MusicWatch Weekly: Super string quartets & dynamic duos

Kronos and Emerson quartets highlight a strong stretch of chamber music on Oregon stages this week

After all those orchestral openings last week, Oregon music  now focuses on smaller forces, including the arrival of two of America’s most renowned string quartets, plus a string quartet tribute to one of America’s greatest composers. A trio of new music duos also offer contemporary mixes of poetry and music, among various other attractive small combo-concerts.

Myklebust & Corbell perform at Portland's Old Church.

Myklebust & Corbell perform at Portland’s Waypost.

Cult of Orpheus
September 28
The Waypost, 3120 N. Williams, Portland.
Composer Christopher Corbell joins cellist Sonja Myklebust is his elegant fusion of contemporary indie singer-songwriter chamber pop and classical art song.

Ben Wendel Group
September 28
The Old Church, Portland.
The Kneebody composer/saxophonist/improviser has also performed with some of today’s hottest jazz aces, from Joshua Redman to Julian Lage and even pop stars like Prince and Snoop Dogg. This starry quartet leans more toward straightahead jazz than Kneebody’s fusion, and even draws on classical influences like Tchaikovsky.

Jazz Child: A Portrait of Sheila Jordan
September 29
Passages Bookshop, 1223 NE MLK Blvd. Portland.
Author Ellen Johnson reads from and signs copies of her 2015 biography of the great jazz singer.

The Music of David Bowie
September 29
Oregon Symphony, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.
Singer Tony Vincent fronts the orchestra in the late great singer/cultural icon’s hits.

John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts, 868 High Street, Eugene.
Closing weekend for the new production of Lionel Bart’s popular 1960 musical.

 Fear No Music
September 30
Portland State University, Lincoln Hall.
Read my Willamette Week preview of the new music ensemble’s concert farewell to founding member Joel Bluestone.

Third Angle New Music
September 30-October 1
Oregon Rail Heritage Center, 2250 SE Water Ave. Portland.
Read my ArtsWatch preview of the string quartet’s Steve Reich tribute concerts.

Dazai & Brinckman.

Dazai & Brinckman perform in Eugene.

Mitsuki Dazai and Tessa Brinckman
October 1
Broadway House, 911 W. Broadway, Eugene.
Read my ArtsWatch review of the Oregon koto master and Ashland-based, New Zealand-born flutist’s program of poetry and music by American (including Oregon) and Japanese composers and poets they played in Beaverton last spring.

Oregon Mozart Players
October 1
Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon
Pianist Anton Nel stars in Mozart’s ever popular Piano Concerto #21, and the chamber orchestra also plays Gyorgy Ligeti’s delightful Romanian Concerto and another Mozart gem, his Symphony #36.

The Emerson String Quartet at Chamber Music Northwest in 2015/Photo by Tom Emerson

The Emerson String Quartet at Chamber Music Northwest last year. Photo: Tom Emerson.

Emerson String Quartet
October 1, Newmark Theatre. Portland, and October 2, Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon.
Celebrating their 40th anniversary, the Emersons perform two different programs here. The Portland show features Eastern European classics: Dvořák’s String Quartet No. 11, Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 10, and Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No. 3. Eugeneans get to hear a pair of history’s most beautiful string quartets. Claude Debussy’s trailblazing impressionistic 1893 quartet clearly influenced the even more ravishing quartet his younger compatriot Maurice Ravel wrote a decade later. The concert also includes Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s 1878 quartet, which some claim might have influenced Debussy’s. Read Alice Hardesty’s ArtsWatch interviews with Emerson cellist Paul Watkins and violist Lawrence Dutton.

Kronos Quartet
October 2
LaSells Stewart Center, Corvallis.
For more than four decades the San Francisco-based string foursome has set the pace for new music played on old instruments, as well as newer instruments including electronic gear. They’ve also commissioned a tremendous body of new music, including compositions by young emerging composers. This program features Sigur Ros’s mysterious “Flugufrelsarinn (The Fly Freer),” a Cafe Tacuba piece arranged by the fine Argentine-American composer Osvaldo Golijov, a modern raga, and works by by the great 20th-century Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, the wild and sometimes wacky Stanford prof Mark Applebaum, as well as John Oswald, Garth Knox and Aleksandra Vrebalov. Main attractions: Mary Kouyoumdjian’s Bombs of Beirut, which uses recorded voices of her family’s civil war survivors, and the great American composer Terry Riley’s spiffy new string quartet arrangement of The Who’s rock classic “Baba O’Riley” — a piece named for Riley and deeply influenced by Pete Townshend’s hearing his music in 1970 — which I heard the group premiere at Riley’s 80th birthday celebration in San Francisco last summer.

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
October 1-2
Skyview Concert Hall, 1300 NW 139th, Vancouver, WA
All-Russian program features Tchaikovsky’s final symphony, over-programmed Violin Concerto (with soloist Mayuko Kamio) and Glinka’s rollicking Ruslan and Ludmilla overture.

Choro in Schola
October 3
Lincoln Hall 75, Portland State University.
Read my Willamette Week preview of the concert by ArtsWatch contributor Bruce Browne’s program that brings some of Portland’s top choral performers into Oregon schools to coach vocal music.

Velocity Squared
October 4
Beall Concert Hall, Frohnmayer Music Building, University of Oregon.
Saxophonist Jonathan Bergeron and clarinetist John Masserini play contemporary classical music written especially for their duo.

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

2 Responses. Have your say.

  1. Charles Noble says:

    The photo of the quartet in the Emerson Quartet section is in fact the Orion Quartet.

    • Oops, thanks for catching that, Charles. Just clicked on the wrong photo. Fixed now. Just for you, I’ve added a link to our recent interview with Emerson violist Lawrence Dutton (and another with cellist Paul Watkins). In more Emerson news, the University of Oregon reports that tickets for their Beall Hall concert are almost sold out.

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