Weekend MusicWatch: Festival openings, continuations, and closings

Oregon's biggest classical music festival closes this weekend with some of its top shows, but others continue and begin

Oregon’s biggest classical music festival closes this weekend with some of its top shows, but others continue and begin, and there are even some non-festival concerts worth venturing indoors to catch.

The Dover Quartet performs Tuesday and Wednesday at Chamber Music Northwest.

The Dover Quartet performs Tuesday and Wednesday at Chamber Music Northwest.

Chamber Music Northwest, Saturday-Wednesday, Portland. Unfortunately, both Saturday and Sunday’s concerts featuring the summer’s starring ensemble, the Emerson Quartet, are sold out, but ArtsWatch’s plucky reviewers will be here to tell you what you missed if you didn’t sign up for tickets in time. Monday’s unusual concert of chamber symphonies at Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium, and Wednesday’s club concert at Portland’s Doug Fir Lounge make unusual consolation prizes.

The midsized works (scored for fewer than 20 players) on Monday’s program are rarely performed because, like the midrange jumper in the NBA, they’re neither as easy to stage/make as chamber music/layups, nor pay off as obviously as three-point shots/symphonies, but these are worth hearing. The big orchestral arrangement of Wagner’s ever-popular Siegfried Idyll, written as a present for his wife and premiered (to her surprise) at their home, is the one we usually hear. Just as the small orchestra pit in the theater in which Martha Graham’s ballet Appalachian Spring premiered forced Aaron Copland to limit the number of musicians, Wagner had to constrict his scoring to the number of players who’d fit on the stairs, which makes it a special treat to hear the original, 13-instrument version of his uncharachteristically intimate and tender musical gift, which suits the music better. The odd program also includes Paul Hindemith’s 1922 Chamber Music #1, much more fun than much of the German composer’s later output, Prokofiev’s 1932 Sonata for Two Violins, and Schoenberg’s Wagner-influenced 1906 Chamber Symphony, which sparked a near-riot at its premiere but today sounds less scary than surprisingly scintillating. The concert features one of this season’s Protege Project young musicians, Australian clarinetist Ashley William Smith, who also appears in several other shows this summer.

Tuesday’s annual free concert moves across the Park Blocks from its usual venue at the Oregon Historical Society to the Portland Art Museum, and features more CMNW Proteges, the Dover Quartet in residence, performing one of the most beautiful of all chamber works, Claude Debussy’s sole string quartet and other Frenchified works to match the museum’s Tuileries Garden exhibit.

The Dovers return Wednesday to Portland’s intimate indie rock venue Doug Fir Lounge for a fascinating program of really unusual music, including Martinu’s jazzy Kitchen Revue, the powerful string quartet Austrian composer Viktor Ullmann wrote a year before he was killed in a Nazi concentration camp in 1944, new music by young composer Daniel Schlosberg, a Baroque concerto arrangement and more. The combination of youthful vigor, serious chops, and an informal venue have made many of these Club Concerts some of CMNW’s best.

Oregon Bach Festival, Friday-Sunday, various venues. The first festival conceived by new artistic director Matthew Halls closes this weekend with several big shows.

Portland Baroque Orchestra, Friday, Florence Event Center; Saturday, Beall Concert Hall, Eugene. Led by long-time artistic director (and one of new OBF artistic director Matthew Halls’ own mentors), the dynamic violinist Monica Huggett, PBO departs from the usual suspects to perform delightful 18th century music by C.P.E. Bach (one of J.S.’s sons and an excellent composer in his own right), the great French Baroque composer Jean-Phillipe Rameau, and Italian composer Pietro Locatelli.

Duke Ellington and the Harlem Jazz Craze, Friday, Silva Hall, Hult Center, Eugene, and Saturday, Newmark Theatre, Portland. We could probably stretch hard enough to find some kind of connection between Bach and America’s greatest man of music, but why bother? Ellington is simply responsible for a sizable chunk of America’s greatest 20th century music, and Art Abrams’s Swing Machine Big Band performs many of the classics, from “The Mooche to “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” with narration by Jamie Bernstein.

Verdi Requiem, Sunday, Silva Hall, Hult Center, Eugene. When the renowned Italian poet Manzoni died in 1873, the country’s greatest composer decided to write major requiem (the Latin mass for the dead) to honor him, and its premiere in Milan a year later became a national event, and Verdi even took it on tour to London, Paris and Vienna. People cared about poets then. Not surprisingly for one of the great opera composers, this great religious work brims with drama.

Yachats Music Festival, Friday-Sunday, Yachats Community Presbyterian Church. The mid-coast classical/world music festival opens Friday with solos and duos featuring pianists Leon Bates, Chiao-Wen Cheng, Jeongeun Yom and Gerry Hecht, cellist Elaine Kreston, singer Autris Paige and Anthony Turner, and others (including the beautiful Chinese guzheng zither and Celtic harp) in music by Bach, Glazunov, William Grant Still, Weber and more. Saturday’s show includes music by Verdi, Beethoven, Bizet, Puccini and more. Sunday afternoon’s concert features music by Brahms, Luis Simas, Schubert, Still, and much more, while that evening’s concluding concert includes Ravel, Weber, Reynaldo Hahn, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Liszt and more.

Oregon Coast Music Festival, various venues, Coos Bay, North Bend and Charleston. The south coast festival opens Saturday with free shows by the Bay Area Concert Band and Slow Ponies, and continues Sunday with the Left Coast Jazz Trio at Charleston’s lovely Boathouse, Tuesday with Gold Coast Chorus & Sea Breeze Harmony Chorus (another freebie) at Emmanuel Episcoal Church, and the dynamic Eugene duo of Paul Safar and Nancy Wood at the North Bend Library on Wednesday.

Musica Maestrale, Sunday, Polish Hall, Portland. Members of Portland Baroque Orchestra (Adam LaMotte, Victoria Gunn), the fine singer Catherine Olson, and other top early music players join MM founder Hideki Yamaya in another of the revelatory Polish music concerts featuring little known Baroque composers from Poland: Janitsch, Jarzebski, Grudentinus, and Rozycki.

Occidental Gypsy, Friday, The Old Church, Portland. Read my Willamette Week preview of this Gypsy swing band’s Portland appearance.

Portland Cello Project, Saturday and Sunday, Doug Fir Lounge, Portland. The band’s annual extreme dance party is sold out, and deservedly so.

It’s not live, but you can stream the transcendent new album by one of Oregon’s finest composers, University of Oregon professor Robert Kyr, featuring the superb chorus Conspirare, singer Esteli Gomez, and others this week on WQXR.


Want to read more about Oregon classical music? Support Oregon ArtsWatch! 

Comments are closed.