Portland Center Stage at the Armory Coriolanus Portland Oregon

MusicWatch Weekly: sizzlers and swashbucklers

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A hot new source of contemporary music has ignited in Oregon. Although, given the incendiary events of the summer and fall, its name might be a tad, er, heated for a West Coast music fest, Spontaneous Combustion New Music Festival, which runs January 20-February 2 in Eugene, Portland and Seattle (with additional West Coast cities intended next year), includes major new music voices including daring New York cellist Ashley Bathgate, City of Tomorrow wind quintet, NYC’s Sandbox Percussion Quartet, and more. Saturday’s concert at Portland’s Old Church concert hall features Eugene’s own Delgani String Quartet, the state’s finest chamber ensemble, performing Portland native Lou Harrison’s majestic String Quartet Set, influenced by medieval Western European and Turkish music, among others; a quartet by the great 20th century avant garde composer György Ligeti; and a new composition by recent University of Oregon graduate Benjamin Krause, which you can read all about in Gary Ferrington’s ArtsWatch story. The busy Delganis also play Ligeti and Beethoven Sunday at Salem’s Prince of Peace Episcopal Church and next weekend in Eugene.

Delgani String Quartet performs in Portland and Salem.

On Monday at the Old Church and Tuesday at Eugene’s New Zone Gallery, Boston flutist Orlando Cela plays music by fellow flutist and contemporary American composer Robert Dick, the great Argentine nuevo tango composer Astor  Piazzolla, and more. Tuesday’s concert at the Old Church brings one of the most talked about younger contemporary classical ensembles, Boston’s Hub New Music, which plays music by Oregon-born, Wisconsin-based composer David Drexler, the premiere of a new half hour piece by Robert Honstein, and a composition by erstwhile Seattleite Laura Kaminsky, whose music we last encountered in Portland  a couple years back. We’ll tell you all about the remaining concerts in this exciting new series created by Cascadia Composer and new Portlander Scott Anthony Shell in upcoming MusicWatches.

Portland Mini Musical Festival returns to Fertile Ground this weekend.

Speaking of new artistic creations, as you’ve been reading all over ArtsWatch, one of Oregon’ most valuable artistic incubators, the annual Fertile Ground Festival of New Works, is back, and at least one of those, Mini Musicals 2018, running thrice at Portland’s Winningstad Theatre this weekend, is of special interest to music fans like all of you. We sure liked last year’s edition.

Last weekend, the Oregon Symphony gave a dazzling performance of Stravinsky’s immortal The Rite of Spring accompanied by newly created visuals tailored to the century old music. (Stay tuned for our review.) This weekend, it reverses the process. Although neither Keith Richards nor Johnny Depp is scheduled to appear, the Oregon Symphony and Pacific Youth Choir play Hans Zimmer’s score to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl to accompany a screening of the film.

Douglas Fairbanks swashes his buckles in “The Mark of Zorro,” accompanied by musicians from Vancouver Symphony.

More swashbuckling original music accompanies the Vancouver Symphony’s Chamber Music Series screening of Douglas Fairbanks’s spectacular adventure flick The Mark of Zorro Sunday at Vancouver’s Kiggins Theatre. The original score by Colorado based composer/conductor/silent film score specialist Rodney Sauer features members of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Check MusicWatch next week for info about an even more exciting silent film score screening and live performance.

Another ensemble known for new music this time plays oldies when Carpe Diem String Quartet returns Thursday to Portland’s Winningstad Theatre with a string quartet arrangement of one of the most popular and familiar baroque masterpieces, Vivaldi’s quartet of violin concertos, The Four Seasons, alongside Piazzolla’s colorful, multicultural 20th century South American take on the concept: The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.

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Northwest Piano Trio’s Saturday concert at Portland’s Community Music Center, including some of the most ebullient of all chamber music, Haydn’s Piano Trio #25, with its bubbly “gypsy rondo” movement, and another sublime classic: Schubert’s B flat trio. The concert, which will also be live streamed, also benefits the CMC, one of Portland’s really valuable arts institutions.

Sarah Kwak performs with Cary Lewis in Astoria.

Another recurring freshet (oops, maybe not the best word this potential stormy weekend) of chamber music gushes through Astoria  when Oregon Symphony concertmaster Sarah Kwak and pianist Cary Lewis inaugurate a new chamber music series at Liberty Theatre. Saturday afternoon’s debut concert features tunes by Szymanowski, Kreisler, Beethoven, and Grieg. And for some orchestral classics, check the Beaverton Symphony’s all-Russian program (Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev) on Friday and Sunday at Village Church.

If you read Bruce Browne’s review of their last Oregon appearance, or if you heard them on Paul Simon’s Graceland album or any of their own recordings, you’ll want to check out the exuberant Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s spirited southern African a cappella sound, which suffuses Portland’s Aladdin Theater Monday and Eugene’s The Shedd on Wednesday, January 24. The four-time Grammy winners have been entertaining fans around the world with their expertly coordinated song and dance performances for more than four decades.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo performs in Eugene and Portland.

More music on your radar? Tell our readers about it in the comments section below.

Want to read more about Oregon music? Support Oregon ArtsWatch!
Want to learn more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

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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