Weekend MusicWatch: Season endings

Carlos Kalmar leads the Oregon Symphony's closing concerts Sunday and Monday

Last (in the season program) but not least, the Oregon Symphony closes a splendid year with Sunday and Monday night performances at Arlene Schnitzer concert hall of a major 21st century work: the cinematic City Noir by Berkeley based John Adams, probably today’s leading orchestral composer. In 2009, I saw Gustavo Dudamel lead the Los Angeles Philharmonic through a bustling performance of this jazzy, quintessentially LA work, inspired by noirish writers Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy plus films like Chinatown, LA Confidential and Mulholland Drive. It’s a real delight, capturing the postwar boom megalopolis’s mixture of glamour and corruption, so sweet, full and ripe that it’s just starting to smell a little putrid. “The music,” Adams wrote, “should have the slightly disorienting effect of of a very crowded boulevard peopled with strange characters, lie those of a David Lynch film — the kind who only come out very late on a very hot night.” The enlarged orchestra will also play Adams’s orchestration of Franz Liszt’s The Black Gondola.

As delicious as City Noir is, though, it’s hard to upstage the concert- and season-closing piece, the electrifying music from Igor Stravinsky’s 1913 ballet The Rite of Spring, the work that really ignited 20th century music and remains one of the most powerful works in all of music, the piece that proved that music doesn’t have to be beautiful to be great. After nearly a century, it still sounds new and dangerous. And after hearing the orchestra once again demonstrate its recent mastery of drama, tension and tone color in last week’s concerts featuring works by Benjamin Britten, Tchaikovsky and Jean Sibelius, I know it’s primed to tackle this ever-riveting classic. This isn’t just your last chance to hear one of the best orchestras in the west play classical music this season — it’s also the best.

We’ve already told you about a few other highly recommended season-ending concerts this weekend. The last performance of Portland Opera’s Candide is Sunday at Keller Auditorium. On Saturday at Portland’s St. Mary’s Cathedral, Cappella Romana closes its 20th season with a terrific mixture of ancient and modern sounds: medieval Byzantine chants by St. John of Damascus combined with newly commissioned settings of the same texts by contemporary composers Robert Kyr, Ivan Moody, and others. And there’s more sacred music Sunday at Portland’s First Presbyterian Church when organist Michael Kleinschmidt plays Bach on the organ in the penultimate concert in the Celebration Works series’s tenth season.

Cappella Romana sings old and new music Saturday

There’s more Baroque music on tap in Eugene Sunday at First Methodist Church when cellist Joanna Blendulf (familiar to Portland Baroque Orchestra fans) and organist Julia Brown play works by several Bachs and more. And more medieval music at Eugene’s Central Lutheran Church when the welcome new early music ensemble Vox Resonat, led by UO prof and Sequentia vet Eric Mentzel, sings music dedicated to Virgin Mary (a common May theme for at least a millennium) and composed from the 12th through 15 th centuries.

Portlanders have a choice of several choral concerts in city churches this weekend. Bach Cantata Choir sings Byrd, Bach and more at Rose City Park Presbyterian Church. Cantico sings mostly pop numbers with a few classical tunes thrown in at the secular Old Church Friday. Consonare Chorale sings folk, gospel and Irish music — accompanied by step dancers from the Comerford School Saturday at First Congregational Church. Portland Peace Choir praises Mother Earth Saturday at St. David of Wales Episcopal Church, and the excellent Portland State University Chamber Choir sings Russian, Estonian and other music Sunday at St. Philip Neri Church. Speaking of choirs, congrats to University of Portland prof David De Leyser, who last week was named music director of Portland’s Choral Arts Ensemble, succeeding the late Roger Doyle.

Guitar fans can hear former Portlander Alfredo Muro and guests perform music by Vivaldi, Albeniz, Boccherini and other composers including Muro himself Saturday at Marylhurst University, or choose London’s Claude Borbon at Hillsboro’s Walker Cultural Arts Center.

On Tuesday at Springfield’s Wildish Theater, fans of scaled-down sounds can hear Chamber Music Amici play music by Arthur Foote, Andre Jolivet and some of Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons music that the Oregon Symphony played earlier this month in an orchestration. Also on Tuesday, Portland chamber music fans can hear Chris Greenman and Cary Lewis perform music by Beethoven, contemporary New York composer John Corigliano, and Richard Strauss Tuesday at the Old Church to benefit Wallace Medical Concern’s programs to provide health care to low income Portlanders and Greshamites. In another benefit, Portland jazz vets Bobby Torres, Soul Vaccination and others will  raise funds for jazz pianist and composer Mark Simon at Vie de Boheme wine bar Sunday. And speaking of benefits, readers who attended or saw our coverage of last month’s benefit concert for Portland singer and choir conductor Brian Tierney will be pleased to hear that the wounded singer has recovered so fast from his unexplained shooting that he’ll be singing in Resonance Ensemble‘s upcoming June 2 and 3 concerts. This spring really is shaping up to be a season of renewal.

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