Weekend MusicWatch: Paleo pianists and fresh voices


The Julians perform Friday in Portland.

The Julians perform Friday in Portland.

The Oregon Historical Museum of Old Music by Incessantly Performed Germanic Composers Who Died Between 1750 and 1950 opens the first of its many, many 2014 exhibits with a pair of pre-eminent pianists playing music by the usual suspects. Happily, some attractive alternatives by some splendid singers are also available for music fans who believe that classical music is a living tradition.

Harvard Glee Club, UO Chamber Choir, Thursday, Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene. Despite the fuddy duddy moniker, America’s oldest college chorus sings tunes from the Renaissance (Josquin, Praetorius) through Romantic (Brahms, Mendelssohn) eras, but also music by two of today’s most accomplished and ear friendly composers, Nancy Galbraith and the UO’s own music professor Robert Kyr, including the Oregon premier of the latter’s “Ode to Music” written for the HGC. The concert opens with the UO’s  Chamber Choir, which ranges as far afield in space as the Hahvahds do in time, often singing tunes from Ireland, Nigeria and Polynesia as well as the US. If you can’t make it to Eugene, stream it.

Laura Wayte and Nathalie Fortin, Friday, Beall Hall, Eugene. Veteran UO faculty string players Steven Pologe, Kathryn Lucktenberg, and Holland Phillips join soprano Wayte and pianist Fortin in songs by UO composer Nicole Portley setting texts by the late world-renowned Seattle poet Denise Levertov; three songs written by another fine Seattleite, composer Karen P. Thomas (best known for her lovely choral music); original songs by another UO composer, Lawrence Wayte; a song cycle by New York composer Richard Pearson Thomas based on Walt Whitman poems, and contemporary arrangements of Appalachian songs. The stage will be dressed in original artwork created by Eugene artist Helen Liu based on the texts being performed. And yes, you can hear this one via the interwebs, too.

Rovshan Mamedkuliev, Friday, Wiegand Hall, Marylhurst University, Portland. Portland Classic Guitar series regularly brings ascending performers as well as already-risen stars to Oregon, and this prizewinning under-30 Azeri prodigy certainly qualifies. His music is also anything but mired in the past, and this recital includes music ranging from Bach to contemporary composers.

The Julians, Friday, Shaker and Vine, Portland. The fresh quartet comprising some of the state’s finest singers demonstrate that old music can share a program with valuable works  actually written by non-Germanic, non-male, non-dead people — including  even some in our time! Their set might include music by composers as diverse Gillian Welch, Palestrina, The Rescues, Alanis Morissette, Leonard Cohen, Björk, Cat Stevens, and the great contemporary Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara.

Oregon Symphony, Friday, Smith Auditorium, Willamette University, Salem and Saturday-Monday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland. Certainly one of the busiest pianists in classical music, Emmanuel Ax stars in a performance of J.S. Bach’s great keyboard concertos, which the composer wrote for a very different set of sound makers a harpsichord (not a piano), instruments in different tunings, using strings made of gut instead of metal, in a venue much larger than he would have imagined, and so on. Fortunately, Oregonians have Portland Baroque Orchestra if we want to hear a performance that comes close to capturing its full beauty. The program includes another arrangement/desecration (take your pick): an inflation of the magnificent “Great Fugue” movement from Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 133, one of the pinnacles of chamber music. Why Oregon orchestras choose to perform centuries-old music never intended for such forces, occupying some of the precious few slots that could instead be filled with some of the listener-friendly contemporary sounds actually written for them, is a bigger issue than we have room to discuss here, but at least the concert does offer one actual masterpiece written for orchestra: Beethoven’s underrated, fun, and charming 1812 Symphony #8, along with Richard Strauss’s jocular 1886 “Burleske,” again with Ax.

Vagabond Opera, Saturday, Mississippi Pizza, Portland. The motley crew that mixes opera, cabaret, Eastern European rhythms and plenty of stage flash into a lively original sound returns to the intimate venue where it was born.

London Haydn Quartet, Eric Hoeprich, Sunday, Beall Hall, Eugene. If you want to hear Haydn and Beethoven’s string quartets and

The London Haydn Quartet performs Sunday at the University of Oregon.

The London Haydn Quartet performs Sunday at the University of Oregon.

Mozart’s sublime Clarinet Quintet close to the way the composers intended, this historically informed foursome, which plays on period instruments, offers a welcome chance. Hoeprich, so impressive with Portland Baroque last year, here plays the basset clarinet (for which Mozart wrote this quintet), which boasts, along with those big cute floppy ears, a few more notes on the lower end of the range than the modern instrument.

Vancouver Symphony Chamber Music Series, Sunday, Kiggins Theater, Vancouver, Washington. Soprano Christina Kowalski joins pianist Michael C. Liu and VSO players in music by Mozart, Elgar, Dvorak, Leonard Bernstein, Spohr, and more.

Vladimir Feltsman, Monday, Lincoln Hall, Portland State University. In the early 1980s, the Moscow-born pianist’s musical mastery was overshadowed by his involvement in Cold War politics, when the Soviets, irked at their celebrated young prizewinning pianist’s request to escape their tyranny, refused for years to either let him leave or let him perform. Since he finally made it to the US in 1987, Feltsman has built an impressive career as a recitalist and recording artist. In Monday night’s Portland Piano International recital, he’ll play sweet sonatas by Schubert (D. 537, from 1817) and Haydn (No. 33, from 1773), and Schumann’s 1839 “Arabeske” and the colorful 1835 “Carnaval” parade of miniature musical portraits. Sunday afternoon’s concert (with a different program) is sold out; call PPI for options, but the public is invited to Feltsman’s free master class for advanced students Monday morning at Portland Piano Company.

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One Response.

  1. Charles Noble says:

    The Grosse Fuge is from the string quartet in B-flat, Op. 130. It was later given its own opus number of 133. It was also arranged for two pianos, and given the opus number 134.

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