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MusicWatch Weekly: spanning the centuries


Pick a century, and there’s an Oregon concert to suit your taste this week. Working backward from contemporary to ancient, Saturday’s southeast Portland house concert by Ashland based duo Caballito Negro features flutist Tessa Brinckman and percussionist Terry Longshore playing music by David Lang, the West Coast premiere of rising American composer Wally Gunn’s Bare White Bones, a charming composition for toy piano and percussion by Christopher Adler, and new pieces by Brinckman and Longshore themselves that variously involve Baroque flute, hybrid flute, tabla, waterphone, and various electronic doodads.

Caballito Negro performs Saturday night in Portland.

Chamber Music Amici’s Monday concert at The Shedd presents a welcome mix of new and old sounds, by composers of African heritage. The excellent Eugene ensemble performs American composer Jonathan Bailey Holland’s 2016 String Quartet No. 2, Forged Sanctuaries, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, whose mission is endangered today by our current rulers catering to greedy private interests. Holland has also addressed current topics like Black Lives Matter in other works. The enticing program also includes music by one of the finest 20th century American composers, William Grant Still’s lovely Lyric Quartette. And the band also plays a pair of chamber works by 18th century rock star Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George, the first composer of African ancestry to rock the classical world. Also a dashing fencer, soldier, violinist, conductor and more, his fascinating story and music are finally being rediscovered, but it’s a rare treat to hear his chamber music hereabouts.

Whole lotta jazz heading Portland’s way next week, but for now, try the jazz-influenced pop of Korgy & Bass, opening for Portland world music Tezeta Band Friday at Bunk Bar, or K&B composer/drummer/flutist Barra Brown‘s jazz trio Sunday at Turn Turn Turn.

Nostalgic for the 20th century? Third Angle New Music has you covered with New York composer Morton Feldman’s haunting 1982 Three Voices, a spacious, near hour long interweaving of words by American poet Robert O’Hara sung by three of splendid young female vocal ensemble Quince, Thursday and Friday at Portland’s Studio 2@N.E.W.

Portland pianist Rhonda Rizzo recently decamped to Europe, but she’s bringing Paris back in Portland for a Friday concert at Portland Piano Company with Molly Wheeler when the Rizzo / Wheeler Piano Duo plays 20th century music by Ravel, Faure, Chaminade, Poulenc, and a couple of distinguished visitors, Astor Piazzolla, and Samuel Barber.

Another pianist,  Lukáš Vondráček, plays music by composers from his Czech homeland (Smetana, Suk, Novak) as well as other 19th century Euro masters Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Liszt and Scriabin in his Portland Piano International recitals Saturday and Sunday at Portland State University.


Oregon Cultural Trust

For a mix of 19th and 20th century orchestral works, try the Oregon Symphony’s concerts Friday at Salem’s Willamette University and Saturday-Monday at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. The orchestra will record and perform American composer Walter Piston’s Pulitzer Prize winning seventh symphony, and also play Prokofiev’s volcanic 1924 second piano concerto (starring Natasha Paremski, so impressive in her last appearance with the orchestra playing Paul Schoenfeld’s music) and Tchaikovsky’s sweeping final symphony, with its (spoiler) surprisingly subdued and affecting closer.

Portland Opera presents five performances by baritone David Adam Moore of one of the 19th century’s greatest artistic achievements, Schubert’s searing song cycle Winter’s Journey  at Hampton Opera Center Friday through Feb. 17.  Despite its immortal beauty, it’s unfortunately rare enough to hear a complete Winterreise, but this one, accompanied on piano by the company’s chorus master and assistant conductor Nicholas Fox, is enhanced by “an evocative landscape of 3D projection mapping, designed by the NYC-based multimedia art collective GLMMR,” which includes none other than Moore himself as a designer. The fact that he’s performing in the piece makes this one more promising than some other multimedia productions in which the old razzle dazzle doesn’t always enhance the music.

Portland Opera brings digital visuals to its “Winter’s Journey” this week.

And speaking of Franz, the Schubert Ensemble of London also goes 19th century (Schubert, Faure, Hummel) in one of its final concerts Friday at Southern Oregon University Music Recital Hall.

Still too modern for you? Try Ensemble Primo Seicento’s performance of early Italian Baroque music for organ, harpsichord, cornetto, sackbut, recorder, and voice on February 11 at Eugene’s Church of the Resurrection, 3925 Hilyard St. Sunday. Unfortunately, that’s the same afternoon that another ensemble of early music specialists, Música Eugenia, plays Spanish music inspired by rivers and seas from the 13th – 21st centuries at United Lutheran Church, 2230 Washington Street. The show includes music for guitar, percussion and voice from the Spanish Renaissance, Baroque & Romantic eras, a 20th century piece by Federico Moreno Torroba) and a new Spanish song, written by the ensemble.

Musica Maestrale brings more Renaissance sounds to Tuesday night’s concert at Portland’s First Christian Church featuring American/English soprano Elizabeth Hungerford, soprano and  Renaissance lutenist Hideki Yamaya performing love songs by Dowland, Campion, Morley, Lawes, Purcell, and other English composers.


All Classical Radio James Depreist

More recent vocal valentines are heartthobbing at Portland Gay Men’s Chorus soloists Sunday at Portland’s Old Church, and at Johnny Mathis’s Arlene Schnitzer concert hall show Tuesday with the Oregon Symphony.

Speaking of vocals, if you’ve recovered from last week’s choral confluence and are ready for more, check out another of America’s great touring vocal ensembles, Minnesota’s Cantus at Marylhurst University, whose interactive salon Monday builds a program with suggestions from audience members. Their Tuesday concert with choristers from Marylhurst, Reed and Lane Community Colleges includes still more Schubert and Richard Strauss, 20th century music by the great Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, who died last year and leading American choral composer Eric Whitacre, and a world premiere by one of today’s finest younger composers, Brooklyn’s Gabriel Kahane.

Got more recommendations? Please tell us all about them 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

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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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