Cascadia Composers May the Fourth

MusicWatch Weekly: virtuoso visits


Back when musical minimalism was the young brash upstart, naysayers called the style simplistic, faddish, and worse. “Never last,” many pundits predicted. Wrong. Half a century on, the style echoes not just in the music of its still-vibrant pioneers like Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass, but also in the music of subsequent generations of composers who credit them as major influences, not to mention film and dance scores, even TV commercials.

I’ve seen a dozen different recent albums of pianists from around the world playing Glass’s solo piano music, and now, Seattle-based pianist Jesse Myers plays his gorgeous etudes for solo piano accompanied by colorful light projections designed for each piece.
Thursday, The Old Church, Portland.

Benjamin Grosvenor performs at Portland Piano International. Photo:

• Portland Piano International brings another solo pianist, acclaimed young British virtuoso Benjamin Grosvenor, to play a pair of recitals featuring music by Schumann, Janacek, Prokofiev and Bellini.
Saturday and Sunday afternoon, Lincoln Hall, Portland State University.

• Guitarist David Torn’s name is less well known than his guitar, which has graced albums by David Bowie, Jeff Beck, k.d. lang, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and many more, plus soundtracks (Adaptation, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, Friday Night Lights, etc.). He’s also made some vibrant albums on the ECM label, and now has a trio with long-time collaborator and alto sax virtuoso (and Lewis & Clark College alum) Tim Berne and acclaimed percussionist Ches Smith. Sun of Goldfinger’s expansive new album is a wild, dizzying, sometimes overwrought whirlwind of electronic explorations, avant jazz, contemporary classical touches including string quartet, and general uproar. It’s worth seeing them live just to figure out how only three admittedly superb players can make so much music that sounds like nobody else.
Thursday, Holocene, Portland.

• Fortunately for Oregon, though he was born in England, fiddle master Kevin Burke’s appearances here no longer qualify as visits, though his virtuosity has never been in doubt. Burke has lived in Portland for many years and is a member of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. Neither Irish by birth nor residence, he’s won Ireland’s most prestigious music awards, both in competitions and for his work in some of folk music’s foremost groups, including the Bothy Band, Celtic Fiddle Festival and Patrick Street. He’s an ideal choice for a pre-St. Patrick’s Day concert in Eugene and St. Paddy’s Day itself in Portland.
Thursday, The Shedd, Eugene, and Sunday, Alberta Rose Theatre, Portland.


Portland Opera Puccini

Mandelring Quartet performs at Portland State University.

Friends of Chamber Music presents Germany’s much-praised Mandelring Quartet performing quartets by Shostakovich, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Bartók, and Mendelssohn.
Monday and Tuesday, Lincoln Performance Hall, Portland State University.

Accomplished tenor and PSU dean Leroy E. Bynum, Jr. sings spirituals.

• In My Soul is a Witness: Spirit and Spirituality in the Songs of America’s Enslaved, lyric tenor Leroy E. Bynum, Jr and fellow Portland State faculty member pianist Chuck Dillard team up in a free recital that will “explore both the spirit and spirituality of America’s ‘slave songs’ captured in concert arrangement by several of the 20th century’s most celebrated arrangers of spirituals.
Sunday afternoon, Lincoln Recital Hall, PSU.

Orchestral Music

Longtime Portland Baroque Orchestra artistic director Monica Huggett has been a leading force in the Baroque music revival for decades, as virtuoso violinist, bandleader, and teacher both in the US and her native England. Her students are also rising to stardom, and one of them, British and Brazilian violin virtuoso Rodolfo Richter, leads PBO’s The Road to Dresden concerts of North German Baroque music. The program stars two of the three great German Baroque masters: Telemann (his slyly weird violin concerto inspired by croaking frogs) and Handel (one of his Opus 6 concertos, usually rated as behind only Bach’s Brandenburgs and maybe Vivaldi’s Four Seasons among Baroque concerto masterworks). It also includes a splendid sonata by earlier Baroque virtuoso Franz von Biber, who loved to retune fiddles to make strange sounds, and more.
Friday and Saturday, First Baptist Church, Portland, and Sunday, Kaul Auditorium, Reed College.

Tomas Cotik performs with Portland Columbia Symphony.

Oregon Symphony plays music by Brahms, Turina, and (with help from great Spanish guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas) Albeniz and Welsh composer Stephen Goss, Saturday-Monday at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

Portland Columbia Symphony plays music by Barber, Britten and Beethoven (his great violin concerto, starring local virtuoso violinist Tomas Cotik) Friday at First United Methodist Church, Portland, and Sunday, Mt. Hood Community College Theater, Gresham.

Beaverton Symphony Orchestra and Oregon Chorale team up in music by Ralph Vaughan Williams Friday at Hillsboro’s Liberty High School and Sunday at Beaverton’s Village Church.


Live From Beall Hall: Oregon Wind Ensemble. Tuesday, 7:30 pm


Portland Opera Puccini

Live From Beall Hall: UO Symphony Orchestra Concert. Wednesday, 7:30 pm

PSU Noon Concerts:  Student Chamber Music. Thursday, 12 pm

Live From Beall Hall: Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. Thursday, 7:30 pm

Live From Beall Hall: Chamber Choir And University Singers. Friday, 7:30 pm

Live From Beall Hall: UO String Faculty. Saturday, 7:30 pm

Got more musical recommendations for ArtsWatch readers? Please deposit them in the comments section below.

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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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