abbey bach festival

ArtsWatch Weekly: Banging the can

David Lang's "Match Girl" opera, JAW snaps open, Chamber Music Northwest's race to the finish, Brian Cox chats, art and science meet

Poor little match girl, and chamber music too: David Lang, cofounder of the effusive Bang On a Can and 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winner for The Little Match Girl Passion, is all over the Portland cultural calendar this week.

Damien Geter, Cree Carrico, and Nicole Mitchell in David Lang’s “The Difficulty of Crossing a Field” at Portland Opera. Photo: Cory Weaver

Portland Opera’s shift to a mainly summer season concludes with a double bill of Lang’s contemporary one-acts Match Girl and The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, opening Friday in the intimate Newmark Theatre. And his music will be on the bill Thursday and Friday at Chamber Music Northwest. Get the lowdown on Lang and his fascinating career from ArtsWatch’s Brett Campbell in his profile David Lang: From iconoclast to eminence.


Jacksonville’s Britt Festival classical concerts begin July 31

Oregon’s summer classical music festival season continues to blossom. The biggies — Oregon Bach Festival, Chamber Music Northwest, Portland Piano International Festival (PPIF)— are in the books, as are the smaller but still congenial classical music events that dot the coast — Astoria Music Festival, Newport Symphony’s SummerFestYachats Music Festival, Sound Waves Music Festival. Mt. Angel’s Abbey Bach Festival just wrapped up Friday and Coos Bay’s Oregon Coast Music Festival Saturday. Portlanders can still attend SummerFest opera in the park and Portland Festival Symphony’s classical concerts in various parks around town.

August’s major classical music events include Portland’s William Byrd Festival, which opens August 12 (about which more later), Central Oregon’s Sunriver Music Festival, and Southern Oregon’s Britt Festival, which offers a major classical program in addition to MOR and boomer faves like Smokey Robinson, Michael McDonald, Chris Botti, Chris Isaak, the B52s and so on.

Tonight’s Britt classical concert features the Arianna String Quartet playing intimate masterworks by Ravel, Schubert, and Grieg. Pianist Mûza Rubackyté plays Liszt and Tchaikovsky at next Friday’s official opening night gala. The Britt Orchestra takes over on Saturday, August 6 with Rimsky-Korsakov’s sublime Scheherezade and music by Verdi and Paganini.

The August 12 concert offers a mix of overfamiliar (Beethoven’s Symphony #5, Richard Strauss’s Don Juan) and commendably new — a concerto by one of America’s most justly popular orchestral composers, Jennifer Higdon. Guitar soloist Sharon Isbin arrives August 13 to join the orchestra in Joaquin Rodrigo’s inevitable (yet always appealing) masterpiece Concierto de Aranjuez; the concert also offers music by Sibelius and Kodaly.

On Friday August 19, the orchestra plays favorite overtures by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Rossini and Brahms, plus a trombone concerto by Samuel Jones. The next evening is the annual family concert, and pianist Christopher O’Riley, recently in Portland at PPIF, joins the orchestra for music by Benjamin Britten, Rachmaninoff, and Brahms.

The 34th annual Sunriver Music Festival kicks off August 9 with guest conductor George Hansen (taking over from retiring longtime leader Lawrence Leighton Smith) leading the festival orchestra in a terrific program of American music by Leonard Bernstein, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin — the “symphonic picture” Robert Russell Bennett created from his opera Porgy and Bess, which is now playing in Seattle, and the blistering Concerto in F featuring Pink Martini sparkplug Thomas Lauderdale (who nailed it in 2008 with the Oregon Symphony) as piano soloist. Hanson also leads the August 11 classical concert featuring music of Aaron Copland, Mendelssohn, and a dulcimer concerto (!) by Conni Ellisor. Singers Sarah Mattox and C ourtney Huffman take the spotlight for August 12ths’ opera favorites program: Verdi, Mozart, Bizet, Smetana and more.

Cliburn competition gold prize winner Haochen Zhang commands the keyboard in an August 15 recital. Music of Bach, Schumann and Schubert highlights the Tuesday, August 16 orchestra concert, and the festival closes August 17 with a fine all-Mozart program — Symphony #38, Piano Concert #23 and A Musical Joke.