Weekend MusicWatch: Choral collisions and keyboard confluences

Oregon Mandolin Orchestra plays classical music in Portland and Hillsboro this weekend.

Oregon Mandolin Orchestra plays classical music in Portland and Hillsboro this weekend.

I guess it’s a healthy sign when a single weekend on the Oregon classical music scene literally packs more recommended concerts than one person can attend. This weekend, for example, offers a pair of excellent choral programs featuring early music. But you can see  only one of them. On Friday at Northwest Portland’s St. Mary’s Cathedral, the superb Portland choir Cappella Romana makes one of its periodic forays away from its usual Byzantine core repertoire, straying into the Iberian sounds of the great Spanish and Portuguese Renaissance composers Tomás Luis de Victoria, Duarte Lobo, and Francisco Guerrero – some of the most glorious music of the era.

Friday night’s other attractive choral concert happens at downtown Portland’s First Christian Church, when the Portland Camerata sings French and Italian Renaissance music, plus works by English Baroque master Henry Purcell and 20th century masterpieces by Arvo Part and Astor Piazzolla. It’s a shame to have to miss either of these fine programs. On the other hand, what a delightful dilemma to have.

Renaissance sounds also ring out Saturday at the University of Oregon’s Collier House, when Portland Baroque Orchestra’s Joanna Blendulf and Eugene Baroque guitarist David Rogers join harpists Bill McJohn and Laura Zaerr in a free concert of medieval, Renaissance and other music. It’s part of a day-long exploration of early harp music. And on Sunday at Eugene’s United Lutheran Church, one of the city’s other major early music leaders, harpsichordist Marget Gries, joins fellow Oregon Bach Collegium colleague violinist Wyatt True in a magnifique program of French Baroque music. On Friday at First Methodist Church, Eugeneans can also hear Berkeley’s Sonos Handbell Ensemble ring out new music and arrangements of American music for that unusual instrumental combo.

It’s not quite as abundant as last week, but there’s still plenty of piano pleasure in Portland this weekend, from Lara Downes’s shows (persuasively previewed by ArtsWatch’s Jana Hanchett) to composer/pianist Lisa Marsh’s concert at Kairos-Milwaukie United Church Of Christ Sunday afternoon. At the same time, in downtown Portland, Salem organist Paul Klemme plays Baroque music and more at First Presbyterian Church’s splendid Celebration Works series.

Plucky Orchestral Music

Complicating Portland’s Friday night classical collision still further, Oregon Symphony flutist Alicia DiDonato Paulsen and pianist Yoko Greeney will play contemporary and 20th century American music by the popular contemporary composer Lowell Liebermann, Ned Rorem, and more that night at St. Michael’s & All Saints Episcopal Church, in a concert benefiting homebound seniors. Another set of moonlighting orchestral musicians, these from the Starlight Symphony, play chamber music by Debussy, Ibert, Beethoven and more on Saturday at Tualatin Presbyterian Church.

This weekend, Paulsen’s band offers one of the best programs of its season, featuring the LA Guitar Quartet in the always- appealing Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo’s 1967 “Andalusian Concerto.” The Oregon Symphony program also boasts one of the most thrilling of all 20th century masterpieces, Stravinsky’s dazzling “Petrouchka”, and another fine ballet score, the American composer Walter Piston’s “The Incredible Flutist.”

Orchestral music and another set of pickers collide on Friday night when the Oregon Mandolin Orchestra and Chicago’s Don Stiernberg Trio play music by J.S. Bach, Schubert and more on Friday at Hillsboro’s Walters Cultural Arts Center, and Saturday at Portland’s Alberta Rose Theater. Other orchestral concerts this weekend include the Vancouver Symphony performing Mahler’s massive Symphony #5 and Franck’s compact piano concerto in all but name, “Symphonic Variations”; and the Newport Symphony’s all-Russian affair at Newport High School on Saturday, featuring music by Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Prokofiev’s brilliant film score to “Lieutenant Kije.”

And here’s an early reminder of next Thursday night’s Eugene Symphony concert at the Hult Center, one of the most important classical music events in Oregon this season, as it features the world premiere of a new clarinet concerto (with soloist Michael Anderson) by the dean of Portland composers, Tomas Svoboda — who, we’re happy to report, is continuing to recover from the stroke he suffered late last year. Just in case the unfamiliar composer’s name might frighten off the timid, the orchestra also includes that most popular of ribald monk-inspired cantatas, Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana.” Kudos to the Eugene Symphony for investing in contemporary Oregon music.

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