Hsin-Yun Huang

Chamber Music Northwest review: quartets and quintets

Strings sing in performances of European classics for string quartet and quintet

by TERRY ROSS

What a feast Chamber Music Northwest has brought us in its 2017 Summer Festival! In string quartets alone, the festival has featured since the July 6 concert the the Emersons, the Brentanos, and the Dovers. For other instrumental combinations you can add the Claremont Trio (violin, cello, and piano) and Imani Winds. And that doesn’t count the many other superb musicians whom Music Director David Shifrin has gathered to make chamber music, sometimes on a grand scale.

Rebecca Anderson and Andrea Lam performed Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata at Chamber Music Northwest. Photo: Tom Emerson Photography.

The July 19 and July 22 concerts were a smorgasbord of strings, with the notable exception of a pianist from the Claremont Trio. The Kreutzer Connection July 19 concert in Alberta Rose Theatre presented three pieces connected closely or loosely with Beethoven’s Violin Sonata, Op. 47, No. 9, called the Kreutzer after its dedicatee Rodolphe Kreutzer, considered one of the best violinists of his time. Like so many of Beethoven’s compositions, this sonata changed the genre for all time. No previous piece for these two instruments had dealt out the music so equally, or made their collaboration so prominent. One of CMNW’s group of freelance musicians, violinist Rebecca Anderson, took on the challenging string part, and the Claremont Trio’s Andrea Lam tackled Beethoven’s piano score.

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Chamber Music Northwest review: winds of change

Imani Winds leads a series of wind-assisted concerts featuring new music

Strings tend to dominate chamber music concerts, so it was nice to hear so many wind instruments at this year’s Chamber Music Northwest summer festival. It helps that artistic director David Shifrin is himself a master clarinetist, frequently appearing on concerts both with other wind players and with the customary strings.

Tara Helen O’Connor performed at Chamber Music Northwest 2017. Photo: Tom Emerson.

My first taste of this year’s windiness came with CMNW’s July 21 New@Noon concert in Portland State’s Lincoln Recital Hall. Tara Helen O’Connor started us out with Allison Loggins-Hull’s Pray for flute solo and electronics, the flute part mostly straightforward modal melodies evolving into fancy, violinish arpeggios and creepy, cinematic dissonances, the backing track full of jazz organs, Björk-y electronic beats, watery reverb, and poppy chord changes like something from an ’80s Laurie Anderson tune. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Loggins-Hull’s “Urban Art Pop Duo” Flutronix has performed at the Brooklyn Museum and covered The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.”

Hsin-Yun Huang performed at Chamber Music Northwest 2017. Photo: Tom Emerson.

We did get a bit of strings that day, with Hsin-Yun Huang’s solo viola performance of Joan Tower’s Wild Purple, a merry crescendo of energetic virtuosity packed with Tower’s usual post-serial melodicism, dissonant glissandi against open strings giving way to Bartóky suggestions of folky pentatonicism and jolly bouncing tritones.

Then, Imani Winds breezed onto the stage. Bassoonist Monica Ellis introduced the group: “me and my winds are so happy to be back in Portland. We think it’s our fourth time…we’ll have to fact check that. It’s also a pleasure to be ensemble in residence.”

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