Weekend MusicWatch: Mind the Gap

Vagabond Opera performs Saturday night at Secret Society ballroom.

Vagabond Opera performs Saturday night at Secret Society ballroom.

Pickings are slim in Oregon classical music this Memorial Day weekend, as we remember heroes, rather than composers, who have passed on. But in this gap between the end of the main music season and the beginning of Oregon’s increasingly busy summer musical resurgence, a few choice concerts offer memorable moments.

Tonight, May 23, the estimable Portland classical music presenting organization 45th Parallel, in partnership with Portland’s all classical radio 89.9 KQAC, closes its season with a legend: Polish violinist Ida Haendel, one of the mid-20th century’s most acclaimed fiddlers, and a trailblazer among women classical musicians. The organization’s leader, Oregon Symphony violinist Greg Ewer, recently participated in a workshop with Haendel, who’s been based in Miami for years, and was able to bring her to Portland’s Old Church, where she and pianist Misha Dacic will perform music by one of Oregon’s most famous musical residents, Ernest Bloch, who lived at Agate Beach for many years; her teacher, the great 20th century Romanian composer George Enescu; and Robert Schumann.

The big symphony concert is also the big choral concert this weekend. On Saturday and Sunday, the Vancouver Symphony joins the Oregon Repertory Singers in one of the 20th century’s greatest choral orchestral works, the cantata Sergei Prokofiev concocted from his score to the 1938 film “Alexander Nevsky.” Vocal soloist Christine Meadows, who directs Portland State’s award winning opera program, has recently demonstrated there and with Opera Theater Oregon that she’s still a compelling singer, too. The program also includes the winners of the orchestra’s annual young artist competition, strutting their solos on lead instruments in music by Mendelssohn, Spohr, and Tchaikovsky.

It’s a smaller ensemble but the singing will be equally attractive, on Sunday at Eugene’s First United Methodist Church when Cascade Consort, featuring baritone Aaron Cain, who’s familiar to Portland audiences from his appearances with the city’s finest choirs and tenor Eric Mentzel, the UO early music prof who earned an international reputation thanks to his vibrant tenor singing with the early music group Sequentia, joins other Oregon early music stars (keyboard player Julia Brown, lutenist David Rogers, violist Joanna Blendulf) in music of remembrance by 17th century composers including Holborne, Buxtehude, Schein and more.

On Friday night, one of Oregon’s finest jazz ensembles, Blue Cranes, celebrates the release of their new CD, Swim, which includes a profusion of guest artists, including some playing “classical” instruments. The CD release concert at northeast Portland’s Mississippi Studios will augment the core quintet with a string trio that includes Northwest New Music cellist Diane Chaplin, plus Los Lobos’ superb saxman, Steve Berlin. And the bill includes the inventive Portland experimental duo Golden Retriever, featuring Jonathan Sielaff and Matt Carlson on bass clarinet and synths.

Finally, for a more alt classical experience, check out Vagabond Opera‘s homecoming show with Portland’s Krebsic Orkestar Saturday night at Portland’s Secret Society ballroom, where you’ll experience everything from classical to opera to Balkan music, and plenty of extra musical stage attractions to boot.

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