stephen sondheim

Corey Brunish, beyond Broadway

Voices from the shutdown front: The Tony-winning Oregon and NYC producer looks to streaming and other fresh ideas in a new joint venture

Broadway’s theater row might be shut down for months to come, but Corey Brunish, the multiple Tony-winning producer who splits his time between Portland and New York, has a big new project on his plate. Broadway World and Playbill published stories a few days ago about a new joint venture to “develop and produce music documentaries for the stage and screen.” The partners will also emphasize the surging market for streaming, which has taken off in the days of shuttered theaters and social isolation.


THE WORLD IN SHUTDOWN: VOICES FROM THE FRONT


Brunish, who’s been waiting out the shutdown with his wife and producing partner, Jessica Rose Brunish, and their eight-month-old daughter, Olivia, in their Lake Oswego home – “we’re happily stuck,” he says – sees big possibilities for the new venture, which takes advantage of his deep theatrical experience and connections but also moves him into other entertainment territories.

The Brunishes – Corey, Jessica Rose, Olivia – sitting out the shutdown in Lake Oswego and keeping busy. Photo courtesy Corey Brunish

Mentioned most prominently in the news stories is a music documentary about the legendary rock producer and album engineer Eddie Kramer, known, as Playbill puts it, for “having worked with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Kiss, and Jimi Hendrix.” It’s envisioned as a theatrical adaptation of the Kramer film documentary The Other Side of the Glass.

A jukebox musical, like Jersey Boys?

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DramaWatch: Goal-oriented theater at Portland Playhouse

"The Wolves" leads the week in theater with teens and teamwork. Also: the Mueller Report on stage; big buildings and Vertigo; and sensational soloists.

Portland Playhouse’s season-opening production, The Wolves, focuses on the nine teen girls who make up an indoor-soccer team. Which presents an obvious question.
“Is this a rousing, heart-warming, inspirational sports story?,” I ask director Jessica Wallenfels. “Or is it good?”

A disingenuous question, that latter one. Because by all accounts, The Wolves is a terrific play. Written by Sarah DeLappe — apparently her first play to get any notable production — it was a finalist for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for drama. According to American Theater magazine, it’s one of the Top 10 most-produced plays in the country for the 2019-20 season. Among the many critical huzzahs typed its way, Ben Brantley of The New York Times wrote of a 2016 Off-Broadway production that it exuded “the scary, exhilarating brightness of raw adolescence.” The Hollywood Reporter called it “one of the most striking playwriting debuts in recent memory, and absolutely not to be missed.”

Kailey Rhodes (foreground) works on ball control in The Wolves at Portland Playhouse. Photo: Brud Giles.

Wallenfels humors me. “It is inspiring,” she responds. “But not in the usual ways.
“It’s inspiring in the way that it shows a group of girls and insists that their lives, their concerns, their thought processes be considered, in a way that they’re usually not.”

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Oregon Symphony: reaching for the stars

Orchestra's season-opening concerts range from 'Star Wars' to 'Star Trek' to a classical music superstar

by MATTHEW ANDREWS

The Oregon Symphony Orchestra started its season in September with two of the more unusual, less typically classical types of concerts it regularly produces. The first was part of the film-with-live-score series, always among the OSO’s most popular concerts; the second was an evening of overtures and songs and a favorite recurring guest star. The movie was Star Wars, the first and original (retitled A New Hope when the Empire Struck Back). The special guest was superstar soprano Renée Fleming, premiering a new song cycle by Kevin Puts and singing hits from her classical, cinematic, and Broadway catalogs (told you she’s a superstar).

The Oregon Symphony performed the score to ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ while the film played.

In both concerts at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, the OSO came out swinging for the fences, sounding sharper than I’ve ever heard it. And this weekend, the orchestra continues its live film score performances with that other long-running science fiction film franchise. More on that below.

Star Wars

It’s fitting that symphony orchestras have been saving themselves from oblivion by performing film scores by composers like John Williams, who is generally credited with reviving and saving the orchestral tradition in film music. Watching any movie, in a concert hall instead of a movie theater (or living room), with living and breathing musicians performing the score in person like any other symphony, is always multiple different experiences: concert performance as much as movie screening. When it’s Star Wars, you’re bumping elbows with a couple thousand other Star Wars fans, listening to supremely iconic music which is possibly more important than the film itself; these fans love this movie and its soundtrack as much as your average concert-goer loves Brahms and Beethoven, and the excitement in the Schnitz that night was, ahem, a palpable Force.

A film is a smorgasbord of varied art forms. To watch a movie is a plurality of experiences, driven by narrative and character like theater and literature, photographed and edited into an illusory farrago of moving pictures, decorated with an assortment of audio and visual effects, and given life with some sort of musical score. When opera first became a thing back in the 1600s, it got its name—which simply means “works”—from the way it combined music with other existing arts like poetry, dance, acting, and stagecrafty stuff like set design and costuming (not to mention the mechanical dragons, flying stages, and now the various multidisciplinary effects the 21st century has birthed). Now that film has supplanted opera as the most perfect art form (#sorrynotsorry), it’s only appropriate that one of the greatest would turn out to be the space opera Star Wars.

Norman Huynh is the OSO’s Associate Conductor. Photo: Richard Kolbell.

Star Wars itself is a plurality of experiences: it’s a fairy tale and a hero’s quest (several of them, in fact); it’s a gritty 1970s-style “used future” sci-fi picture, part of a lineage that stretches from 2001 to Moon; it’s a miracle of independent filmmaking, simultaneously a myth-making blockbuster and the work of an idiosyncratic auteur in love with documentaries and samurai movies; it was the first movie a lot of us fell in love with, and after 40 years and however many sequels/ prequels/ books/ games/ cartoons the first one remains the best (second best if you count Empire, but that’s an argument for beers and joints; fight me later).

Williams’s score adds to this all this rich profusion, and not just because it’s so damn good or because it marries that gritty realism to all the lofty, heroic, transcendent, mythological, Romantic ideals which are the film’s heart.

Huynh’s conductor’s score for ‘Star Wars.’

Williams is one of the Great Composers, with every right to steal from Stravinsky, Holst, and Bartók (as those composers in turn stole from Debussy, Wagner, et alia), and that makes him part of the same time-honored tradition as the rest of OSO’s normal repertoire (any ass can hear that). Raise the screen and I could believe this was just another symphonic poem, an evening-length concerto for orchestra by one of America’s most successful living composers. It’s funny, in a sad sort of way, that Williams generally doesn’t show up on “greatest American composer” lists like this one

All of this made it a distinct thrill to hear Star Wars performed on September 9 by the same orchestra we last heard playing Mahler’s Seventh Symphony. Although Williams’s score is customarily connected to the classical world with the formula “Wagner via Holst and Korngold,” the composers I hear the most in this music all showed up on OSO concerts last season.

• The tribal-mechanical percussion, the menacingly heraldic brass, the creeping weirdness of the low woodwinds: all are features of OSO’s old friend The Rite of Spring, and performed with the same sense of familiar immediacy.

• The mythological, melancholy strains of that immortal Force theme, the rebellious sentimentality of Princess Leia’s theme, the grand sweeping gestures and the heroic fanfares and the quiet intimate moments: all played with the deep spiritual sincerity the orchestra invariably brings to Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Brahms.

• And when Williams’s score gets sciencefictional, it does so by operating in the complex 20th-century sound world the OSO already knows so well from Bartók, Schoenberg, Hindemith, Prokofiev, and Messiaen.

Renée Fleming

In its September 23rd opening concert, the OSO came out in fine form, starting the show with a bit of Richard Strauss (the tone poem Don Juan), the horns sounding especially wonderful, Teutonic trombones muscular and rotund, principal oboist Martin Hébert dazzling on his solo.

Renée Fleming came out in a glorious fuchsia Vera Wang gown and talked a bit about Letters from Georgia, a song cycle written for her by Pulitzer-winning composer Kevin Puts. Fleming recounted the work’s inception in the letters between Georgia O’Keeffe and her husband Alfred Stieglitz which Puts used as a libretto, calling them “very steamy, very powerful.”

Puts won his Pulitzer for his first opera, and operatic sensibilities shine all through Letters from Georgia. Right out the gate the orchestra plays a series of huge post-tonal sonorities, a big full modern symphonic sound, the world of Adès, Britten, Davies, Henze, Higdon; by contrast, most of the vocal passages were supported by clear instrumental textures, leaving space for the all-important melodies, giving Fleming’s voice and O’Keeffe’s words room to breathe. Huge moments would give way suddenly to very small passages: a tender duet between clarinetists James Shields and Todd Kuhns (the fourth song, “Friends”); a 4-mallet vibraphone solo from Niel DePonte (the closing song, “Canyon,” which was certainly the best of the five); a series of solo violin passages for concertmaster Sarah Kwak (including a comically gnarly bit of devilish fiddling during the second song, “Violin”). Throughout it all Fleming played the superstar, one voice against a hundred instruments, her performance alternately vulnerable and assertive, always beautiful and evocative, bold and individualistic but subservient to the text, the story, the music.

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‘Forum’: We love to laugh

Stephen Sondheim's 1960s romp "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" brightens the summer at Broadway Rose

A Night at the Opera, I mean A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, is taking the stage at Broadway Rose Theatre with togas, gadflies and a good romp into 1960s humor.

The ’60s needed some good laughs: Forum opened on Broadway amid the Cold War worries of 1962, anticipating a decade of land wars in Asia, protests and riots, assassinations. It’s no wonder people dialed back to a lighter, simpler, elementary humor. After a TV dinner and news program filled with commentary on potential nuclear war, a man in a three-piece suit slipping on a banana peel saved many people’s sanity. Stephen Sondheim’s Forum was such an antidote, and god knows, we could use some good laughs right now.

Raphael Likes, Collin Carver, and Joey Klei cutting up at the Forum. Photo: Liz Wade

Raphael Likes, Collin Carver, and Joey Klei cutting up at the Forum. Photo: Liz Wade

The hijinks in Forum are a blend of the Marx Brothers’ zany surreal layered comedies with Shakespeare’s mistaken identities and yearning lovers, all put in a Roman setting. There’s also a little Jeeves and Wooster – the smarter servant under the dimwitted master. Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart’s book for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum took the best from one of Will’s favorite playwrights, the Roman Plautus, who pioneered many of the devices. Shevelove, Gelbart and Sondheim called in Jerome Robbins, who had collaborated on West Side Story and Gypsy, to tighten up the edges and give Forum some of his play-doctoring muscle work. The results are some bright and well-defined characters who move in a neat syncopation through side-splitting chaos.

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Leontyne Price as Bess/Carl Van Vechten via Wikimedia

The arts story of the month —the remodeling of “Porgy and Bess” for Broadway and Stephen Sondheim’s objections to the idea — began with an arts story, specifically a story by Sean Healy for the New York Times. Healy wrote one of those relatively harmless “process”  stories about the production, interviewing director Diane Paulus, writer Suzan-Lori Parks and actress Audra McDonald, among others, about the liberties they were about to take with an American classic. You know the kind of story I’m talking about, right? The kind that has sentences that start, “In between generous forkfuls from a dish of spinach, rice and beans, the high-energy Ms. Paulus said…”? That kind.

The story gave a very general idea of what the production team intended to do with the material. They said they wanted to make the character Bess, a drug addict living on Catfish Row in Charleston, S.C., who is torn between two very different men, a real character, the equal of Porgy. Here’s Healy quoting Paulus: “’I’m sorry, but to ask an audience these days to invest three hours in a show requires having your heroine be an understandable and fully rounded character,’ Ms. Paulus said of Bess, whose motives and viewpoints are muddied in the opera, where she is largely an appendage of Porgy or Crown.” Healy’s story is a good one, wide-ranging. He checks in with representatives of the various estates that own the copyright for the book, lyrics and music (the Gershwins and DuBose Heyward, who wrote the original novel, play, libretto and, per Sondheim, the best lyrics in “Porgy and Bess”) to see what they think about the new production. He watches a scene in rehearsal. He has lunch.

Maybe Paulus’s description of Bess as an “appendage” makes sense to you and maybe it doesn’t. Was Leontyne Price’s Bess a “cardboard cut-out character” (as Parks called both Porgy and Bess in the story)?  Well, Sondheim didn’t think so, so he fired off a letter to the Times, criticizing the characterizations of the show by the production staff and McDonald. He’s brutal.

“Ms. Paulus says that in the opera you don’t get to know the characters as people. Putting it kindly, that’s willful ignorance. These characters are as vivid as any ever created for the musical theater, as has been proved over and over in productions that may have cut some dialogue and musical passages but didn’t rewrite and distort them.”

Sondheim rips into the story, quote by quote, not to criticize Healy, but to make mincemeat of Paulus, Parks and McDonald and their descriptions of “Porgy and Bess.” At one point, he writes of Paulus, “If she doesn’t understand Bess and feels she has to “excavate” the show, she clearly thinks it’s a ruin, so why is she doing it?”

That’s a good question, and one which Healy and Paulus attempted to answer: She loved the songbook (“Summertime,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” etc.) but thought the story and characters needed some help. Oh, and a producer had some money…

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Portland Piano International puts the piano front and center

At most solo piano performances, you’re much likelier to get 19th and early 20th century virtuoso exercises by the likes of Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff and Beethoven, with the occasional Ravel or Debussy tidbit, than anything contemporary or adventurous. Piano recitals too often exemplify the obsession with in-group virtuosity — let’s see who can play this great Romantic masterpiece just an eensy bit faster, or more precisely, than last year’s favorite, and by the way, who do you like better, Horowitz or Arrau in that etude, and which recording? And that obscures the music’s substance.

That doesn’t mean that Portland Piano International (PPI), the recital series founded in the late 1970s by former Portland State University faculty pianist Harold Gray, isn’t one of the city’s most valuable musical treasures. The program has, after all, gifted us with powerful performances by Murray Perahia, Mitsuko Uchida, Richard Goode and so many other magnificent keyboard wizards, including some rising stars.

The weeklong summer festival added in 1999 has amplified its value to the community by incorporating an educational element — lectures, master classes, films and more. It’s a great resource for students and educators and one of the highlights or Portland’s musical summers. But it wasn’t where I was expecting to find the shock of the new.

This summer’s Portland International Piano Festival (PIPF), held as always in the intimate confines of Miller Hall at the World Forestry Center in Portland’s Washington Park from July 12-17, certainly confounded those expectations. I wasn’t able to make it to every performance or the ancillary programming, but the recitals I did see provided as fascinating a traversal of today’s music as I’ve seen in Oregon this year. If the series keeps this up, Oregon will have found a new wellspring of contemporary sounds in one of the least likely locales — the new music equivalent of discovering a verdant oasis in the desert.

Anthony de Mare has made a valuable career out of playing contemporary American music, and his PIPF concert a couple of years ago remains one of my favorites. He’s commissioned some of today’s leading composers to create new versions of songs by an American composer who, by virtue of working in what’s now regarded as a corner (though what used to be the center) of  American music, is often overlooked on those lists of greatest living composers. Yet how can anyone ignore the staggering accomplishments of Stephen Sondheim, whose music has dominated American musical theater for the past four decades?

Anthony de Mare

De Mare’s set kicked off energetically — and ominously — with Portland native Kenji Bunch’s pounding “The Demon Barber” from Sweeney Todd (annoyingly accompanied by a piano bench that squealed whenever DeMare moved — and these pieces required the buff, compact virtuoso to move a lot), and proceeded through works by Seattle native and Pulitzer Prize winner William Bolcom (pleasant but slight), Ricky Ian Gordon (poignant) and others. The program ranged from obscurities (a fine number dropped from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum rendered here as a lounge jazz toe-tapper worthy, if that’s the word, of Michael Feinstein;  another from the criminally underrated Merrily We Roll Along) to America’s greatest living composer, Steve Reich’s (Steve R. covers Steve S! Who woulda thunk it?) pulsating take on “Finishing The Hat,” from Sondheim’s greatest work, Sunday in the Park with George. It sounded like the next entry in Reich’s “Counterpoints” series for various solo instruments played over pre-recorded tracks (which de Mare used here).

The most entertaining moment occurred before intermission, when another page turner somewhat mysteriously appeared. The reason for the presence of New York actor Daniel Sherman (who really is also an actual page turner) soon became clear as the pair engaged in a cleverly choreographed and precisely timed series of comic moves — all while de Mare played Erick Rockwell’s tangy take on “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” — that would have done Victor Borge proud. It’s so welcome to see humor in piano and new music performances, which too often share nothing but overabundant solemnity. De Mare’s illuminating stage comments relaxed the atmosphere, too.

Other highlights included a brilliant “The Ladies Who Lunch” from the ever-adventurous David Rakowski and an epic take on Follies’ beautiful “Losing My Mind” from Pulitzer winner Paul Moravec. Placid, limpid works by jazz pianist composer Fred Hersch and Britain’s Mark Anthony Turnage (delivered shortly before the performance and performed as an encore) provided welcome contrasts.

The whole program demonstrated the virtues and vices of show tunes, and Sondheim’s amazing ability to transcend the genre’s limitations. Throughout his career, Sondheim has been dismissed by some as primarily a lyricist (thanks to his work in his breakthrough with West Side Story) whose wry, tart tunes couldn’t match the great Broadway tunesmiths who preceded him — Rodgers, Kern, Arlen, et al. But this performance showed just how much musical muscle powers those durable tunes. I’d hadn’t seen some of these musicals in years. And yet, I immediately recognized every tune, no matter how disguised or transformed. If anyone still doubted Sondheim’s prowess as an instrumental composer, this project should firmly lay those doubts to rest.

De Mare is still soliciting compositions  — alas, a planned centennial commission from Sondheim’s teacher, Milton Babbitt (whose thorny music ranges about as far from Broadway as can be imagined), expired along with the composer earlier this year — and he hopes to have more ready for a planned New York performance with Sondheim in attendance next year. He told me that Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson has just signed up to take on “Send in the Clowns.” That should be rich.

California pianist Lara Downes commendably devoted her entire first program to 20th century works by American composers, who are so often shamefully overlooked in American classical music programs in general and piano music in particular. Everyone knew the orchestral classics — George Gershwin’s jazzy Rhapsody in Blue and the four dance episodes from Aaron Copland’s magnificent ballet Rodeo — she played in solo piano versions, but hearing them in this context reminded us of their purely musical power when shorn of other associations. I treasured even more her revival of Copland’s rarely heard Four Piano Blues, Samuel Barber’s Coplandish Excursions, and early African American composer Florence Price’s Fantasie Negre.

Lara Downes

Downes’s second performance/talk (repeated in the cozy confines of Vie de Boheme winery — a classical-in-the-clubs strategy I hope the festival retains) showcased another new music project, a dozen new works based on the famous opening aria of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations, commissioned by the Gilmore Festival and due for CD release next month. At the wine bar, Downes played a half dozen of the variations back to back without naming the composers, which at first annoyed me but then made me really focus on the music (was that a 12-tone piece? Did I hear a little jazz thing happen? Ah, there goes a fugue!) instead of preconceptions. It made me listen much more intensely than I normally do at yet another Chopin recital. And like de Mare, Downes was happy to chat with audience members about her project and even solicited their responses to the music — including, at the WFC talk, artistic and musical replies.

For me, the highlights of this summer’s festival (as it is every time I hear her play, usually in the Bay Area) were San Francisco pianist Sarah Cahill’s two performances. The first featured early works in the American experimental tradition, including the great California composer/connector/piano prodigy Henry Cowell, who electrified audiences around the world in the 1920s with his dazzling original piano works that involved plucking the strings inside the instrument, tone clusters (smashing adjacent keys with a forearm) and other avant-garde techniques. As always, Cahill brought out the musicality, not just the flamboyance and novelty of these sometimes flashy pieces, especially the powerful 1938 Rhythmicana. She also played intriguing music by (and with) Portland’s own Tomas Svoboda, neglected American composer Dane Rudhyar, and striking renditions of three of Ruth Crawford’s lovely preludes, landmarks of the 1920s.

Cahill’s second show offered yet another creative project. Cahill has commissioned some of today’s greatest composers to write music on the theme of peace and war. Her lucid explanations helped listeners understand how music without words can convey anti-war sentiments. Every piece had something to offer, from Meredith Monk’s somber repetitive Steppe Music excerpt to Rzewski’s both sensuous and sometimes dissonant Peace Dances to Paul Dresher’s searching, minimalist-driven Two, Entwined (which Cahill said was inspired by a photo of President Obama with right-wing Israeli President Netanyahu), another minimalist-influenced work by Japan’s Mamoru Fujieda, and most memorably, the great California minimalist pioneer Terry Riley’s Be Kind to One Another, whose bluesy chords, “let’s try this” detours, textural shifts, repetitive structures and impulsive digressions reminded me of one of the one-time jazz pianist’s famous live piano improvisations, like walking down a previously unknown path and delighting in what he discovered there.

Stephanie & Saar

Unfortunately, a conflicting Chamber Music Northwest show made me miss Christopher O’Riley’s  concert devoted to the music of Schumann and Portland rocker Elliott Smith, but I did get to hear the vividly virtuosic duo Stephanie & Saar play music by John Adams, Gershwin,  Herbert Deutsch, and their phenomenal two-piano version of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Petrouchka, a prodigious feat of memory and near orchestral color. I also regretted missing a concert of music sponsored by one of the state’s most valuable artistic entities, the increasingly active Cascadia Composers organization, featuring music by Oregon composers played by local piano students, and Catherine Kautsky’s performance of Frederic Rzewski’s classic De Profundis, which drew raves. But I did notice a lot of familiar faces from those circles, composers and audience members alike. Clearly, the emphasis on contemporary music is broadening PPI’s listenership.

And it’s also bringing new and thrilling sounds to Portland. We can’t always get brand new commissions, although between these three and the Brentano Quartet’s excellent project, offered during Chamber Music Northwest a week earlier, that commissioned composers to engage with various unifinished classical works, Portland sure reaped a bountiful harvest of new music in July. But the 20th and 21st centuries offer plenty of excellent keyboard music — John Cage’s pre-chance Sonatas and Interludes for prepared Piano remain one of the 20th century’s greatest musical achievements, and modern composers such as Riley, Messiaen, Cowell, Rzewski, Philip Glass, and lesser known figures such as William Duckworth, Kyle Gann, and Rakowski continue to prove that much great music remains to be found in those 88 keys.

While this wasn’t the the first time PPI had brought de Mare, Cahill, and American music to town, the summer festival had never presented so much new and homegrown music, much less built the series around them.Portland Piano International’s regular season recitals now also include unusual and contemporary programming, like last year’s toy piano performance at Doug Fir Lounge, with more to come next season, according to PPI executive director Patricia Price, including prepared piano by the German innovator Hauschka next June and Uri Caine’s jazz-classical intersections next month, Tuesday, September 20. Price says audience response has been “extremely positive,” and I’ve spotted plenty of stereotypically older fans at PPI’s (and CMNW’s) club shows, so the new emphasis on new music is working both ways — new listeners to old venues, and vice versa.

There will always be a place for the museum function of classical music — live performances of classics from throughout the centuries. But many museums also focus on contemporary art, and initiatives like PPI’s “The Americans” series this summer demonstrate that bringing us today’s — and tomorrow’s — art can bolster institutions that hitherto looked mostly backwards. Kudos to Gray and company for mustering the courage to reinvent a venerable Portland art pillar. Maybe they should retire that offputting term “piano recital” and call them piano excitements, because that’s how these summer adventures felt.

Speaking of surfeits, tonight, July 14, Portland classical music fans face at least a three-pronged dilemma.

Lara Downes is in town for Portland International Piano Festival

By a narrow margin, OAW’s top recommendation is Portland International Piano Festival’s recital by Lara Downes, who offers an all-American program of music by three of our greatest composers: Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, and George Gershwin.

She’s performing a different program tomorrow (Friday) night at Portland’s Vie de Boheme wine bar, presented by the city’s Classical Revolution group:  a baker’s dozen of contemporary composers “reimagining” J.S. Bach’s allegedly soporific Goldberg Variations. (That story’s a myth, BTW.)  She presenting a workshop on the latter tomorrow (Friday) morning at the Forestry Center as part of PIP. If these commissions are anywhere near as successful as Anthony De Mare’s splendid similar project involving Stephen Sondheim’s music that rocked the World Forestry Center Tuesday night, we’ll be in for a treat indeed.

Adam Hurst

Also tonight, at Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium, Chamber Music Northwest presents a cellistic concert of music by Bach, Milton Babbitt, Igor Stravinsky and Gaspar Cassado, all featuring the redoubtable cellist Fred Sherry, who’s been a persistent and cheerful promoter of contemporary music for decades. The concert also features Pavel Haas’s second string quartet and the usual passel of top American classical players, including the wonderfully sensitive pianist Shai Wosner, one of my favorite CMNW musicians. The concert repeats Friday night at Portland State University’s Lincoln Hall.

And speaking of cellos, fans of contemporary, rather neo-romantic cello music can catch the latest release from Portland cellist Adam Hurst, who’s frequently seen sawing away with great aplomb at the Portland Airport, Farmers Markets, and other public venues. Better to rehearse in public, and put the hat out. He’s performing with pianist Vince Frates at The Old Church in downtown Portland.