Anonymous 4

Vocal Arts Series: Bringing great classical singing to Portland

This year's edition of Friends of Chamber Music's annual concert series opens with a farewell performance by Anonymous 4

by JEFF WINSLOW

Friends of Chamber Music has long lived up to the amiability in its name, not only by enticing top classical chamber groups of the usual sort from all over the world to visit Portland, but also by generously defining a “chamber music” that happily crosses over into the vernacular and even occasionally into territory traditionally held by other local presenters such as Portland Piano International. FOCM’s Vocal Arts Series last season was full of satisfying excursions, every one a winner.

This season’s vocal series looks equally promising. In its auspicious beginning is an ending many will regret: The (mostly) early music group Anonymous 4 is making its farewell tour after nearly 30 years of superlative performances and prize-winning recordings, and this Saturday’s performance, 7:30 pm at Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium, will be their last visit to Portland. Fans of their pure, beautifully blended sound and the musical glories of the Renaissance and earlier (as well as contemporary music written to resemble it) have already made quite a run on the box office, but I understand there will likely be tickets available at the door.

Anonymous 4 performs Saturday at Kaul Auditorium.

Anonymous 4 performs Saturday at Kaul Auditorium.

Last season’s series started off, dare I say, on a high note also. Tenor Matthew Polenzani sang to a nearly full house at Portland State University’s Lincoln Performance Hall at the end of January, in musical partnership with pianist and accompanist Julius Drake. The human vocal instrument is as variable as personalities, and tenors may be the most variable of all. Operatic powerhouses like Enrico Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti were tenors, but so are dulcet songsters like Ian Bostridge, who Portland audiences may remember from a few years ago. Polenzani showed off his versatility with a program that included both near-murmurs and rafter-shaking power.

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