphant over a since-resigned board of directors that was looking in new directions, the north coast festival returns pretty much as before, with the great Northwest-connected Metropolitan Opera stars Angela Meade and Richard Zeller, top players from orchestras in San Francisco, San Diego, Atlanta, Detroit, award-winning Russian musicians Sergey Antonov and pianist Ilya Kazantsev, peripatetic Portland pianist Cary Lewis. Some new faces appear, too, like Portland’s ever-entertaining and offbeat 3 Leg Torso world chamber ensemble next Wednesday night at Liberty Theater.

Saturday afternoon’s opening chamber music show at beautiful Liberty Theater features sonatas by Mendelssohn and Grieg and Dvorak’s delightful “Dumky” trio. That evening’s symphonic opener comes closest to a serious contemporary music offering, with one of Philip Glass’s two symphonies inspired by great David Bowie albums, the “Heroes” symphony, which sets half a dozen songs (including a bonus track!) from that classic album and somehow mostly makes them hang together into a long, fairly cohesive composition, more successfully than Glass’s earlier attempt to do the same with one of the other albums in the late great rocker’s so-called “Berlin Trilogy” (written while he lived there), the “Low” Symphony. That said, after you hear the concert, go buy Bowie’s original masterpiece. The concert also features John Adams’s effervescent Short Ride in a Fast Machine, one of the most stirring concert openers of the 20th century, and a chestnut for the old-schoolers, Elgar’s romantic Cello Concerto featuring Antonov.

Elizabeth Pitcairn plays her Red Violin at the Astoria Music Festival.

Elizabeth Pitcairn plays her red violin at the Astoria Music Festival.

Sunday afternoon brings Elizabeth Pitcairn back (she played with Portland Columbia Symphony last year) with her calling card: the famous (to classical fans anyway) Stradivarius “Red Violin,” which is a way to somehow differentiate the zillion-and-first performance of Mendelssohn’s great violin concerto from the zillionth, or zillion-and-second. The Astoria Festival Orchestra also plays Beethoven’s mighty Egmont Overture and another Heroes symphony, his third.

On Tuesday, Grace Episcopal Church hosts an intimate, candlelit and sold-out JS Bach recital featuring Eugene organist Julia Brown and Antonov on two of the great solo cello suites, plus Zeller singing that most poignant and popular of Bach cantatas, his 82nd, I Have Enough.

Ruddigore
June 17-26
Mock’s Crest Productions, Mago Hunt Center, University of Portland, 5000 N Willamette Blvd. Portland
Read Bruce Browne’s ArtsWatch review of Mock’s Crest’s latest Gilbert & Sullivan patter-fest.

Funny Face
June 17-26
The Shedd, 868 High Street, Eugene
If you’re a Smarty (the show’s original title), you’ll read my Eugene Weekly preview of the Oregon Festival of American Music’s new historically informed revival/restoration of George & Ira Gershwin’s witty 1927 musical comedy classic, bursting with immortal songs you know and others you should get to know.

Oregon Festival of American Music restores 'Funny Face' to its original fancies.

Oregon Festival of American Music restores the Gershwins’ ‘Funny Face.”

Portland Gay Men’s Chorus
June 18
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland
A trio of Portland divas (Dru Rutledge, Jennifer Gill, and Susannah Mars) join the 140-voice chorus in 28 songs by some of the greatest female singers of the era, in a concert that should be especially poignant after the horrendous events of last week.

“Porch Music”
June 18
Third Angle New Music, Irvington neighborhood, Portland
The always enjoyable performance/stroll through a sampler of next season’s new music offerings, including Cappella Romana performing Arvo Part’s gorgeous (and seasonal!) Summa music and Solfeggio, ArtsWatch contributor Matt Marble’s Conversation with a wolf, Steve Reich’s pioneering Violin Phase, Peter Klatzow’s percussion-propelled Ambient Resonances, and Timothy Kramer’s solo cello Vanishing Perspectives. Audience members gather at a home in the leafy northeast Portland neighborhood where the throng is divided into five groups, each of which then ambles to different nearby home, where Third Angle members and guests perform movement or other excerpt from one of the group’s upcoming concerts. Then everyone goes to the next house for another alfresco performance, until they’ve seen all five. It’s a refreshing, informal way to get an intimate taste of next season’s fascinating fare.

ViVoce
June 18, St. Michael and All Angels Church, 1704 NE 43rd Ave, and June 19, First Unitarian Church, 1011 SW 12th Ave. Portland
Read my Willamette Week preview of the Portland Revels women’s choir’s 10th anniversary, world/folk music flavored concerts.

Make Music Day PDX
June 21
Various Portland venues (click link above for schedule)
Six dozen ensembles, a score of venues, free performances of music ranging from classical to jazz to bluegrass to rock and beyond … the annual music celebration, which began in France in 1982, returns for a second go-round in Portland.

Portland Percussion Group
June 22
The Old Church Concert Hall, 1422 SW 11th Ave. Portland
The ensemble composed of percussionists from Portland Opera, Lewis & Clark College and Portland State University faculty, Vancouver Symphony, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Federale and more play the three winning pieces from their call for scores — expanding the repertoire for marimba and vibraphone music — plus sparkling compositions by the terrific contemporary Chicago composer Mark Mellits and New York composer Gordon Stout.

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

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