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MusicWatch Weekly: festival season


It’s not just the thermometer that’s heating up — summer music festival season is officially underway, bringing with it music by Oregon composers.

Wednesday’s Astoria Music Festival concert at Astoria’s Clatsop Community College Performing Arts Center, 588 16th Street, features a dozen works by Cascadia Composers, including David Bernstein, Daniel Brugh, Paul Safar, Jennifer Wright, ArtsWatch’s own Jeff Winslow and Matthew Andrews, and more. Some of the performers — including Delgani String Quartet, pianist Asya Gulua, singer Catherine Olson and more — are among Oregon’s finest.

Monica Huggett and Adam LaMotte headline Astoria Music Festival’s baroque concert.

Other Astoria shows feature a whole lotta Bach, including Saturday’s highly recommended all-Bach concert featuring Portland Baroque Orchestra violinist and director Monica Huggett, fellow PBO violinist Adam LaMotte, star baroque flutist Janet See, and excellent keyboardist Janet Coleman on harpsichord. Chopin Competition gold medalist Ilya Kazantsev and award winning cellist Sergey Antonov play more Bach Saturday, with live painting by Astoria’s own Darren Orange. Antonov and pianist Cary Lewis perform Bach’s viola da gamba and harpsichord sonatas on equal tempered cello and piano Tuesday. Kazantsev plays a Rachmaninoff recital Thursday, and joins other festival stars in Shostakovich and Schubert Friday. Puccini’s classic opera Tosca Sunday afternoon at lovely Liberty Theatre features several Met soloists including Richard Keller and Angela Brown.

The other major highly recommended, locally sourced concert this week is Saturday night’s Cult of Orpheus album release at southeast Portland’s TaborSpace. The new album from one of Oregon’s most distinctive musical voices, Portland composer Christopher Corbell’s splendid new Sacred Works I: The Emerald Tablet touches on subjects from Sufi song cycle to medieval mystery cults and more. Check out some tracks at the Cult’s YouTube channel.

Resonance Ensemble brings to a close a fascinating season that squarely and obliquely addressed some of today’s most pressing issues with “BODIES” Sunday afternoon at northeast Portland’s Cerimon House, 5131 NE 23rd Ave. An official event of Pride Northwest, the program includes selections from a major recent work Considering Matthew Shepard, by Craig Hella Johnson, who directs the superb Austin-based vocal ensemble Conspirare. Other highlights include music from Dominick DiOrio’s The Visible World, a composition about marriage equality from diverse historical perspectives and from composer Laura Kaminsky’s As One. Along with the top-notch Resonance regulars, guests include erstwhile Portlander Stephen Marc Beaudoin back on a visit to sing pieces by gay composers, pianist David Saffert, and Resonance poet in residence S. Renee Mitchell performing an original work written for this show.

Astoria isn’t the only coastal musical extravaganza. Siletz Bay Music Festival tees off at Lincoln City Cultural Center with a Wednesday recital featuring violinist Asi Matathias and pianist Victor Stanislavsky in sonatas by Grieg, Mendelssohn, Saint Saens and more. Tuesday’s show offers Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata and Oregon Symphony concertmaster Sarah Kwak with pianist Mei-Ting Sun in Cesar Franck’s ever-popular Violin Sonata. Sun returns for Friday’s all-Beethoven piano recital and Sunday’s chamber music concert featuring 20th century sounds by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Francis Poulenc’s sparkling Clarinet Sonata featuring the great jazz clarinetist Ken Peplowski. Kwak then joins the fun for Schumann’s famous Piano Quintet.

Monday’s chamber concert at First Congregational Church features Mozart’s magnificent String Quintet K. 516, Strauss’s moving Four Last Songs and Russian Romantic composer Arensky’s greatest hit, his first Piano Trio. Tuesday’s intriguing show blends classical, jazz and tango with the lush music from Stan Getz and Eddie Sauter’s famous Focus album featuring Peplowski, a string nonet, percussion and piano, plus music by Astor Piazzolla and more.

One more little summer music festival that you’ll be hearing a lot more about opens next week. Chamber Music Northwest’s opening night shows at Reed College Monday and Portland State University Tuesday star Opus One, a quartet of CMNW stalwarts who’ve been making music together for two decades, who’ll get the summer off to a sizzling start with a Mozart violin and piano sonata, a Faure piano quartet and contemporary American composer Roberto Sierra’s incendiary, appropriately named piano quartet Angel Fire.

DUO Stephanie and Saar return to Oregon Sunday.

Duo Stephanie & Saar are back for another Makrokosmos marathon at month’s end, but before that massive undertaking, they’ll give a more intimate performance with Oregon pianist / composer Alexander Schwarzkopf, which has been rescheduled and moved to Portland Piano Company on Sunday afternoon, July 22. The show features some of Leonard Bernstein’s immortal stage music from West Side Story and Candide, which the ever-overloaded composer was actually writing around the same time, with tunes sometimes starting in one musical/operetta and winding up in the other. They’ll also play Bernstein’s two-piano arrangement of his great friend and mentor Aaron Copland’s lively El Salón México.

Thumbscrew, the trio that performs Wednesday at Portland’s Old Church, comprises three musicians’ musicians. Guitarist Mary Halvorson, drummer Tomas Fujiwara and bassist Michael Formanek have appeared on literally hundreds of recordings and earned deep respect from other jazz stars, both avant and straight aheadaa, as well as leading their own ensembles. But their special cooperative chemistry over three albums in five years, including their satisfying new one, may be the most broadly attractive. On Friday, the Old Church also hosts songwriter Lloyd Cole leading a retrospective of his most popular music from the 1980s and early ‘90s.

Jimmie Herrod sings Billie Holiday with Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble Sunday.

If you’ve seen Portland Center Stage’s Lady Day at the Emerson Bar and Grill, or if you just like Lady Day, catch singer Jimmie Herrod and a sextet of Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble musicians Sunday night at the Armory’s Ellyn Bye Studio, as they perform arrangements of Holiday’s music by veteran Portland musicians Clay Giberson, Kerry Politzer, and Alex Koehler, as well as a new song commissioned by PJCE.

Fans of Cajun music know how to pronounce Fais Do Do, and understand how much fun that music can be. Portland’s Great Big Fais Do Do, which returns June 21-23 at a different venue each night, also includes Old Time, bluegrass, and other roots sounds from groups like the great Foghorn Stringband, Caleb Klauder Country Band and more.

Sunday is Make Music Day PDX, with dozens of shows at parks and other venues throughout Portland, and Classical Revolution PDX is coordinating three different free classical jams: at downtown’s Resound NW, southeast Portland’s St. Honore Bakery and Vinotopia in the West Hills.

Before you go out to test the fests, please let our readers know about other music worth celebrating this week in the comments section below.

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Brett Campbell is a frequent contributor to The Oregonian, San Francisco Classical Voice, Oregon Quarterly, and Oregon Humanities. He has been classical music editor at Willamette Week, music columnist for Eugene Weekly, and West Coast performing arts contributing writer for the Wall Street Journal, and has also written for Portland Monthly, West: The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Salon, Musical America and many other publications. He is a former editor of Oregon Quarterly and The Texas Observer, a recipient of arts journalism fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (Columbia University), the Getty/Annenberg Foundation (University of Southern California) and the Eugene O’Neill Center (Connecticut). He is co-author of the biography Lou Harrison: American Musical Maverick (Indiana University Press, 2017) and several plays, and has taught news and feature writing, editing and magazine publishing at the University of Oregon School of Journalism & Communication and Portland State University.

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