Weekend MusicWatch: Reich rules

Previews of Oregon music events November 9-13

Third Angle plays Steve Reich Saturday

Contemporary Sounds

“Reich-a-nalia,” Third Angle, Saturday, November 10, Atrium at Montgomery Park: Portland’s premiere new music ensemble has had a thing for America’s greatest living composer, Steve Reich, for some years now, and even brought him to Portland a few years back. Last year, the band performed his music at an unusual and seemingly inviting venue: the spacious Atrium at northwest Portland’s Montgomery Park office building, which did somewhat break down the invisible barrier between audience and performers. But for whatever reason, the sound amplification was dreadfully muddy, blurring Reich’s signature intricate interlocking melody lines. The shaky student singing also sounded closer to the 19th century opera the composer loathes than to the pure early music sound his music demands. Third Angle is reprising its Reichfest at Montgomery Park this year, with an even stronger program — including perhaps the high point of minimalism and the zenith of postwar 20th century American music, Reich’s mesmerizing 1976 epic, “Music for 18 Musicians.” Considering that this year’s program includes two of Reich’s inventive “counterpoints” for clarinet and guitar (with Portland jazz guitar great Dan Balmer taking over Pat Metheny’s solo part), professional singers from Cappella Romana, and the fact that the band has had a year to work out the sonic kinks with the space, it’s a top recommendation for this season’s music schedule.

“Crazy Jane,” Cascadia Composers, Friday, November 9, Colonial Heights Presbyterian Church, Portland: Some of the most adventurous music I’ve heard at Cascadia Composers concerts over the past few years has come from its female members, and last year’s all-women composers Crazy Jane (named after a W.B. Yeats character modeled on a real woman) concert was one of the group’s best. On Friday, several of the organization’s women again present new Oregon music by Bonnie Miksch, Jan Mittlestaedt, Lisa Marsh and others created collaboratively with other female artists — poets, visual artists, dancers and more.

Dick Hyman and Lindsay Deutsch, Saturday, November 10, The Shedd, Eugene: Jazz meets classical music, and early electronica meets earlier acoustica when legendary jazz pianist and arranger Hyman (who soundtracked many of Woody Allen’s movies and possesses an encyclopedic expertise in jazz history) joins young LA based violinist Deutsch (who played with the Eugene Symphony last year) and a trio of Eugene-based classical players (violinist Fritz Gearhart, violist Leslie Straka, cellist Steven Pologe) in Hyman’s chamber compositions — including a version of his 1968 electronic music composition, “The Minotaur” (which, as we’ll tell you next week, by coincidence will be performed next weekend in Portland by a different piano and violin duo).

Molly Barth, Pius Cheung, David Riley, Tuesday, November 13, Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene: the erstwhile eighth blackbird flute virtuosa and current Beta Collider joins fellow UO faculty percussionist Pius Cheung and pianist David Riley in music by David Lang (a recent Third Angle guest in Portland), Toru Takemitsu, and more.

Portland Youth Philharmonic, Saturday November 10, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland: PYP music director and clarinetist David Hattner knows a potent piece for the instrument when he hears one, and his old friend James Stephenson’s klezmer-tinged clarinet concerto “Liquid Melancholy” certainly qualifies — as does Hattner’s choice of soloist, none other than longtime Chamber Music Northwest artistic director David Shifrin, who’s about as good as it gets on the licorice stick. The nation’s first orchestra, which on a good day can sound as persuasive as many grown up symphonies, will also perform a suite from Wagner’s opera “The Master Singers of Nuremberg” and Dvorak’s cheery, Wagner-influenced Symphony #3. Hattner deserves enormous credit for giving his charges the opportunity to play the audience-friendly music of their own time — which, he told me in an interview last year, can benefit them enormously when they’re applying to and attending music schools — and giving listeners the chance to hear it.

Vocal Visions

“Don Giovanni,” Portland Opera,  Saturday, November 10, Keller Auditorium, Portland: Read my p/review here.

“Clash of the Titans,” Portland State University Choirs,  Friday and Sunday, First United Methodist Church, Portland: the excellent student singers pairs classical (Monteverdi, Britten, Debussy, Whitacre) and pop (Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Fun.) music that shares common themes. PSU prof and jazz piano master Darrell Grant also appears.

University of Oregon Choirs, Saturday November 10, First Methodist Church, Eugene: Still more surprisingly strong student sounds abound in Eugene, when Oregon Bach Festival music director designate Matthew Halls (a renowned English early music specialist himself) leads the singers in music by Domenico Scarlatti and Maurice Durufle.

Chamber Discoveries

Octetlandia,” 45th Parallel, Arnica Quartet, Tuesday, November 13, The Old Church, Portland: Mendelssohn’s exuberant Octet is certainly the greatest music composed by a teenager and no matter how many times you hear it — and Portlanders have been fortunate to have several recent opportunities — never loses its capacity to enchant. Along with that classic, in this benefit for Portland’s all-classical public radio station, these two fine Portland ensembles also perform a pair of much less often heard eight-piecers by Max Bruch and another teenager, Dmitri Shostakovich.

Ensemble Primo Seicento, Sunday November 11, First Methodist Church, Eugene: This group of Oregon early music specialists plays music of the early Italian Baroque by Monteverdi, Frescobaldi and others.

World Beats

From Indonesia to Portland,” Venerable Showers of Beauty Gamelan, Saturday, November 10, Evans Auditorium, Lewis & Clark College:
Full disclosure — I play and sing in this orchestra of Javanese classical and contemporary music, but I can’t let that stop me from alerting music fans to a rare opportunity to hear a distinguished composer from  Java, Pak Aloysius Suwardi, lead the group in performances of several of his 21st century works for voices and percussion ensemble. Unlike traditional Javanese classical music, which is also on the program, Suwardi’s music is heavily influenced by the very different Balinese musical tradition, which was a major influence on Steve Reich’s sound and “Music for 18” in particular; Reich even studied Balinese music with gamelans in Berkeley and Seattle in the early 1970s. It’s fast, flashy, and fun for listeners and players alike. The concert also features another Javanese musical legend who now teaches at the University of California at Berkeley, former Lewis & Clark college music professor Midiyanto, and members of Seattle’s Gamelan Pacifica (which co-sponsored Suwardi’s residency), including the superb gamelan and new music soprano singer Jessika Kenney.


Meduri Srinivas and Pantula Rama, Sunday, November 11, Lincoln Hall, Portland State University: Portland’s Rasika Indian music and dance presenting organization brings together  veena, violin and vocal virtuosos to perform classical South Indian music.

Here’s more of Third Angle playing Steve Reich’s music, from Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Oregon ArtBeat show.


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