Weekly MusicWatch

Fab flutists and fiddlers and plenty of contemporary sounds, improvised and otherwise, highlight this week's busy Oregon music scene

Flutophiles rejoice: a trio of femme flute phenoms grace our state in weekend performances of music from the Baroque to the 21st century. Other shows spotlight fiddles, harp, and more. A half dozen shows feature contemporary classical sounds from hither and yon, while at least three vocal/choral concerts cover a wider range of pop tunes than any concert in memory. And there’s some jazz around, too.

Caballito Negro performs around Oregon this month.

Caballito Negro performs around Oregon this month.

Phill Niblock
February 17
YU, 800 SE 10th Ave. Portland
The 83 year young legend was doing multimedia long before the term became common, first using tape music, later computers that create dense textures from layered long tones, backed by projected video.

Dave Douglas Quintet
Feb. 17
The Shedd, 868 High St. Eugene
Read my Eugene Weekly preview of the great jazz trumpeter/composer’s latest musical adventure.


Caballito Negro

Feb. 17, Western Oregon University, Smith Recital Hall, Monmouth; Feb. 19, Oregon State University, Memorial Union, Corvallis; February 20, Artichoke Music, Portland
Read my Willamette Week preview of the dynamic Southern Oregon flute and percussion pair’s new music shows.

Tan Dun leading his Water Concerto in an earlier performance. The Eugene Symphony plays it Feb. 18. Photo: Holger Schneider

Tan Dun leading his Water Concerto in an earlier performance. The Eugene Symphony plays it Feb. 18. Photo: Holger Schneider

Eugene Symphony
February 18
Hult Center, Eugene
In one of the absolutely coolest Oregon orchestral programs of the year, the state’s most forward looking orchestra opens with an arrangement of one of Korea’s most famous songs, the half a millennium old Arirang, then performs the great Chinese American composer Tan Dun’s 1998 Water Concerto, with University of Oregon prof Pius Cheung as the soloist. Anyone who attended one of Oregon’s 21st century landmark performances — the 2002 Oregon Bach Festival premiere of Tan’s Water Passionwill remember the striking beauty of the percussion soloist playing instruments (bowls, strainers, rocks, hands etc.) immersed in lighted bowls of water on stage. This 27 minute concerto arises from the same influences, Tan told me in an interview at the Bach Festival.

“ In my hometown, in ancient times and even in my childhood time in the village, the people were always washing rice in the river before they cooked it, and washing their clothes in the river, washing their bodies in the river. I had the experience of living with the water, playing with the water, listening to the water. It was very important to me. In April, to celebrate spring coming, they have a water pouring festival, everybody gathering huge chunks of water on the street, and throwing it around. The whole town was wet – everyone was wet. Three or four years ago, when my wife was pregnant, [we went to the doctor] for an ultrasound, and there I could see this beautiful baby, and hear the heart, and suddenly I heard this beautiful water sound, and I realized: this is the sound all human beings heard first.” Tan’s water works proceed from that fundamental source. The concert also includes the brief 1987 Night Signal by Japan’s greatest Western classical composer, Toru Takemitsu, and Stravinsky’s early 20th century masterpiece, the colorful ballet music for The Firebird.

Portland Jazz Festival
Feb. 18-28, various Portland venues.
Read Angela Allen’s ArtsWatch preview.

Sospiro and Wind Speaks
February 18
Beall Concert Hall, UO School of Music and Dance, 961 E. 18th Ave. Eugene
The Sospiro chamber choir and Wind Speaks quintet collaborate with the Oregon Composers Forum to produce a concert of new music for chorus and music for wind instruments (live streamed).

Claire Chase
Feb 18 & 19
Studio 2@Zoomtopia, 810 SE Belmont, Portland
Read my Willamette Week preview of the new music flutist and pacesetter for DIY contemporary classical music’s two concerts, which include two different programs.

The Westerlies
February 18, Tabor Space, 5441 SE Belmont St, Portland
February 19, Broadway House, 911 West Broadway, Eugene.
Read my Willamette Week preview of the Seattle/NYC brass band’s Portland show, which also includes Tale in the Telling.

Portland Baroque Orchestra
February 19-20, First Baptist Church, and February 21, Kaul Auditorium, Portland
Jazz and Baroque music are like two languages that use the same syntax but different vocabulary, said harpsichordist (and trained jazz pianist) Alexander Weimann in an interview on All Classical Radio’s Northwest Previews this week. Improvisation over chord progressions was a major part of being a Baroque performer back in the day, and Weimann certainly will engage in some historically informed improvisation during his guest turn leading PBO at this weekend’s concerts, so maybe the gulf between them and the Portland Jazz Festival isn’t so wide as it may first appear. Another renowned guest star, the great Baroque flutist Janet See, also joins the band for music by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and a pair of classic concertos by his slightly more famous dad, Johann Sebastian.

Shattered Woman: Poulenc’s ‘La Voix Humaine’”
July 19
University of Oregon Opera Ensemble, Beall Concert Hall, Frohnmayer Music Building, 961 E. 18th Ave, Eugene
Based on a Jean Cocteau play, Francis Poulenc’s dark 1958 “lyric tragedy” for soprano and orchestra is an intense psychological “monodrama” about love and abandonment.

The Julians
February 19
Vie de Bohème, 1530 SE 7th Ave. Portland
Keyboardist Kira Whiting joins the quartet of top Portland classical singers for a typically eclectic and winning set of music ranging from the 13th century to Björk, Holst, Gillian Welch, Hozier, Fiona Apple, Puccini, Tears for Fears, and the Postal Service (Ben Gibbard’s other band). Surprisingly, it’s their first performance at what looks to be the ideal Portland venue for this group; next month, the southeast Portland wine bar will also become the home of another Oregon indie classical institution, Classical Revolution PDX’s classical jams, which outgrew their wonderful old space at the Wahypost.

Eugene Contemporary Chamber Ensemble
February 19
Aasen-Hull Hall, UO School of Music and Dance, 961 E. 18th Ave, Eugene
Solo performances of works by Benjamin Britten, Mattias Pintscher, and more.

Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, Portland Youth Jazz Orchestra
February 20
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave, Portland
While you’re checking out jazz’s past and present at the PDX Jazz Festival, take a peek into the music’s future at this concert featuring music for the dozen member chamber orchestra written by top student jazz musicians and their mentors.

Yoshi Wada and Tashi Wada
YU, 800 SE 10th Ave. Portland
The New York artist-composer-instrument maker and one-time student of La Monte Young makes music using such homemade instruments as sirens and alarm bells, along with bagpipes, reed organ, and percussion. His son Tasha is also a composer-performer, and together, they’ll concoct an evening-length performance.

Pink Martini founder/pianist Thomas Lauderdale plays Gershwin with the Vancouver Symphony.

Pink Martini founder/pianist Thomas Lauderdale plays Gershwin with the Vancouver Symphony.

Vancouver Symphony
February 20 & 21
Skyview Concert Hall, 1300 NW 139th Street, Vancouver, WA
The all American program features two of the most-performed pieces in the repertoire: Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, starring Pink Martini’s Thomas Lauderdale. And it also boasts Copland’s peppy El Salon Mexico and music from that most powerful of 20th century operas, Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.

Oregon Symphony
Feb. 20-22
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland
The excellent guest conductor Robert Spano leads the orchestra and violin megastar Joshua Bell in a hyper Romantic program of Wagner, Sibelius, and Bruch’s famed first violin concerto. You can see the film whose soundtrack (b John Corigliano) is graced by Bell’s fiddle, The Red Violin, at Portland’s Hollywood Theatre Feb. 20.

Sound of Late played Debussy at Classical Revolution.

Sound of Late plays contemporary classical music Sunday at Portland’s Old Church.

Sound of Late
February 21
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave, Portland
A deliciously diverse octet of some of the state’s finest young new music specialists play chamber music by some of America’s leading composers, including Oregon’s own Robert Kyr, Augusta Read Thomas, Eve Bulgarian, and more.

American Brass Quintet
February 21
Beall Concert Hall, Frohnmayer Music Building, 961 E. 18th Ave, Eugene
Resident ensemble at New York’s Juilliard School and the Aspen Music Festival, the brassy players, who include former Oregon Symphony hornist Eric Reed, have premiered more than 150 new compositions, released almost five dozen recordings, and garnered some of chamber music’s brightest prizes. At this evening show, they’ll play some of those grand Venetian Baroque canzoni, along with music by Anders Hillborg, Vittorio Rieti, Needham, and their newest commissions by Robert Paterson and the fine American composer Eric Ewazen.

Choral Arts Ensemble
February 20-21
Lincoln Hall, Portland State University, 1620 SW Park Ave, Portland
The choir’s annual pops concert features Broadway, jazz, and pop music from the first half of the 20th century.

Portland Gay Men’s Chorus
February 21
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave, Portland
Nineteen soloists from the big choir sing #1 hits from various Billboard charts, from 1890s classical faves to contemporary pop.

Kneebody and Daedelus
February 21, WOW Hall, Eugene; February 22, Mississippi Studios, Portland
Read my Willamette Week interview with Kneebody saxman Ben Wendel; this show melds the band’s high energy jazz with the electronic textures of their old friend Daedelus.

Portland Youth Philharmonic Young String Ensemble, BRAVO Youth Orchestras’ Brahms String Orchestra
February 21
Wieden+Kennedy, Portland
Two of the city’s training bands for young classical musicians join forces in this free afternoon concert, playing (separately and then together) music by Alice Wine, Leroy Anderson, Astor Piazzolla, Handel, and more, including the late Portland legend Norman Leyden.

Oregon Composers Forum
February 23
Beall Concert Hall, UO School of Music and Dance, Eugene
Music by undergraduate and graduate UO composers (live streamed).

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

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