danail rachev

Music News & Notes

Recent happenings in Oregon music

Been awhile since we rounded up recent news in Oregon classical music, so here’s some items that lit up our screens in recent months.

Laurels and Plaudits

• Composition Champ. University of Oregon composition professor Robert Kyr was one of four American composers to win this year’s American Academy of Arts and Letters $10,000 Arts and Letters Award for outstanding artistic achievement by a composer who has arrived at his or her own voice.

Mia Hall Miller

Mia Hall Miller

Wonder Woman. Pacific Youth Choir founder and director Mia Hall Miller received the Oregon Symphony’s 2016 Schnitzer Wonder Award, a $10,000 prize that “honors an individual or organization that directly works to build community through the next generation of artists and/or student musicians.” Now in its 13th year, PYC boasts almost 300 singers in 10 choirs.

Violin Virtuosa. Portland violinist Fumika Mizuno is the only Oregonian selected among the 109 young musicians (age 16-19) from across the country for the fourth annual National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. It’s her second stint with the NYO, which (after a training residency in New York) performed with the great pianist Emanuel Ax at Carnegie Hall in July, then played concerts led by Valery Gergiev at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, in Montpellier France, Copenhagen, and Prague.

• Operatic ascent. Portland tenor A.J. Glueckert was one of six winners of the $10,000 George London awards, one of America’s oldest vocal competitions.

Eugene jazz musician Tony Glausi. Photo: Tyler Sams. 

Eugene jazz musician Tony Glausi. Photo: Tyler Sams.

Trumpeter on the rise. Eugene jazz trumpeter and composer Tony Glausi has been named the recipient of the 2016-17 Laurie Frink Career Grant, a biennial $10,000 award to give a “young brass player an opportunity for serious study or to undertake a creative project.” One of America’s most revered brass instrument teachers, Frink, who died in 2013, played in some of the finest jazz orchestras (including those of Maria Schneider, Benny Goodman Orchestra, Mel Lewis, Gerry Mulligan, John Hollenbeck, Darcy James Argue and more), performed with Broadway orchestras, co-wrote the definitive book on trumpet improvisation, and mentored some of today’s top trumpeters including Dave Douglas and Ambrose Akinmusire. Read Gary Ferrington’s ArtsWatch profile of Glausi.

The Marylhurst Chamber Choir performs at the 2016 Cork International Choral Festival.

Choral Voyagers. Marylhurst University’s premiere choral ensemble, the Marylhurst Chamber Choir, was one of only 34 choirs from around the world, and the only American choir invited to perform at the Cork International Choir Festival in Cork, Ireland in May. It placed third to choirs from Sweden and Turkey in a close contest for the placed third in the festival’s top honor, the Fleischmann Award and won the Peace Award for the choir that best embodied the spirit of the festival.

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Eugene Symphony at 50: Looking back, moving forward

Orchestra celebrates its golden anniversary with five commissions of new works.

The Eugene Symphony has long enjoyed a reputation as Oregon’s most forward-looking orchestra. Particularly after visionary music director Marin Alsop ascended the podium in 1989, the ESO’s programming of contemporary, and especially American, music put it — and Alsop — on the national map. While the usual 19th century classics have always dominated the repertoire, Alsop’s successors Miguel Harth-Bedoya and Giancarlo Guerrero continued to feature more 20th– and 21st century music than typical American orchestras.

The progressive pace seemed to flag in the first few years of Danail Rachev’s regime, but recently the new sounds have begun to flow again. Half a century after its inception with a rehearsal in Caroline Boekelheide’s living room, it seems to be entering a new era — or re-entering an earlier one, the one that embraced contemporary as well as classic sounds. Beginning this Thursday with a new work commissioned from young West Coast composer Mason Bates who, more than any other American writing for orchestra, embraces a 21st century aesthetic that speaks to listeners beyond the cozy classical club, Rachev is featuring music by five living composers in the ESO’s golden anniversary season, including the world premieres of three original works written for the orchestra. Not that there’s a whole lot of competition in an orchestral landscape largely bereft of originality, but he’s restored ESO to its place as the most visionary of Oregon orchestras.

Eugene Symphony executive director Scott Freck.

Eugene Symphony executive director Scott Freck.

“Too often, we have this sense that classical music is this dusty canon, this revered library,” says ESO executive director Scott Freck, who took over in June 2012. “People forget that all music was new once. New music can be as valuable as older music because there’s a contemporary human relevance to it. And there’s power in putting new works up against old works and seeing what we learn about ourselves and the music. Even our existing audience will listen to the classics with fresh ears.”

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Cappella Romana sings Rachmaninoff's All-Night Vigil this weekend

A city’s major arts institutions are a public treasure, often subsidized to some extent by taxpayers. Yet the major decisions that determine their direction are usually taken by a small group, often selected by wealthy donors, often in secret. As the recent death of Portland Art Museum director John Buchanan reminds us, the leader in charge of a major arts institution can exert a tremendous influence — for better and/or for worse — on the community’s culture.

The city of Eugene will soon be facing such a decision. One of its most important arts institutions, the Eugene Symphony, must soon decide whether to renew the contract of its music director, Danail Rachev, which expires next year. But hardly anyone in Oregon would have realized that until one of the city’s most astute arts observers, National Public Radio classical music critic Tom Manoff, who has lived in Eugene for many years, wrote an op-ed for the Register Guard newspaper to remind readers that Rachev’s contract is coming up for renewal — and to recommend that the symphony find another candidate.

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