university of oregon

Finding Tchaikovsky’s voice in his first piano concerto

In a long-ago lecture in Eugene, the legendary Russian pianist Lazar Berman made his choice. Now you can listen and decide for yourself.


By JOSEPH ALBERT


Is there a “right” way for a performer to approach interpreting a classic musical score? And what if the score exists in more than one form, such as Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #1? How do you even decide which version to perform? The legendary Russian pianist Lazar Berman thought deeply about the question, and dared to venture beyond the usual response.

In February 1987 Berman made his second tour of the United States. He performed in four cities— New York, Eugene, and I think Los Angeles and Chicago.

The performance in Eugene was broadcast on National Public Radio from The Hult Center for the Performing Arts, using its recording capabilities for the simulcast.

I was in attendance at the Hult Center, and remember that the encore was a piano arrangement of Beethoven’s Turkish March from the Ruins of Athens. I was able to locate a newspaper announcement of the radio broadcast in the archive of Madison’s paper, the Wisconsin State Journal, as well as an announcement of the New York recital in The New York Times from which I refreshed my memory of the main program.

The recital program consisted of Liszt’s Dante Sonata, Mephisto Waltz, and Liszt transcriptions of a couple of Schubert songs, Ave Maria and The Forest King; six of Shostakovich’s Preludes from Op. 34; and Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

Left: Tchaikovsky, Feb. 1, 1893, in Odessa. Photo: Vasily Czechowski / Wikimedia Commons. Right: Pianist Lazar Berman, ca. 1988. Photo: Eraevski / Wikimedia Commons

The next day, Mr. Berman gave a lecture (through an interpreter) at the University of Oregon. The topic was Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #1. There are at least three known scores for the piece, the first one from 1875, a revision completed in 1879, and a final version in 1888. The final version from 1888 is the version that has almost exclusively been performed. There has been an assumption that Tchaikovsky was not fully satisfied with the work, and that the final version is the superior version, with the blessing of the composer.

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NEA: $1.2 million in Oregon grants

The National Endowment for the Arts delivers 17 grants in Oregon as part of an $80 million round of awards nationally

The National Endowment for the Arts today announced its latest round of grants, more than $80 million across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and four U.S. jurisdictions. Oregon’s share is $1,219,200 among 17 groups and agencies – more than half to the Oregon Arts Commission, which then makes further grants throughout the state. Funding ranges from hiring a folklorist at the High Desert Museum in Bend to developing a new tribal arts and culture plan in Coos Bay to creating a new work at Eugene Ballet.

The complete Oregon list:

High Desert Museum, Bend:

$45,000 to support a folklorist position at the High Desert Museum.

Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, Coos Bay:

$50,000 to support the development of an arts and culture master plan to establish guidelines for public art and architecture that will celebrate sites of historical significance in Coos Bay, Oregon.

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Bach Fest: the $90,000 solution

After the University of Oregon fires Matthew Halls, it pays him $90,000 – but only if he keeps his mouth shut. And the crisis remains.

And then the lawyers swept in.

The first clue arrived on Tuesday in the form of a statement from the University of Oregon, signed by provost and senior vice president Jayanth Banavar, that the university was “disappointed and saddened that Matthew Halls’ relationship with the Oregon Bach Festival … has drawn to a close.”

Matthew Halls. Photo: Jon Christopher Meyers/OBF

The wording was smooth and soothing and just a little sorrowful – “We appreciate Mr. Hall’s (sic) many positive contributions to the festival … Everyone at the University and OBF sincerely wish nothing but continued success for Mr. Halls” – with no mention that the university had, in fact, fired the festival’s artistic director on August 24, with no stated cause, a mere two months after extending his contract, with a raise, for four years. It was a broken prophylactic of a statement, a reassurance after the unfortunate fact, a monument of untethered platitudes, and it had all the earmarks of having been vetted within an inch of its life by a squadron of administrators and lawyers.

Then, on Thursday, the lawyers’ work ambled into full view in the headline to Saul Hubbard’s news story in Eugene’s Register-Guard: “University of Oregon agrees to pay Matthew Halls $90,000; Halls agrees not to disparage UO.” Translation: You shut up; we’ll pay up. It is a very lawyerly deal, designed to solve an immediate crisis, avoid the courtroom, and let the players move on. With the pay-not-to-play solution, you might almost have thought Halls was a football coach.

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A China-Oregon connection: UO’s Jeffrey Stolet bridges the Pacific through music

Electroacoustic concert enriched by cross-cultural influences concludes an intensive University of Oregon workshop for visiting Chinese composers

by GARY FERRINGTON

It is a long journey from Beijing to Eugene, but each July for the past eight years, a cadre of Chinese conservatory students and faculty has been making the 5,000-mile trip to participate in the University of Oregon’s Summer Academy for Computer Music directed by Dr. Jeffrey Stolet, professor of music and head of Future Music Oregon.

Jeffrey Stolet and assistant Chi Wang with Summer Academy students.
Photo: FMO/symbolic sound 2012.

On July 29, the 2017 Summer Academy will culminate in a final concert of new music influenced by the crossing of a cultural bridge between China and Oregon. For some listeners, with an ear tuned to traditional instrumental music, the experience of hearing a soundscape of acoustic effects and driving rhythmic patterns from suspended speakers around the concert hall may seem unfamiliar, distant, and sometimes unsettling. Yet an attentive ear will hear electroacoustic performances rich in compositional practice and musical forms.

The music will be forged in an intensive two week workshop involving Chinese and Oregon student and faculty musicians, a continuing collaboration almost a decade in the making.

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‘Music of the Forest’ preview: Old growth, new music

UO Music Today Festival concert features contemporary Oregon music inspired by old growth forest soundscapes

by GARY FERRINGTON

In the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, an hour east of Eugene, you’ll be visually immersed in an iconic landscape of towering old-growth Cedar, Hemlock, and moss-draped Douglas Fir. But close your eyes and open your ears and a rich acoustic environment is revealed: whispering treetop breezes; distant snapping sounds of animals traversing twig covered trails; bird calls echoing through the forest with insects buzzing above the ground; all this against the rhythmic beat of fast flowing water over a rocky terrain.

Oregon Composers Forum members finding musical inspiration in old growth forest. Photo: Michael Fleming.

One rainy fall day, a group of UO composition students ventured into this soundscape to listen, meditate upon, and sketch musical ideas while soaking up the inspiration the forest provided. The creative results from this and subsequent journeys back to nature, will be heard on Saturday, April 22 during the Music of the Forest concert, the third of nine events scheduled during the 2017 Music Today Festival on the University of Oregon campus.

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Tony Glausi: Finding musical identity

Young Eugene composer/trumpeter's debut album defines his place in Oregon jazz

by GARY FERRINGTON

When award-winning young Oregon jazz trumpeter and composer Tony Glausi set out to make his debut album last year, he looked back over the last few years of his original compositions and realized that a common theme flowed through much of his music: the search for his own musical identity, starting with his childhood musical inspirations. Glausi, a graduate teaching fellow pursuing his master’s in jazz composition at the University of Oregon, has quietly gained a national reputation for his ability to excite the ears of audiences and judges. His new CD Identity Crisis, released in December and available online and at gigs, reveals a young musician who has both established a distinctive musical identity, and is poised to take the next big step in his career.

Eugene jazz musician Tony Glausi. Photo: Tyler Sams. 

Eugene jazz musician Tony Glausi. Photo: Tyler Sams.

“Tony’s music — whether in performance or in composition or in band leading — is pure Tony,”  says Brian McWhorter, Associate Professor of Music  and one of Glausi’s mentors at the University of Oregon. “He may be having an identity crisis, as the album seems to imply, but he’s not afraid of putting that very crisis in every note. Where most musicians shy away from that kind of vulnerability, Tony’s voice is direct, charismatic, and unyielding. And unusually, his music remains light and fun. He’s vulnerable without having to resort to some heavy, bogged down introspection. Rather, when we hear his music, we get an immediate sense of his obvious intellectualism and wit, without the burdensome feeling like we’re going to have our own identity crisis just by hearing about his!”

Selected as Outstanding Performer Overall and (twice) Outstanding College Trumpeter at the Reno Jazz Festival, Glausi also was named 2013 outstanding undergraduate improviser by Downbeat Jazz & Blues Magazine and placed 1st in the Jazz Division of the 2014 National Trumpet Competition. He graduated magna cum laude with a BM in Jazz Performance at the University of Oregon in 2015.

In addition to leading his own jazz quintet and nine-piece funk band, Glausi is a dedicated collaborator who performs and records with other Eugene ensembles such as the Top-Hat Confederacy and Jessika Smith’s Eugene Composers Big Band. He also performs with several university ensembles including the award-winning Oregon Jazz Ensemble, which toured Europe in 2014, and the JazzArts Oregon Combo. Along the way he’s performed with internationally renowned artists including virtuoso jazz pianist George Colligan, reggae legend Norma Fraser, and British indie pop-star Ruth Theodore.

The young Oregon artist on the rise gives his impression of the state of jazz today from the point of view of the next generation of Oregon jazz musicians. He also explains the sources of his own music, and the challenges an indie jazz musician faces in making a debut album in the 21st century.

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Oregon Composers Forum: Seeding new Oregon music

Fresh sounds flourish from University of Oregon new music program, guest artists, and student-led ensembles

by GARY FERRINGTON

As autumn’s leaves fall, fresh new music is already springing up at the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance’s Oregon Composers Forum (OCF), the state’s primary seedbed of new Oregon music.

“The Forum is at the core of the school’s composition program,” texts Robert Kyr, founder and director of OCF, and chair of the university’s composition department. “It offers our students the opportunity to compose and perform their own works and music by their colleagues, while also learning how to found and direct new music ensembles.”  Such experiences, he adds, “deeply connect audiences with an exceptional broad range of contemporary music, including multimedia collaborations.”

OCF premiers new music by young composers. Photo: G. Ferrington.

OCF premiers new music by young composers. Photo: G. Ferrington.

The forum promises a diverse menu of concert options and it all begins with a fall OCF concert at 7:30 pm (Pacific), Tuesday, November 10. This live-streamed event from the University of Oregon’s beautiful Beall Concert Hall, features an array of new music ranging from Li Tao’s Illusion of Fog (2013) for solo piano to large ensemble pieces such as Benjamin J. Penwell’s Kafkaesque (2015) for Flute, Clarinet, Horn, Trumpet, Percussion, Piano, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Bass. Other selections include Passacaglia by Emily Korzeniewski, Echoes from the Void by Aidan Ramsay, Prayer for Roethke by Stephen Anthony Rawson, Tempest by Michael Dekovich, Stilly Sleep by Ramsey Sadaka, 7F by Cara Haxo, June by Madeline Cannon, Spaces by Izabel Austin, and Cascade by Nathan Engelmann.

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