MusicWatch Weekly: revolutionaries

Concerts celebrate 20th century geniuses

Oregon music this week features the work of a couple of revolutionaries from a century or so ago whose imagination has left its mark on the present and maybe even the future, enhanced by today’s technology. Tesla: Light, Sound, Color (Thursday-Friday Hult Center’s Soreng Theater, Eugene; Saturday, Newmark Theatre, Portland; Monday, Tower Theatre, Bend) brings the eccentric genius inventor/engineer to life via music, dance, digital imagery and even physics experiments. Stay tuned for my ArtsWatch preview and Rachael Carnes’s ArtsWatch review.

This weekend’s Oregon Symphony’s concerts at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall feature the revolutionary dance score that helped transform 20th century music, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, enhanced by digital projections.  We talked about it a lot on ArtsWatch during the centennial year. The rest of the program rocks, too —  Bartok’s fab, faux-lky second violin concerto and one of the middle-ish (but not middling) period Haydn symphonies we don’t hear often enough. His 70th was also innovative in its way, adding timpani and trumpets to the composer’s arsenal, which he would later use to great effect in other orchestral works.

Third Angle New Music’s Thursday and Friday shows at Portland’s Studio 2 @ N.E.W. shine the spotlight on cellist Marilyn de Oliveira and fellow musician family members and Oregon Symphony players in music by Portland’s own nationally renowned composer Kenji Bunch, 20th century British composer John Tavener, recent Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw, and young New York phenom Andy Akiho.

Marilyn de Oliveira takes center stage at Third Angle’s concerts.

Baroque Rarities

Even without the arias and more elaborate orchestration of his famous cantatas, Bach’s half-dozen (depending on how you categorize them) surviving motets constitute some of his richest and most complex choral music. It takes exceptional singers to perform them with only one voice singing each part, which affords a wonderful intimacy and transparency, and that’s what The Ensemble of Oregon brings to three of these masterpieces Saturday at Eugene’s Central Lutheran Church, Eugene, and Sunday at Portland’s Old Church. This all-star team drawn from Portland’s finest choirs also sing arias from two Bach cantatas. A bonus Bach cello sonata provides an instrumental interlude.

There’s more rarely performed Baroque music Sunday at Eugene’s United Lutheran Church when Oregon Bach Collegium plays compositions from a region not typically associated with those sounds. Blame Catherine the Great, who strove to bring the most sophisticated Western arts to Russia, enticing several top Italian composers to the courts of St. Petersburg and Moscow. But Eastern Europe also home-brewed its own Baroque compositions, and the OBC trio of violinist Holly Roberts, cellist UO faculty member Marc Vanscheeuwijck and harpsichordist Margret Gries will play music from Polish Baroque composers as well as Italian composers living in Russia.

Sunwook Kim performs at Portland Piano International.

There’s a bit more Bach (as arranged by Busoni) on Sunwook Kim’s Portland Piano International recitals Saturday-Sunday, Lincoln Hall, Portland State University, but the rest is pure Romantic: Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert. One of the youngest winners of the prestigious Leeds International Piano Competition, the still-under 30 Seoul native has gone on to perform with many major orchestras around the world along with the top reaches of the recital circuit.

Merely the finest string quartet I’ve ever heard in person, the Takács Quartet, returns to Portland State University for what’s becoming its annual Friends of Chamber Music appearance. Monday’s show offers Mozart, Mendelssohn and Dohnanyi, while late Mozart, Beethoven’s magnificent Op. 131 quartet and Bartok’s first quartet grace Tuesday’s concert.

The Takacs Quartet returns to Portland State University. Photo: John Green.

Your hangover may be long gone, but if you abide by the old Julian calendar, as Russians and others used to, instead of that whippersnapper Gregorian thing, there’s a chance for more New Year’s celebration. Award winning Russian cellist Sergey Antonov and pianist Ilya Kazantsev play Russian party music by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff at Astoria’s Liberty Theater on New Year’s Day, January 14.

It’s a film, not a concert, but many classical fans will be interested in director Alison Chernick’s documentary about legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman, Itzhak, which the Northwest Film Center’s wonderful Reel Music Festival and Portland Jewish Film Festival are bringing to the Portland Art Museum’s Whitsell Auditorium Sunday night.

For something a little more pop, try Saturday’s Live from Here (which used to be A Prairie Home Companion) at Portland’s Keller Auditorium. Host and Portland’s own mandolin master Chris Thile brings the fun and far out Tune-Yards, the great gospel of the Fairfield Four, the Lucas broths and more.

Victor Wooten brings his trio in Eugene.

That same night at Eugene’s The Shedd, five-time Grammy winner Victor Wooten (a certain finalist in any contest to name the mythical World’s Greatest Electric Bassist) brings his his jazz/funk trio with the comparably virtuosic former Parliament/Funkadelic drummer Dennis Chambers and saxophonist Bob Franceschini.You could say he’s revolutionized bass playing and education. Fans of bass deity Jaco Pastorius’s dazzling work in jazz-fusion legends Weather Report will find some familiar thrills different from his buoyant work in Bela Fleck’s Flecktones.

More Oregon music recommendations for ArtsWatchers? Paste ‘em right below.

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

One Response.

  1. bob priest says:

    For fans of John Tavener:
    Celtic Requiem (1969) – 23 minutes
    This absolutely unique & haunting work was originally released on The Beatles’ Apple label back in the day.
    D-Bob sez, check it out!

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