Chamber Music Northwest, in its 48th season this summer, may be solidly middle-aged in people years, but unlike a lot of solidly middle-aged people, and as the Wall Street Journal noted last month, it’s becoming more and more interested in what’s new in its world. This season, for the first time since 2000, CMNW’s opening night concert – an occasion for making statements – featured the work of a living composer: Angel’s Fire (Fuego de ángel) by American composer Roberto Sierra. Comfortably sharing the stage was one of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s finest violin and piano sonatas, and the charged late 19th-century Romanticism of French composer Gabriel Fauré’s op. 45 Piano Quartet.
A week later, this was echoed by a similar lineup: Mozart’s only trio with piano and clarinet, a brand-new work for nine musicians by Protégé Project composer J.P. Redmond, and the exotic Romanticism of the op. 7 Octet by George Enescu, a Romanian prodigy who spent most of his professional life in France. I caught both programs at Portland State University’s Lincoln Performance Hall.
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Jeff Winslow is a fourth-generation Oregonian who studied music and electronics at University of California-Berkeley, getting serious about composition in the mid-1990s as High Modernism finally relinquished its death grip on the world of art music. His work has been performed by fEARnoMUSIC, The Ensemble of Oregon, and the Resonance Ensemble, and also at Cascadia Composers, Seventh Species, Cherry Blossom Musical Arts, and Oregon Bach Festival concerts, as well as several other locations around the region, often with the composer at the piano. A recent piano work, “Lied ohne Worte (lieber mit Ligeti)” received honorable mention from Friends and Enemies of New Music, a New York-based composers’ group. He is a founding member of Cascadia Composers, a chapter of NACUSA centered on the lower watershed of the Columbia River.