marin alsop

Music Notes

Awards, arrivals and departures in Oregon music including Third Angle New Music, All Classical Portland, Britt Festival, Metropolitan Youth Symphony, and more

• This Saturday, March 3, Portland musicians and fans of long time radio host Robert McBride will gather to celebrate the All Classical Portland announcer and composer’s retirement from the airwaves in a live concert that you can hear over the air on Saturday night at 8 pm and via the internet for the next two weeks by clicking on the Listen button at the station’s website.

Robert McBride

It’s the former Oregon Public Broadcasting music director’s last time outing Club Mod, the fascinating  weekly show devoted primarily to modernist music of the 20th and 21st centuries. The concert features Fear No Music, Portland Percussion Group, March Music Moderne and additional local musicians performing works by Eve Beglarian, Claude Debussy, Tom Johnson, Libby Larsen, Witold Lutoslawski, Terry Riley, Ned Rorem, Toru Takemitsu, Somei Satoh and of course McBride, who earned a degree in music composition, himself.

Noted the press release: “Robert’s legacy at the station includes holding a regular air shift in prime time for all 17 years, founding and producing Club Mod (All Classical’s weekly Saturday night program dedicated to modern music), hosting the weekly live broadcast series Thursdays @ Three, contributing to original programs Played in Oregon and Northwest Previews, and regularly leading pre-concert conversations with Music Director Carlos Kalmar before Oregon Symphony concerts.”

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Eugene Symphony music director search: Next star?

Orchestra's successful track record of finding exciting young conductors has made it a national model

On Thursday, the Eugene Symphony auditions its final candidate for music director — in front of an audience of thousands at its Hult Center performance. Francesco Lecce-Chong will be the third finalist, chosen from dozens of worthy applicants, to lead the orchestra this season.

Francesco Lecce-Chong, rehearsing with Eugene Symphony musicians, leads the orchestra Thursday. Photo: Amanda L. Smith.

Choosing a new Eugene Symphony music director is big news in Oregon, of course, but it’s also national news. That’s because the orchestra in a middling sized town far from cultural centers has launched the careers of three important American conductors:

• Marin Alsop, the first woman to lead a major American orchestra, in Baltimore, who regularly conducts the world’s greatest orchestras.

• Miguel Harth-Bedoya, who now leads the Fort Worth Symphony and his own Latin American classical music ensemble and guest conducts major orchestras around the world.

• Giancarlo Guerrero, who’s winning an international reputation for showcasing new music with his Nashville Symphony, recently helping the orchestra collect a trove of Grammies for some of the new abundant new American music the symphony has performed and recorded during his tenure. (It’s too early to tell where Guerrero’s successor, Danail Rachev, whose eight-year term ends this spring, will go next.)

Former ESO music director Giancarlo Guerrero has energized the Nashville Symphony with new American music. Photo: Amanda L. Smith.

And the intensive, exhaustive process used to choose them all, largely created by local lawyer and arts supporter Roger Saydack, has become a national model — “he literally wrote the book” on picking a music director, says ESO executive director Scott Freck, noting that Saydack wrote the League of American Orchestras’ manual on orchestra MD searches. So who becomes the next ESO artistic leader matters — not just here, but nationally.

“There’s no more exciting time in the life of an orchestra than when we go through this process,” Freck says. “Every time we start from scratch. It’s a time of introspection and renewal.” Every seven or so years (which is about as long most rising stars would want to stay with a mid-sized orchestra), the search for its next director forces ESO to consider what kind of orchestra it wants to be, what music it wants to play, what role it wants to play in its community. Here’s how Eugene Symphony makes the magic happen — and what to expect from the three finalists if one of them is chosen when the process concludes this spring.

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The Oregon Bach Festival’s incoming artistic director is Matthew Halls/Courtesy OBF

Last week, Eugene’s Oregon Bach Festival announced the appointment of English conductor and organist Matthew Halls to succeed founding artistic director Helmuth Rilling in 2013. Though the timing came as a surprise — the festival earlier suggested that Rilling’s replacement wouldn’t be named till after next summer’s festival — the choice wasn’t. The 36-year-old conductor impressed everyone in his debut festival performance this summer, and the feeling was mutual. “I felt like I was walking into a giant family,” he told me in an interview the day after his appointment was announced. “I felt a great sense of warmth from the community as well as from the staff and musicians at the festival. I’m delighted to be becoming a part of the family as I embark on this exciting musical journey.”

Coupled with the 2007 appointment of former British Broadcasting Corporation executive John Evans, a former BBC executive who succeeded the much-admired founding executive director Royce Saltzman, who co-founded the University of Oregon program in 1970, the move completes the festival’s reinvention and sets the stage for new directions for the venerable Oregon classical music institution.

“Radical changes are coming,” Evans promised in an interview last year. Halls’ hiring is only the latest. Where will he and Evans take the Oregon Bach Festival?

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The Oregon Bach Festival presents Swiss composer Arthur Honegger’s dramatic cantata, Joan of Arc at the Stake, conducted by Baltimore Symphony Orchestra music director (and Eugene Symphony music director laureate)  Marin Alsop. It’s a rare opportunity to experience what may be an overlooked 20th century masterpiece, and worth the trip for anyone within driving distance of Eugene.

Marin Alsop talks about Joan of Arc.