Chamber Blast ready for takeoff

14 days, 14 concerts, two earfuls of great music


Portland’s first ever Chamber Blast rockets off this month, catapulting the city out of its post-holiday doldrums. Kicked up by an impressive roster of chamber musicians, this whirlwind of musical energy seemed to surprise even the five Portland organizations involved in the scheduling. “Five of us – Chamber Music NW, Friends of Chamber Music, Portland Piano International, Third Angle New Music Ensemble and Portland Youth Philharmonic – realized we were offering 14 different chamber concerts over 14 days in January,” said Chamber Music Northwest’s executive director Peter Bilotta to ArtsWatch. “Compete or collaborate? It’s much more fun to get together and celebrate this fantastic music together – and we hope audiences will enjoy it as well. Our wonderful Oregon Community Foundation provided us a little help, and we were off and running!”

Friends of Chamber Music open Chamber Blast with a return of the Takács Quartet, the only string quartet to be inducted into Gramophone’s Hall of Fame. Other highlights to the Chamber Blast include Third Angle’s presentation of Vedanā, Thai composer Narong Prangcharoen’s horn trio commissioned by Third Angle in 2011. The Portland Youth Philharmonic’s Camerata Ensemble, made up of advanced music students performing more challenging repertoire with an eye towards modernity, will present 20th-century Romanian composer George Enescu’s Octet for strings.

Chamber Music Northwest teams with North Portland’s gastropub staple The Old Gold to pair whiskey tastings with a concert benefitting The Protégé Project, CMNW’s initiative to bring the best young musicians to Portland. And because everyone understands that a piano is a small orchestra unto itself, Portland Piano International’s solo pianists are included on the Chamber Blast schedule. PPI gets an additional gold star for presenting the only free concert during Chamber Blast: Rachel Kudo, the first pianist presented in PPI’s Rising Star Series, performs Saturday, January 31.

A quick guide to all the Chamber Blast events infusing this first month of 2015 with musical vitality:

Takács Quartet presented by Friends of Chamber Music
Monday, January 19, 7:30pm at Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Avenue
Schubert: Quartettsatz in C minor, D. 703
Bartók: Quartet No. 4
Beethoven: Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1
Tickets: $16-47

Schubert’s Quartettsatz bursts fitfully into the air before melting into poetic beauty, only to end with its initial unease. Bartók’s virtuosic fourth quartet, written in 1928, is a tunneling journey that  winds around claustrophobic corners before discovering bright bird calls, quiet landscapes, and feverish folk dances. Beethoven’s Quartet in F Major, Op. 59, No. 1 ends with cheerful Russian folk dances, but the third movement cries with a Romeo-and-Juliet-like desperation.

The Takacs Quartet kicks off the Chamber Blast festival.

The Takács Quartet kicks off the Chamber Blast festival.

Takács Quartet presented by Friends of Chamber Music
Tuesday, January 20, 7:30pm at Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Avenue
Haydn: Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 64, No. 3
Schubert: Quartet in A minor, Op. 29, D. 804
Beethoven: Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130
Tickets: $16-47

Haydn is the sparkling jester next to Schubert’s delicate and haunting Quartet in A minor. While Schubert searches for a world whose beauty is ebbing away, Beethoven explores his own oppression in the third movement of his epic six-movement Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130.

“Blown Opportunity”, presented by Third Angle
Thursday and Friday, January 22 and 23, 7:30pm at Studio 2@Zoomtopia, 810 SE Belmont
The horn trios of Brahms, Ligeti, and Narong Prangcharoen
Tickets: $10-25

Ron Blessinger, violin, Joseph Berger, horn, and Susan Smith, piano, take audiences on a horn trio journey from 1865 to 2011. Commissioned by Third Angle, Prangcharoen’s composition Vedanā (2011) encourages listeners to become aware of the physical and emotional sensations caused by the unique textures, timbre, and volume of horn, piano, and violin.

Portland Youth Philharmonic opened its 90th season at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

Portland Youth Philharmonic opened its 90th season at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

Camerata Portland Youth Philharmonic
Sunday, January 25, 4:00pm at Wieden + Kennedy, 224 NW 13th Ave
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto no. 6
Mozart: Serenade No. 11 for Wind Octet, K. 375
Enescu: Octet for Strings
Tickets: $15-20

Romanian composer George Enescu was only nineteen when he wrote his cinematic Octet for Strings; emblazoned with youthful innocence, lusty fervor, and ardent belief in beauty, Enescu’s piece is a perfect repertoire choice for PYP’s most advanced and motivated young performers. Hearing them perform in the intimate Pearl District setting of the Weiden + Kennedy building is an added bonus.

Denis Kozhukhin presented by Portland Piano International
Sunday, January 25, 4:00pm at Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park Avenue
Haydn: Sonata in E-flat Major, Hob. XVI:49
Prokofiev: Sonata No. 6, Op. 82
Haydn: Sonata in D Major, Hob. XVI:24
Prokofiev: Sonata No. 7, Op. 83
Tickets: $45-54

Russian pianist Kozhukhin won First Prize in the 2010 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels at the age of 23. Now performing in Portland for the first time, he offsets Prokofiev’s muscular war sonatas with Haydn’s humorous, delicate piano sonatas. In a recent interview with Chicago Classical Review Kozhukhin stated, “I like to put together Haydn sonatas, which were written some centuries ago, and Prokofiev sonatas, and to show the public, and myself, how the form was evolving and changing over the years, and what [the composers] took from it, what they added.”

Denis Kozhukhin presented by Portland Piano International
Monday, January 26, 7:30pm at Lincoln Hall, 1620 SW Park Avenue
Haydn: Sonata in F Major, Hob. XVI:23
Brahms: 7 Fantasien, Op. 116
Prokofiev: Sonata No. 8, Op. 84
Tickets: $45-54

Beethoven’s Inner World presented by Chamber Music Northwest
Tuesday, January 27, 7:30 pm at Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta St
Beethoven: Sonata in F Major for Horn and Piano, Quartet in E-flat Major for Piano, Violin, and Cello, op. 16, Quartet No. 12 for Strings in E-flat Major, Op. 127
Tickets: $10-30

Beethoven allowed his search for spiritual understanding to change his musical language, and in this concert his early works, like the horn sonata, are filled with so many delightful snickers, boisterous guffaws, and dramatic parodies, while his later works, like his string quartet no. 12, is intimately introverted. Playfulness still exists, but with sincere simplicity and always with an honest nod towards the pain that coexists with contentment. These works will be performed by the Dover Quartet, Opus One, David Jolley, horn and Gilles Vonsattel, piano.

Matthew Polenzani with pianist Julius Drake, presented by Friends Of Chamber Music
Wednesday, January 28, 7:30pm at Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Avenue
Beethoven: Adelaide, Op. 46
Liszt: Selection of five songs
Liszt: Selection of four Victor Hugo songs
Ravel: Cinq Mélodies populaires grecques
Satie: Trois Mélodies
Barber: Hermit Songs, Op. 29
Tickets: $16-47

Luxuriate in the voice of lyric tenor Matthew Polenzani. The San Francisco Chronicle lauded Polenzani’s “wonderfully fresh and robust voice, with clarion top notes and a gift for sweet phrasing.” He and pianist Julius Drake have been performing together for a number of years to national acclaim and will present traditional favorites of Beethoven, Liszt, Ravel, Satie, and Barber.

Masterpieces for four hands, pianists Anne-Marie McDermott and Gilles Vonsattel, presented by Chamber Music Northwest
Thursday, January 29, 7:30pm, Lincoln Recital Hall, 1620 SW Park Avenue,6:30pm pre-concert by PYP members
Barber: Souvenirs for Piano
Debussy: Petite Suite for Piano
Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring for Piano
Tickets: $10-40

Samuel Barber’s Souvenirs is a tumble of dance rhythms: a waltz, schottische, pas de deux, two-step, hesitation tango, and galop. After dancing through Souvenirs, pianists McDermott and Vonsattel will sweep everyone into rainbows of brilliant color with Debussy’s Petite Suite for Piano. A performance of the two-piano score of the barbaric Rite of Spring, performed by Stravinsky and Debussy in rehearsals for the ballet, will end the concert.

Dover Quartet

Dover Quartet

Dover and Friends, presented by Chamber Music Northwest
Friday, January 30, 7-10pm at Disjecta, 8371 N Interstate Avenue
Tickets: $75, 21+

The Dover Quartet, called by The New Yorker “the young American string quartet of the moment” has created quite a stir since sweeping up all top prizes at the 2013 Banff International String Competition. They will enjoy a week-long residency with Chamber Music Northwest as part of The Protegé Project, which will culminate in this concert alongside violist Steven Tenenbom, cellist Peter Wiley and Oregon Symphony Concertmaster Sarah Kwak to benefit the continuation of CMNW’s initiative to bring the best young performers to Portland. Whisky tastings and hors d’oeuvres provided by The Old Gold.

Rachel Kudo, presented by Portland Piano International
Saturday, January 31, 7:00pm at Portland Piano Company, 711 SW 14th Avenue
Beethoven: Piano Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 31, No. 3
Chopin: Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23
Barber: Piano Sonata in E-flat minor, Op. 26

In 2008 Kudo won the the prestigious 2008 Gilmore Young Artist Award and went on to  receive international recognition as the only American finalist at the Fifteenth International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw. She has a long list of awards since then, including the silver medal at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. Handpicked by Portland Piano International’s Artistic Director Arnaldo Cohen, Kudo is the first pianist in PPI’s Rising Star Series.

Mozart, Bartók, and Schumann presented by Chamber Music Northwest
Saturday, January 31, 7:30pm at Kaul Auditorium, Reed College, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd; 6:30 pre-concert by PYP members
Mozart: Quintet in E-flat Major for Horn, Violin, Two Violas and Cello, K. 407
Bartók: String Quartet No. 6 in D Major, Sz. 114, BB 119
Schumann: Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 47
Tickets: $10-55

The Dover Quartet will be joined by Opus One, David Jolley, horn and Sarah Kwak, violin, to perform Mozart’s operatic horn quintet. Bartók’s grim sixth quartet portends World War II and grieves the death of his own mothe. Whether the cellist brings light and hope at the end of all of Bartók’s sarcasm, anger, and lament is for the audience to determine. Schumann wrote his Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 47 in 1842, the year of his prolific chamber output. While first movement is youthfully energetic and victorious, the second movement is impetuously squirrelly. The third movement spins out the sincerest heart-on-sleeve, in-love-forever melody, and the fourth movement is a fugal romp through sparkling waterfalls and tempestuous winds.

Dvorák, Dohnányi & Brahms, presented by Chamber Music Northwest
Sunday, February 1, 1:00pm at Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Avenue, 12:30 pre-concert by PYP members
Dvorák: Terzetto in C Major for Two Violins and Viola, op. 74
Dohnányi: Sextet in C major for clarinet, horn, violin, viola, cello and piano
Brahms horn trio
Tickets: $10-55

Chamber Music Northwest ends Chamber Blast with Trio Valtorna, Opus One, and Sarah Kwak, violin. Joined by CMNW’s artistic director David Shifrin on clarinet, Dohnányi’s sextet will be the highlight of this concert; the sextet is a soundscape full of ear candy: the french horn soars above acrobatic piano lines punctuated by jazzy clarinet motifs and skittering strings.

One Response.

  1. bob priest says:

    Ah, isn’t PDX grand? At this rate, We’ll be a year-round festspiel kinda town in no time – good job folks!

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