Friday, July 31, 2009

Upcoming auditions for Vancouver Symphony (WA)

From the press release:

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra will hold open auditions for its upcoming 31st season on Saturday, September 26 and Sunday, September 27, 2009 from noon-6 pm at the VSO offices at 1220 Main Street, Suite 410 in downtown Vancouver, WA.

For a list of all pieces to be played, or more information, contact VSO Orchestra Manager Douglas Peebles at (503) 318-9137 or orchestramgr@vancouversymphony.org.

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra is a 70-member professional orchestra presenting outstanding guest artists and varied programs October through May in a six-concert season. The first concert of the season will be on Saturday, October 24 and Sunday, October 25 when Maestro Salvador Brotons returns for his nineteenth season as music director and conductor to Skyview Concert Hall, 1300 NW 139th Street, Vancouver.

Today's Birthdays

Norman Del Mar (1919-1994)
Steuart Bedford (1939)
Reinhard Goebel (1952)
Randall Davidson (1953)

and

Primo Levi (1919-1987)
J. K. Rowling (1965)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Linda Magee's "Bird Sheet Music" service


Linda Magee, executive director of Chamber Music Northwest and over-the-top bird lover, knows how to have some fun! This humorous photo is one in a series that Magee and Craig Fisk made that shows Magee taking/faking a phone order for some score of Stravinsky's "Firebird." The phoney bird is Casey, which Magee/Fisk adopted a few months ago. According to Magee, Casey is "19 years old, pretty docile and mostly very sweet."

For the complete humorous slide show, click here.

Today's Birthdays

Gerald Moore (1899-1987)
Meredith Davies (1922)
Moshe Atzmon (1931)
Paul Anka (1941)
Teresa Cahill (1944)
Alexina Louie (1949)
Christopher Warren-Green (1955)

and

Emily Brontë (1818 - 1848)
Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929)
Henry Moore (1898-1986)
William Gass (1924)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pianist Susan Chan to play at the Chinese Garden


Pianist Susan Chan will be perform on Tuesday (August 4) at 7:30 pm at the Chinese Gardens. This concert is part of the Twilight Series at the Portland Classic Chinese Garden. Chan's East-West program will consist of works by Doming Lam, Somei Satoh, Alexina Louie, Tan Dun, Franck, Chopin, and Liszt.

For more information (including ticket prices) about Chan and her program, click here.

Alicia DiDonato Paulsen to give free recital at The Old Church


Alicia DiDonato Paulsen, the fabulous assistant principal flutist with the Oregon Symphony, will give a free recital on Tuesday (August 11th) over the noon hour at The Old Church. On the program is music by Gaubert, Bach, Feld, and Gandolfi. Pianist Susan DeWitt Smith will accompany Paulsen.

Here's some background information about Paulsen:

Paulsen is originally from Stoneham, Massachusetts. Prior to joining the Oregon Symphony, Ms. Paulsen had a long and varied freelancing career in Boston, where she was the flutist for Boston Musica Viva, Radius Ensemble, NotaRiotous (Boston Microtonal Society’s chamber ensemble), and Prana (a soprano/flute duo with acclaimed singer Jennifer Ashe). She was a member of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Opera Boston, and Firebird Ensemble, and frequently appeared with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops. A former member of the New World Symphony, Ms. Paulsen has twice been a Tanglewood Music Center fellow and has also participated in the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, Musical Spring in St. Petersburg (Russia), Costa Rica Music, and the Rockport Chamber Music Festival. She is the former flutist for both the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble and the Remix Ensemble (Porto, Portugal), and was a 2005 New Fromm Player at Tanglewood. Ms. Paulsen's chamber music collaborations include appearances with the Emerson String Quartet and the Borromeo String Quartet. Additionally, she has appeared as concerto soloist with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Santa Fe Symphony, the New World Symphony, and New England Conservatory's Wind Ensemble and Sinfonietta.

Today's Birthdays

Sigmund Romberg (1887-1951)
Charles Farncombe (1919-2006)
Avet Terterian (1929-1994)
Mikis Theodorakis (1925)
Peter Schreier (1935)
Bernd Weikl (1942)
Olga Borodina (1963)

and

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)
Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006)
Paul Taylor (1930)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oregon Arts Commission and Oregon Cultural Trust award millions in grants

The Oregon Arts Commission and the Oregon Cultural Trust have handed out a lot of money lately to a variety of non-profits connected with the arts, humanities, and heritage.

Arts Commission operating support, $1,087,000
Arts Commission stimulus funding, with NEA funds: $306,700
Direct stimulus grants, in Oregon, from the NEA, $350,000 (included OAC's stimulus announcement)
Oregon Cultural Trust, $1,452,030

Here's the run down on grants given to organizations that present classical music:

Ashland

Chamber Music Concerts, $5,000
Operating Support: To support the 2009‐10 season including 12 concerts and master classes, convocations, lectures/performances and school programs.

Rogue Valley Symphony Association, $4,000
Operating Support: To support the 41st season in Ashland, Grants Pass and Medford; a December candlelight concert; and concerts for 3,000 elementary students from Medford, Grants Pass and Ashland school districts.

Bend

Sunriver Music Festival Inc, $3,500
Operating Support: To support the festival’s annual two‐week summer concert series, featuring a world‐class orchestra and prestigious soloists, plus a November to May series.

Corvallis

Corvallis Youth Symphony Association, $4,000
Arts Learning: To support string classes for 3rd‐5th grade students in the Corvallis School District, and a 6th grade orchestra at one middle school. Students perform two public concerts per year, in addition to performances at school assemblies and community events.

Eugene

Eugene Concert Choir, $4,000
Operating Support: To support the 90‐voice masterworks chorus, as well as a chamber choir and the Eugene Vocal Arts Ensemble.

Eugene Opera, $12,000
To support the Donor Expansion and Stabilization (DOCS) project, which includes acquiring software to track donors and prospects; development of an electronic newsletter; a website re-design; and the hiring of a professional telemarketing service.

Eugene Symphony Association Inc, $7,000
For a Youth Concert series at the Hult Center, reaching elementary, middle and high school students within a 75-mile radius of Eugene.

Eugene Symphony Association Inc, $40,000
Operating Support: To support the 44th season including concerts at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts; school and community‐based education and outreach programs; professional artist development programs; and regional radio broadcasts.

Oregon Bach Festival, $10,000
To support musicians’ broadcast fees and enable eight Bach Festival 2009 concerts to be heard on radio worldwide.

Oregon Bach Festival, $12,000
Operating Support: To support the festival which presents more than fifty performances, educational programs and community events featuring world‐class artists in Eugene and Portland.

Oregon Mozart Players, $5,000
To expand audience by hiring a noted orchestra marketing consultant. The project focuses on experience-enriching strategies, successfully implemented at dozens of orchestras across the country, to attract and retain new concert-goers. This marketing initiative includes knowledge-sharing and collaboration with other Eugene-based arts organizations.

Oregon Mozart Players, $5,000
Operating Support: To support the 2009‐10 season with performances at the Hult Center, other venues in Eugene/Springfield and run‐out concerts to other Oregon cities.

The John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts, $16,000
Operating Support: To support year‐round programming, including two concert series of more than 125 concerts across a wide variety of genres, and a community music school for more than 500 students.

Medford

Peter Britt Gardens Music & Arts Festival Association, $8,000
Operating Support: To support the outdoor concert series featuring over 40 performances in a variety of genres. Now in its 47th season, Britt also offers arts learning through pre‐concert lectures, summer talent development camps and a daily classical music listening program in area public schools.

Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon, $6,000
Operating Support: To support the 2009‐10 season providing young musicians from Jackson, Josephine and Klamath counties with training and performance opportunities.

Newport

Newport Symphony Orchestra, $3,500
Operating Support: To support the only full‐time professional symphony on the Oregon coast during the 2009‐10 concert season.

Pendleton

Oregon East Symphony, $5,000
Operating Support: To support the 2009‐10 season including five public concerts, two youth concerts, a community Christmas Concert and musical education opportunities for rural youth.

Portland

Cappella Romana Vocal Ensemble, $8,000
Operating Support: To support a professional concert season of music inspired by Byzantium, Russian and western European classical music.

Chamber Music Northwest, $16,000
Operating Support: To support the 39th season of concerts and educational activities in Portland, including the Summer Festival series of 26 concerts in five weeks, with pre‐concert discussions, open rehearsals and outreach performances.

Columbia Symphony Orchestra, $4,000
Operating Support: To support the season of subscription concerts in downtown Portland and the Metro area, as well as Meet the Beat, an education and accessibility program for children and their families.

Ethos Music Center, $18,000
Operating Support: To support education and outreach programs, including the Music Corps, an urban outreach program placing music educators in schools and community centers; Music Lessons for Kids, in‐house music education programs, and Music Across Oregon, a rural outreach program.

Friends of Chamber Music, $10,000
Operating Support: To support the sixth longest‐running chamber music series in the nation, including the Classic Series, the Not So Classic Series, the Vocal Arts Series, and an educational outreach program.

MetroArts Inc., $3,000
Operating Support: To support a competitive training program and performances by the region’s most gifted young musicians, and a summer camp for children ages 7‐12 that offers instruction in music, dance, visual arts and theater.

Oregon Symphony Association, $18,000
Operating Support: To support the symphony’s 2009‐10 season featuring 15 classical concerts, a four‐program Pops Series, two outdoor concerts, and the Community Music Partnership.

Oregon Symphony Association, $8,500
Arts Learning: To support the Community Music Partnership in Tillamook, a project designed to help rural communities create and implement music education programs by utilizing symphony resources to connect to local assets.

Pacific Youth Choir, $5,000
Operating Support: To support the choir’s seven choruses of singers age 6‐19, performing a broad range of choral literature.

Portland Baroque Orchestra, $18,000
Operating Support: To support the 2009‐2010 season of 28 performances of eight programs in Portland and the mid‐Willamette Valley.

Portland Chamber Orchestra, $6,000
Operating Support: To support the 2009‐2010 season of concerts, in Portland and Hillsboro.

Portland Festival Symphony, $3,000
To celebrate Joseph Haydn’s 200th anniversary by performing five free concerts of his music in Portland parks during August 2009.

Portland Opera Association, $25,000
To produce the Northwest premiere of Phillip Glass’ Orphée, an adaptation of Cocteau’s 1949 movie that is a psychological retelling of the Orpheus myth through the world of dreams and the subconscious.

Portland Opera Association, $28,000
Operating Support: To support the 2009‐10 season including four main stage and four chamber operas, plus education and outreach programs including Portland Opera to Go and the Portland Opera Studio Artists program.

Portland Piano International, $9,000
Operating Support: To support the recital series, featuring six world renowned pianists performing two recitals, and a week long summer festival featuring 8‐10 pianists in over 20 recitals, master classes, workshops, lectures and films.

Portland Symphonic Choir, $4,000
Operating Support: To support the work of the choir for the Oregon Symphony, as well as its performances of choral masterworks and new commissions.

Portland Symphonic Girlchoir, $5,000
Operating Support: To support the 2009‐10 season of training and performance opportunities in choral music.

Portland Youth Philharmonic Association, $5,000
To strengthen young musician leadership at PYP. Project components include communications and musical training for principal musicians and section leaders; expansion of chamber music opportunities for more players; and expanded outreach to schools through the chamber music program.

Portland Youth Philharmonic Association, $10,000
Operating Support: To support 2009‐10 activities that include pre‐professional training and performances for young musicians in four ensembles: the Philharmonic Orchestra, Conservatory Orchestra, the Young String Ensemble and Wind Ensemble.

For the Oregon Arts Commission web site, click here.

Today's Birthdays

Rudy Vallée (1901-1986)
Frank Loesser (1910-1969)
Kenneth Alwyn (1925)
Riccardo Muti (1941)

and

Ludwig A Feuerbach (1804-1872)
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
Beatrix Potter (1866-1843)
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)
Malcolm Lowry (1909-1957)
John Ashbery (1927)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Chamber Music Northwest closes summer festival with some fireworks and a fond farewell


Elmar Oliveira did it again. On Sunday afternoon (July 26) the virtuoso violinist lifted the spirits of the Chamber Music Northwest audience at Kaul Auditorium with a galvanizing performance of Ernst Bloch’s “Baal Shem,” Three Pictures of Hassidic Life for Violin and Strings. As if he were a rhapsodic cantor, Oliveira weaved a tale of lamentation that plumped the depths of the human spirit before erupting in spasms of joy. His backup band, an ensemble that consisted of violinists Kyu-Young Kim and Min-Young Kim, violist Melissa Reardon, cellist Raman Ramakrishnan, and double bassist Peter Lloyd, contributed superbly to the overall effect, especially when the sound almost throbbed with melancholy. A standing ovation immediately followed this fantastic performance, and Oliveira had a smile on his face that could’ve beamed for miles.

Another terrific performance occurred right at the beginning of the concert with oboist Allan Vogel as featured performer in Mozart’s Quartet in F Major for Oboe, Violin, Viola, and Cell, K. 370 (K. 368b). Vogel’s maintained a sound that was pure gold while hitting all sorts of impossibly high notes or running over treacherously fast passages or while increasing the volume over a long period of time. It was fairly astounding, and he seemed to play a lot of the music with his eyes closed. In any case, Vogel’s supporting ensemble (violinist Benny Kim, violist Toby Appel, and cellist Raman Ramakrishnan) were outstanding as well, and their performance received a standing ovation as well.

It was harder to get a grip on Carl Nielson’s “Serenata-Invano” for Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Cello, and Double Bass. Sometimes the music sounded forlorn and at other times it was jaunty and almost happy-go-lucky and at the end it seemed more like a waltz. Although the normally impeccable Milan Turkovic had some trouble with his bassoon during one of the speedy phrases, his colleagues (clarinetist David Shifrin, hornist William Purvis, cellist Raman Ramakrishnan, and double bassist Peter Lloyd) seemed to negotiate their passages with alacrity. The audience rewarded the ensemble with sustained applause.

In the next piece, Richard Strauss’ “Till Eulenspiegel Einmal Anders!” in an arrangement by Franz Hasenohrl it was Purvis who had problems with the high notes on his horn at the beginning. By missing those notes, it took longer for the ensemble to win over the audience, despite some fine playing by Purvis and his colleagues (Benny Kim, Shifrin, Turkovic, and Lloyd). The story of the merry prankster still came through with jocularity and the ensemble received appreciative applause.

The concert concluded with Haydn’s Symphony No. 45 (“Farewell”) in F-Sharp Minor for Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Two Violins, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass in an arrangement by Ulf-Guido Schaefer. The first movement was exciting with its sudden bursts of energy. The second conveyed soft elegance. The third was deliciously lively, and the fourth showed off verve and drive until the big break and the final slow coda where the musicians began to leave the stage one by one until only the violins were left to finish the piece.

With violinists Min-Young Kim and Kyu-Young Kim, violist Melissa Reardon, cellist Raman Ramakrishnan, double bassist Peter Lloyd, hornist William Purvis, bassoonist Milan Turkovic, and clarinetist David Shifrin, Haydn’s masterpiece received an outstanding performance and a standing ovation as well.

Today's Birthdays

Enrique Granados (1867-1916)
Ernő Dohnanyi (1877-1960)
Igor Markevitch (1912-1983)
Mario del Monaco (1915-1982)
Carol Vaness (1952)

and

Joseph Mitchell (1908-1996)
Elizabeth Hardwick (1916-2007)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tchaikovsky sextet brings down the house at Chamber Music Northwest concert

(Photo of Elmar Oliveria by Tucker Densley)

Tchaikovsky really knew how to create a barn burner when he wrote the String Sextet in D Minor “Souvenir de Florence,” Op. 70, and it really brought down the house at Thursday (July 23) evening’s Chamber Music Northwest concert. Even the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s gem, which started in electrifying fashion, succeeded to build tension, and then concluded with whirling dervish panache, took everyone’s breath away. I could actually hear the audience at Kaul Auditorium, which was filled to the brim, inhale collectively.

The six players on stage (violinists Elmar Oliveria and Benny Kim, violists Toby Appel and Melissa Reardon, cellists Raman Ramakrishnan and Hamilton Cheifetz) also excelled with their playing of nimble pizzicati passages, gorgeous melodies, lush chords, dashing runs, and whatever else Tchaikovsky threw their way. Twice in the fourth movement, they suddenly arrived at the same unison note and then flew away from each other like birds scatter to the winds. The very fast dance that concluded the piece caused the audience to jump to its feet and roar with approval. I’m sure that many audience members immediately thought of adding “Souvenir de Florence” to their collections if they didn’t have it already.

The concert began with Haydn’s String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 20, No. 5, which was performed by the Daedalus Quartet (violinists Min-Young Kim and Kyu-Young Kim, violist Melissa Reardon, and cellist Raman Ramakrishman). I liked the warm sound of this ensemble and how they pulled back the volume especially on passages that were repeats. Impressive also were Min-Young Kim’s plaintive sound in the second movement and her filigree which was juxtaposed with a lovely melody by her colleagues in the third. The faster but somewhat understated playing of the final movement rounded out Haydn’s music in fine fashion, and the ensemble received sustained applause from the audience.

Hornist William Purvis got a real workout in Mozart’s Quintet in E-Flat Major for Horn, Violin, and Two Violas. I loved the way that he could create a mellifluous sound despite jumping octaves and darting all over the place with ease. Aside from a couple of bobbled notes, it was peerless playing by Purvis. And his colleagues (violinist Benny Kim, violists Toby Appel and Melissa Reardon, and cellist Hamilton Cheifetz) supported Purvis with rich tones and a superb performance. Reardon, in particular, was very animated and looked like she was enjoying the collaborative music-making to the hilt. I’m sure that Mozart would’ve approved.

Today's Birthdays

Serge Koussevitsky (1874-1951)
Tadeusz Baird (1928-1981)
Alexis Weissenberg (1929)
Anthony Gilbert (1934)
Roger Smalley (1943)
Angela Hewitt (1958)
Mick Jagger (1943)

and

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Carl Jung (1875-1961)
Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973)
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Today's Birthdays

Alfredo Casella (1883-1946)
Maureen Forrester (1930)

and

Elias Canetti (1905-1994)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Elizabeth Harcombe talks about the art of page turning


Elizabeth Harcombe grew up in Roseburg, Oregon where she began playing piano at the age of 5. She was the pianist at the church where her mother served as organist. Harcombe studied music at Biola University and later got a Master of Music Education degree with an emphasis in piano pedagogy from University of Oklahoma. Harcombe has served as the rehearsal pianist at the Oregon Bach Festival for Helmut Rilling and for the Oregon Repertory Singers under Gil Seeley. She currently teaches piano at Lewis and Clark College and is the program and operations director at Chamber Music Northwest. She joined the staff at Chamber Music Northwest in 2006 and has been turning pages for visiting pianists ever since.

Do you like to turn pages?

Harcombe: Yes, I love to turn pages. I began “turning” while in Canada where I was studying piano but not allowed to work. I’m never nervous turning pages. Every musician I talk to is completely freaked out about turning pages, but for me, page turning is a natural thing because I’m a strong sight reader. You do a lot of sight reading as a page turner. I guess I could take the time to study the score, but it’s more fun to see it all go by on the stage.

You mean, you don’t attend the rehearsals?

Harcombe: No. I just show up a few minutes before going on stage and take a look at the score. Sometimes the pianist tells me of something that needs special attention like a repeat that goes back four pages. But every pianist has their own style about how they want a page to be turned. Some arrive and their scores are completely marked in the exact place where they want you to turn the page. One pianist uses a red pen with a line followed by an arrow. And that line is the exact place where I should turn the page. So there’s never a question. With other pianists it’s getting to know them and their styles. Anne Marie McDermott removes the music stand and places her score inside the piano. I sit on a stool and reach into the piano to turn. Fortunately, she folds the bottom corner of the score and inserts it in between the tuning pins so that it doesn’t fly around. Turning pages for her can be more of a challenge.

How many concerts do you turn pages for at Chamber Music Northwest?

Harcombe: We have 25 concerts in a season and I turn pages for close to 20 of them. My favorite comment is when audience members come up to me and say “You’re the page turner; you must read music.”

[Laughter]

Is there a rule of thumb regarding how far you sit away from the piano and the pianists to turn pages?


Harcombe:
My philosophy, in the job of the page turner, is to provide a sense of calm in what is typically a high-pressure situation. I don’t know how nervous our artists get, but I would gather that there are some nerves on stage. The last thing I need to do is heighten the nervous energy. I want to stay as calm as possible. I try to stay back as far as I can.

I really have to pay attention regarding what is coming up. Are there low bass notes coming up? I have to be careful if I reach over to turn a page when they are coming down the keyboard or we might have a collision. I have long arms, so that helps. So the fun comes in anticipating the turn. A slow movement or a fast movement will help you determine when you are going to stand. You don’t want to stand too early during an adagio passage and then have to hold that position. So I want to find the most appropriate time to stand, and I don’t want to draw attention to myself.

Anything ever catch you off-guard?

Harcombe: One time Anne Marie McDermott was preparing herself at the keyboard to play a piece with an ensemble, and under her breath said to me, “Nice pedicure.” That’s part of the fun of being on stage. You get to see and hear some things that the audience can’t.

Once I was turning pages for an older pianist at a recording session. He was at the age where, when he sat down, the muscles needed to sit didn’t work so well, and he would begin to sit and then just plop to the bench. Well, there was a certain part in the piece that this pianist was playing where he had to get up and reach into the piano and strum the strings a little bit. And he wore fairly large glasses. So, he stood up and strummed the strings, but on his way to sit back down his glasses got caught on the music stand. I knew that there was going to be a plop and that he might take down the music stand as well. So, I quickly shifted over and put my arms around his waist and held him there while he detached his glasses from the music stand. Then he sat back down. It was a funny moment, but it worked!

It must be interesting to watch how different pianists play really difficult passages.

Harcombe: I feel like every time I’m on stage, I’m getting a lesson: the different styles of playing, how pianists listen to ensembles and interact. I get to turn for pianists a lot, and often it’s for the same pianists over the years. So I get to see how they change. Shai Wosner seems to be showing more physical expression in his style of playing than in previous years. So, I’ve become a better pianist as a result of turning pages for Chamber Music Northwest.

So now when you go to a concert that has a page turner, do you pay attention to him or her?


Harcombe: Yes! I’m critiquing page turners all the time. I can’t help myself.

Are there any general guidelines for page turners?

Harcombe: You can’t rely on a pianist to cue you with a nod, because sometimes that is just an emotional gesture at a certain point in the music and not an indication of when to turn a page. I try to get into the music with them. Sometimes they will tell me beforehand that later is better. Don’t turn the page early, wait as long as possible. They might have the first few measures of the next page memorized.

Typically there’s something about page turning that I have a feel for; so I get it figured out right away. I somehow get in sync with the needs of the pianist.

There are some little things that you have to take into consideration, like the quality of the paper. I like to check the page numbers as I turn the pages to make sure that I’m turning only one at a time. The page numbers are easiest to check when they are printed at the top rather than at the bottom. But the cheapest editions sometimes have no page numbers at all. That can be a challenge.

How do you turn pages for a new music piece that may have no bar lines or usual ways to measure where you are?

Harcombe: With contemporary music, in my opinion, it’s all about watching the gesture. You don’t count. It’s looking at the score like a piece of art. You are watching shapes go by, rather than individual notes or measures.

This year at Chamber Music Northwest , you played a piece, Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue for Piano, Four Hands” with pianist Anna Polonsky.

Harcombe: Yes, and I had my own page turner, Gregory Dubay! That was really great! I hadn’t had a page turner in a long time. The piano four hands score has the primo part on one side and the secondo on the other. So you are just reading one page at a time, which is kind of tricky, because the page turner can only read one page and he or she is standing all the time since the music flies by so quickly.

What are you doing after Chamber Music Northwest finishes up this summer?

Harcombe: I’m going to Music from Angel Fire in New Mexico, which is Ida Kavafian’s festival, and am turning pages there. Ida’s administrative assistant took a job as Daniel Barenboim’s assistant and so I will be filling her shoes as well as turning pages in the concerts.

Would you consider doing page turning full time?

Harcombe:
Yes! That would be my dream job. But I’d probably have to move to New York City to make that happen.

Today's Birthdays

Adolphe Charles Adam (1803-1856)
Ernest Bloch (1880-1959)
Robert Farnon (1917-2005)
Ruggiero Ricci (1918)
Guiseppe de Stefano (1921-2008)
Wilfred Josephs (1927-1997)
Peter Serkin (1947)
Philippe Hurel (1955)

and

Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870)
Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?)
Robert Graves (1895-1985)
Frank Wedekind (1864-1918)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bassoon buffoonery balances out Haydn and Bach


The bassoon is often associated with humor and whether that is just or unjust doesn’t matter, because even bassoonists seem to revel in the comical aspects of their chosen instrument. So, several bassoon pieces in the second half of the Chamber Music Northwest concert (July 21) at Catlin Gabel caused lots of chuckles. But the tongue-in-cheek quality of the bassoon music did not obscure the virtuosic performances by the bassoonists involved. Led by globe-trotting bassoon soloist Milan Turkovic, the bassoon numbers in Tuesday evening’s concert had an ample amount of buffoonery and were performed superbly.

The bassoon-laden bravura got off to a terrific start with Conradin Kreutzer’s “Der Todte Fagott” (“The Dead Bassoon”), a humorous piece for baritone, bassoon, and piano. Kreutzer (1780-1849) apparently wrote at least 50 operas, and “Der Todte Fagott” has a lot of operatic flavor. The story tells the sound of a bassoon causes a father to murder his daughter, the daughter’s zither-playing suitor, and the suitor’s bassoon-tooting sidekick.

In this performance, baritone Randall Scarlata collaborated wonderfully with bassoonist Milan Turkovic, and pianist Thomas Sauer to milk every drop of humor from this piece. Turkovic’s did marvelous word painting with his bassoon, from imitating a galloping horse and to creating the sound of a ghost. The bassoon gets the last word by taking revenge on the father, but I wonder what happened to the zither.

Next came “Meeelaan” for Bassoon and String Quartet, which was written by Wynton Marsalis for Turkovic. The Miró Quartet (violinists Daniel Ching and Tereza Stanislavk, violist John Largess, and cellist Joshua Gindele) joined Turkovic to create the bluesy/jazzy meanderings of this piece, which has three movements entitled Blues, Tango, and Be-Bop. I really liked how Turkovic could blow two or more notes at the same time and his riffs while the strings suspended the sound.

“Meeelaan” was followed by four piece for bassoon quartet. The battery of bassoons consisted of Turkovic, Julie Feves, Mark Eubanks, and Keith Buncke. It should be noted that Buncke at age 15 is somewhat of a bassoon prodigy. He will be attending Aspen this summer and continue his studies at Interlachen.

The foursome began with Peter Schickele’s “Last Tango in Bayreuth,” a sly and funny piece that slides between themes from Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” and the Act III Prelude to “Lohengrin.” The leisurely tempo and lounge sound created an intoxicatingly humorous mood that would’ve lingered into next week if it wasn’t for the next piece, Prokofiev’s “Scherzo Humoristique.” The dexterity and supple playing of quartet was very impressive as the quartet negotiated fast passage. At one point, the clicking of multiple keys, which added a tap-dance effect to the overall sound.

The quartet also performed Pat Ballard’s “Mr. Sandman” in an arrangement by Georg ter Voert, Sr. and Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol’s “Caravan” in an arrangement by Mark Eubanks. I especially enjoyed the chime-like and schmaltzy atmosphere of “Mr. Sandman” and the witty quality of “Caravan” in which Eubanks fitted in asides to “Beethoven’s 9th,” “Bolero,” and, I think, “Scheherazade” and probably a couple of other pieces.

In first half the concert, Bach’s Cantata No. 82,”Ich habe genug” provided a sharp contrast in mood and content with the bassoon bravura in the second half. The text of this piece tells the thoughts of someone who is tired of the world and longs for death in Christ. I would’ve liked to have heard more of Scarlata’s expressive and smooth baritone, but the instrumentalists (the Miró Quartet, oboist Allan Vogel, double bassist Curtis Daily, and harpsichordist John Gibbons) couldn’t restrain their volume. Their sound – especially Vogel’s rich oboe – was drop-dead gorgeous, but less of it would’ve helped us to get more involved in Scarlata’s beautiful singing.

The Miró Quartet opened the concert with a polished performance of Haydn’s String Quartet in F Major (OP. 74, No. 2). The grace and elegance of the music came to the forefront through the ensemble’s deft playing. In particular, the quick pace of the last movement nicely exposed the nimbleness of each musician – led by sweet sound from Ching’s violin.

Today's Birthdays

Franz Berwald (1796-1868)
Francesco Cilea (1866-1950)
Leon Fleisher (1928)
Bernard Roberts (1933)
Maria João Pires (1944)
Susan Graham (1960)

and

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959)
Vikram Chandra (1961)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Stephanie Blythe and François Racine named Seattle Opera Artists of the Year


Stephanie Blythe in Aida, 2008 © Rozarii Lynch Photo
François Racine, 2009 © Bill Mohn Photo

Last week, Seattle Opera announced that the company’s 2008/09 Artists of the Year awards went to mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe for performing the role of Amneris in Verdi’s "Aida" in August 2008, and to François Racine for his stage direction of Seattle Opera’s double bill of Bartók’s "Bluebeard’s Castle" with Schoenberg’s "Erwartung" in February and March, 2009. Seattle Opera has selected an artist of the year since 1991, and in 2004 it decided to give the award to two types of artists: the singer and the other a conductor, director, or designer.

For an interesting interview with Stephanie Blythe, click here.

Final Summer Sings with Portland Symphonic Choir

Tonight Ralph Nelson will direct an open rehearsal of works by Bach during the third and final week of "Summer Sings" with members of the Portland Symphonic Choir. Nelson is the conductor of the Bach Cantata Choir and of the choir at First Immanuel Lutheran Church.

The rehearsal will feature a chronological look at the vocal music of Johann Sebastian Bach -- from his early cantatas to his crowning achievement in the Mass in B Minor. The evening includes excerpts from the Christmas Oratorio, the B Minor Mass, the St. John Passion, and various cantatas.

So flex your vocal chords on Bach at 7 pm in the Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building on the Cascade Campus of Portland Community College (at the corner of Killingsworth and Albina). Also, the Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building is airconditioned. The seating is comforable, and you get good sight-lines.

Admission is $10 per person at the door, and scores are provided.

Parking is free.

Today's Birthdays

Hans Rosbaud (1895-1962)
Licia Albanese (1913)
George Dreyfus (1928)
Ann Howard (1936)
Nigel Hess (1953)
Eve Beglarian (1958)

and

Edward Hopper (1882-1967)
Raymond Chandler (1888-1959)
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Tom Robbins (1936)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Composer Jeff Winslow reflects on the Jeremy Denk concert

I talked with Jeff Winslow after the Jeremy Denk concert (July 18) at the Portland Piano International Summer Festival, and he volunteered a review. So here is his take on Denk's recital:

Extreme ambivalence - that was my mood as Jeremy Denk's Saturday evening performance at the Portland Piano Festival approached. On the one hand, I was sorely disappointed at the program change. The original program was a near ideal melding of classic, romantic, and contemporary works, crammed with personal favorites from each period. The replacement program was restricted to a work I'd never heard - Ives's first piano sonata - and that magnificent warhorse, the Goldberg Variations. Yet I was sure, from his performance of Ives's Concord Sonata two years ago at the Festival, that the Ives would be brilliant, even definitive, and surely such a capable pianist would have something new to say about the Goldbergs.

I'm happy to report that my disappointment ended for good with the first few notes Mr. Denk struck in the Ives sonata. As in his Concord Sonata performance, he astonished with a barely imaginable combination of athleticism, passion, and over all, clarity. Presumably, like the Concord, this sonata has no pedal indications. In such a complex and many-layered work, this places the pianist almost in the role of compositional partner, and Denk once again handled that role with absolute assurance and great success. The audience seemed to agree - despite the often thorny language of the piece - they responded with an appreciative roar after the last notes had died away.

The Goldberg Variations kept the fire burning brightly through the second half. An outstanding feature of the performance was the often dramatic tempo contrast between succeeding variations, and the way in which Mr. Denk chose to repeat one or both halves of each variation individually to propel that drama. The fastest variations (and some, without losing any clarity, were spectacularly fast) rarely included repetition, but the slowest ones generally had both halves repeated. In others, only the first half was repeated. Despite this unconventional procedure, I found myself convinced by all his decisions, with the exception of the final variation, the quodlibet, in which the density of the thematic material cries out for repetition. I was especially pleased that the lovely if unfortunately numbered 13th variation was lovingly repeated in its entirety, as indeed it fully deserves. If any of this structuring was resented by the audience, one could hardly tell, since again, after respectfully allowing the last sounds to die away, they enthusiastically acclaimed the pianist. I enthusiastically joined them.

Sun Valley Summer Symphony starts next week - Deborah Voigt and other artists in free concerts


Now in its 25th year, the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, led by music director Alasdair Neale, will present a number of free concerts with top-tier artists, starting with Jon Nakamatsu in a chamber music concert on Monday, July 27th and ending with Beethoven's 9th Symphony on August 18th. Other featured artists include Orli Shaham, Horacio Gutiérrez, Vadim Gluzman, Eric Kunzel, the Utah Symphony Chorus, and Deborah Voigt. Voigt will sing a program of Wagner, Verdi, Mascagni, and Giordano on August 18th. Click here for details.

Today's Birthdays

Anton Kuerti (1938)
Isaac Stern (1920-2001)
Cat Stevens (1948)
Margaret Ahrens (1950)

and

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
Garry Trudeau (1948)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Anderson & Roe = sensational duo piano concert


If you ever have the pleasure of attending a Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe concert, be sure to sit on stage. That’s where I took a seat during Sunday afternoon’s concert at the World Forestry Center where Anderson and Roe held forth just few feet away from me. They gave an electrifying performance that swept the audience into a cheering mass of humanity, making a strong case that playing piano is the most fun thing that two people could ever do together.

I got to share the stage (so to speak) with Anderson and Roe, because the concert was sold out, and they told the presenters, Portland Piano International, that they actually like some audience members on stage. The few of us who took up their offer were rewarded with a close-up view of two piano virtuosos who were totally in sync with each other. From the first piece of the recital, an Anderson & Roe arrangement of Saint-Saëns “Dance macabre,” to the last, an Anderson & Roe ragtimey arrangement of Mozart’s “Rondo alla turca,” the two pianists played as if they were one person. Whether they were racing up and down the keyboard pell mell, lingering with dreaminess over a slow passage, or executing precise cutoffs, they were always together artistically and technically, and the overall effect was astounding and a total pleasure to hear.

For most of the pieces, Anderson and Roe played opposite each other on Steinway grands, and once in a while I could hear one of them use a sharp intake of breath as a signal to start after they had reached a dramatic pause or break in the piece that they were playing. But for the most part they seemed to rely on some kind of innate and artistic sense to determine when they would play and when they would release notes at the end of a particular passage or movement. It was quite stunning to witness them do this several times as they played Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” By using two pianos, Anderson and Roe could traverse the full range of this technically demanding piece, and they really threw themselves into it with a wild abandonment that could’ve easily gone way out of bounds in the hands of lesser artists.

Impressive also was Anderson and Roe’s delicately shaped passages and seamless playing in their arrangements of “The Swan” from Saint-Saën’s “Carnival of the Animals” and “Erbarme Dich” from Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” (BWV 244). They also had a rollicking great time with their intense arrangement of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android,” giving it a smashing ending.

With their four-hands on one piano interpretation of “Vocalise” from Rachmaninoff’s “Fourteen Songs” (Op. 34, No. 14), Anderson and Roe redefined the sense of intimacy on the piano bench. It was a superbly choreographed work in which she cozied up to him, his arms were briefly around her shoulders, her hands were underneath his, his underneath hers, their hands were crisscrossing, and at it looked like they were playing footsie at the pedals.

The thunderous ovation at the end of the concert brought Anderson and Roe back on stage for two encores. The first was their sensual arrangement of Piazzolla’s “Libertango” and the second was a scintillating, glissando-ing rendition of Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance.”

Judging from the crowds of young people who were asking for their autographs after the concert, there will certainly be some attempts by their new fans to follow in their footsteps. But it also makes me wonder why so few pianists have tried to capture the public’s imagination in a similar way. Katia and Marielle Labèque are perhaps the most prominent duo in North America, but few other names come readily to mind. I don’t know how much literature has been published for piano duos, but the amount doesn’t seem to matter to Anderson and Roe because they are writing their own new pieces.

In any case, I hope that Anderson and Roe return to Portland soon, and I’ll be ready to sit on stage with them again.

Today's Birthdays

Vilém Tauský (1910-2004)
Michael Gielen (1927)
Nam June Paik (1932)
Hukwe Zawose (1938-2003)
Carlos Santana (1947)
Bob Priest (1951)

and

Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374)
Pavel Kohout (1928)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ives and Bach receive transcendent treatment from Denk


Jeremy Denk gave the concert of a lifetime on Saturday evening (July 18) as part of the recital series offered at the World Forestry Center as part of the Portland Piano International Summer Festival. This was a one of those rare performances that made this listener feel more alive, more aware, and more appreciative of everything in the world. And Denk accomplished this with a very demanding program (that he changed earlier in the week) that consisted of Ives’s Sonata No. and Bach “Goldberg Variations” (BWV 988).

Very few seats were still available when Denk came on stage and introduced the Ives’ Sonata with brief, yet incisive information about the themes in the piece. According to Denk, who picked up a score in the bargain rack a music store, this five-movement work loosely tells how a Connecticut farming family and its wayward son. Ives uses hymns like “I was a Wandering Sheep” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” to refer to mindset of the mother whose son had left the farm and embarked on his own pilgrimage, which apparently landed him in a dissipated state at a ragtime roadhouse.

I found Denk’s introduction to be very helpful in following the convolutions of Ives’ music. But even without the verbal program notes, it was easy to appreciate Denk’s evocative playing. He expressed turmoil, wistfulness, wildness, struggle, anguish, and a brief sense of enchantment. The explosive changes in mood – from aimless meanderings to violent turbulence – riveted the audience and built up the swirl of the story.

After intermission, Denk delivered a rapturous performance of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” one of the pinnacles of the piano repertoire. In Denk’s hands, each of the 30 variations of this piece created a jewel-like impression. Denk displayed terrific control and imagination as his traversed the soundscape of this work. His pianissimos whispered. His fortes sprang to attention. He made the music sing and, at times, speak to us with crisp diction. He easily made the music sound introverted and at other times extroverted. All in all, Denk brought the entire scope of Bach’s music to us in a way that elevated the senses.

I don’t know when Denk will return to Portland for his next concert, but I hope that we won’t have to wait too long. In the meantime, he is playing at the Seattle Chamber Music Festival from July 24 through July 31.

CD Review: Baadsvik plays 20th century Tuba Concerti


BIS Records recently released a compilation of tuba concerti by various 20th century composers featuring tuba specialist Øystein Baadsvik, soloist, with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Anne Manson. Featuring works by Vaughan Williams, Alexander Arutiunian, John Williams and Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist, this disc is an exposition of the oft-overlooked versatility of this instrument.

The opening piece by Vaughan Williams, Concerto for Bass Tuba (1954) begins the showcase of Baadsvik’s agile mastery of his instrument. The Prelude is a tasty, grumbling discourse from the soloist, while in the gloriously singing Romanza, Baadsvik takes the reins and runs, describing a sonorous ballet like the dance of a whale—ponderous, slow, alien, and yet singular and undeniably beautiful when in its proper element.

Arutiunian’s work, Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra (1992) is very folkish and spritely—an unusual descriptor for tuba music to say the least. The melodies are originals by the composer yet have the distinct flavor of Eastern European/Near Middle Eastern folk tunes. Lundquist’s moody Landscape for Tuba, String Orchestra and Piano was said by the composer himself to be a direct refutation of the notion that the tuba could not play expressively or cantabile, and it certainly succeeded in that respect. Exciting glissandi like the trumpeting of an elephant and rapid, fiery cadenzas break up the somber, rocky landscape of the composer’s imagination.

John Williams’ Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra (1985) closes out the disc, and is in some ways the most integral work in terms of the solo instrument being a part of the whole rather than the sole reason for its existence. Baadsvik makes good use of the varied textural template, which ranges from moments reminiscent of Williams familiar, scintillating film scores to starkly percussive, idiomatic segments.

In a release that was perhaps meant to disprove our cultural concept of the tuba as either belonging solely to the accompaniment or evoking a comical (perhaps occasionally sinister) mood when a solo instrument, one has to ask--did the release achieve its goal? Baadsvik is purportedly the only tubist in the world to have pursued a career expressly as a solo performer, without having played in an orchestra or accepted a teaching post. Chances are, whatever range of expression his instrument has to offer, Baadsvik has found it.

At first it is difficult to stop hoping for the tuba to break forth with a clearer, more piercing tone—a tone that, given its relative absence on a release by the tuba's foremost exponent and meant to highlight its versatility, the instrument probably doesn’t possess. This isn’t, after all, a collection of horn or trumpet concerti. In certain moments of the Lundquist, Baadsvik comes close to achieving this, playing with a timbral tightness that eliminates much of the muted ‘fuzziness’ around the edges. Still, if one stops wishing for something the instrument can’t easily provide, and instead enjoys the rich palate of sound that it does possess, the release achieves its goal admirably, as well as presents some uncommonly heard and quite beautiful music.

Today's Birthdays

Boyd Neel (1905-1981)
Louis Kentner (1905-1987)
Robert Mann (1920)
Nicholas Danby (1935-1937)
Dominic Muldowney (1952)
David Robertson (1958)
Carlo Rizzi (1960)
Mark Wigglesworth (1964)
Evelyn Glennie (1965)
Russell Braun (1965)

and

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Baroque concertos gone wild at Chamber Music Northwest


Chamber Music Northwest went all out for its Baroque Concerto Night program on Thursday (July 17), presenting five concertos for viola, two cellos, harpsichord, oboe d’amore, and flute. A very full house at Kaul Auditorium absorbed a full dose of music by Telemann, Vivaldi, Handel, and Bach by a variety of ensembles, which drew from a pool of ten top-notch musicians.

The highlight of the evening was a stunning performance of Vivaldi’s Concerto in G Minor for Two Cellos, Strings and Continuo. Cello soloists Colin Carr and Joshua Gindele delved into the challenging musical dialog with gusto. They matched volume and phrasing brilliantly and the echoing passages and devil-may-care runs up and down the fingerboard were outstanding.

Members of the string ensemble, who rounded out Vivaldi’s music with a gorgeous additional texture were double bassist Curtis Daily, violinists Daniel Ching and Tereza Stanislav, and violist John Largess (Ching, Stanislav, Largess, and Gindele are the Miró Quartet). Harpsichordist John Gibbons added a superb continuo throughout the three movements of the concerto.

The evening concert opened with Telemann’s Concerto in G Major for Viola, Stings, and Continuo, featuring Toby Appel as the viola soloist. Whether creating a stately impression in the slower movements or displaying fleet fingerwork in the faster ones, Appel performed with elegance and total commitment. His rich tone enveloped the hall with positive energy, and every note that he created was expressive and thoughtful.

As Appel’s backup band, the string ensemble and continuo (the Miró Quartet plus Daily and Gibbons) embroidered Appel’s sound delightfully. The ensemble knew when to add to the mix and when to retreat into the background.

The first half of the program came to a close with Handel’s Concerto in D Minor for Harpsichord, String, and Continuo, Op. 7, No. 4. Before this piece started, Gibbons told the audience that Handel had written into the score that the solo harpsichord should improvise some transitional music between some of the movements. Handel apparently wrote in the score “make it up.”

Gibbons is not one who needs encouragement in matters of improvisation and he added some extended riffs that amounted to an extra movement or two. In effect Gibbons made the piece exciting and fresh. He was aided and abetted by the Miró Quartet , Daily, and Appel.

Following intermission, we heard Bach’s “Concerto in A Major for Oboe d’amore, Strings, and Continuo (BWV 1055R) with Allan Vogel as the soloist. Vogel’s sound and breath control was astonishing. He could spool out miles of beautiful music with breathtaking agility. Yet the volume level was mezzo forte to forte and that dulled the piece a bit. The support team: Daily, Appel, Stanislav, Largess, cellist Fred Sherry, and Gibbons should’ve pulled back on the volume.

The performance of Bach’s Suite No. 2 in B Minor for Flute, Strings, and Continuo (BWV 1067) suffered a tad more because the mellifluous sound from the soloist, Ransom Wilson, was overwhelmed at times by the string ensemble and continuo (Ching, Appel, Largess, Sherry, Daily, and Gibbons). The incredibly fast pace in the final number, “Badinerie,” was mind boggling and technically perfect, except that Wilson’s sound got buried by the strings.

Today's Birthdays

Pauline Viardot (1821-1910)
Julius Fučík (1872-1916)
Kurt Masur (1927)
Screamin' Jay Hawkins (1929-2000)
R. Murray Schafer (1933)
Ricky Skaggs (1954)
Tobias Picker (1954)

and

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)
Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979)
Harry Levin (1912-1994)
Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933)
Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Eugene Symphony gives free concert tomorrow

If you happen to be in Eugene tomorrow evening, you can catch the Eugene Symphony in a free outdoor concert. Under it's new music director and conductor Danail Rachev, the orchestra will perform a program of popular summer favorites with a finale of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" at the Cuthbert Amphitheater at 8 pm. The Cuthbert has been recently remodeled and now has nearly 1,300 seats or you can spread out on the lawn. The gates open at 7 pm and Oregon Brass Ensemble will provide music as a pre-concert concert. The Cuthbert is located in the north east corner of Alton Baker Park. For more information, click here.

Portland Symphonic Choir ends year in the black

The Portland Symphonic Choir successfully ended its 2009-2010 year on the positive side of the ledger after completing a month-long fund-raising drive. The drive raised $20,000 from choir members and friends, and that amount was matched by bass chorister and board member Tom Hard.

"We finished at about $500 in the black," stated general manager Mark Petersen. "We can't be more specific because there are still donations coming in and bills to pay that will be attributed to last season. In all, we did well in this economy!"

Today's Birthdays

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Sir Donald F. Tovey (1875-1940)
Eleanor Steber (1914-1990)
Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976)
Peter Schickele (1935)
Michael Roll (1946)
Dauwn Upshaw (1960)

Filmusik turns to the Spaghetti Western


Filmusik, an area group that promotes live performance in conjunction with film, turned its attention to the spaghetti western in a performance Wednesday, July 15th at the the Hollywood Theatre. Giulio Petroni's classic 1967 film Death Rides a Horse, stripped of the soundtrack (and starring the iconic Lee Van Cleef) was accompanied by a 40-voice choir provided by Opera Theater Oregon and a chamber orchestra courtesy of ECCE New Music. The score was composed by Eugene composers Gracin Dorsey and Sam L. Richards, and the performance was directed by Tuesday Rupp. (Click here for the trailer.)

The soundtrack began with a big choral overture that saw the introduction of the main theme, a full-throated chanting of da uomo a uomo ('from a man to a man') which is the film's title in Italy. The score was suitably over-the-top and self-importantly melodramatic, in exact keeping with the images being presented onscreen.

Dorsey and Richards soundtrack was imaginative and varied. In addition to very melodic and catchy motives(I find myself still humming the main theme two days later), the composers elicited a range of non-musical effects from the performers, including big, swooping glissandi, windy whistling, percussive, aspirant plosions, shouts and a superbly executed refrain of ghost-like wailing from the choir (occasionally a bit much, but they were able to achieve a truly eerie effect with this). The string players were called upon to stamp feet and clap hands along with the singers, and percussionist Heidi Wait deserves special mention for staying on top of a tricky, insular and important part.

Rupp had her hands full managing to keep all these performers in sync with the onscreen action, and she did this superbly--this was the most well-timed performance of this type that I've yet seen in terms of synchronicity between the film and the live performers. (See here and here for other examples of this.) The interesting effect that live film music has is a heightening of the immediacy of the film itself--the overall project becomes a complex, syncopated, multi-layered 'happening', and the audience understands itself as an integral part of the enterprise, not merely a passive bystander to it.

There will be a repeat performance tonight at 7pm at the Hollywood Theatre; if the crowds at this Friday night performance are similar to those present for Plan 9 From Outer Space, arrive early or buy tickets online if you expect to get a seat.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Final Friday concerts at Chamber Music NW moved to Reed College

In case you have plans to attend the Chamber Music Northwest Concerts on Friday, July 17 and/or Friday, July 24, you'll want to take of the change in venue.

Here are the particulars from Chamber Music Northwest:

Friday 7/17 and 7/24 will be in Kaul Auditorium, 8 pm instead of 7 pm

Due to high temperatures predicted this week and next, we are moving our final two Friday concerts from First Congregational Church in downtown Portland to Reed College's air conditioned Kaul Auditorium. We are very sorry for any inconvenience this may cause, but we are concerned for the difficult performing conditions for our musicians and for the comfort of our audience. Please note, starting time of the concerts will be at 8 pm instead of 7 pm. There will be no pre-concert Musical Conversation.

Tickets are still available for the Friday, July 17 concert and will be sold at the door. (Thursday, July 16 is sold out.) There will be light catered refreshments available for purchase. Call the Box Office (503-294-6400) for further questions or information.

Additionally, the 7 pm Portland Summer Ensembles student recital scheduled in Kaul Auditorium will now be held from 6:00 – 7:30. We welcome you to attend this free event prior to the 8 pm CMNW Baroque Concertos concert if you wish.

Rodzinski, head of Cliburn Foundation, announces retirement

Richard Rodzinski, president of the Van Cliburn Foundation, has announced that he will retire from the Foundation in February when his current contract runs out. Rodzinski has led the Van Cliburn Competition for the past 23 years and turns 65 in January. Here's a link to a online report of this announcement. Click here to read the Van Cliburn Foundation press release.

Third Angle at Yale Valley Arts Festival

The Third Angle New Music ensemble will give concert at the Yale Valley Arts Festival in Cougar, Washington this Sunday, July 19 at 4:30 pm. It looks like a great program with two world premieres by Tomas Svoboda:

Farewell to Prague, Op. 165a, by Tomas Svoboda
Tomas Svoboda, piano
World Premiere

Chorale in E flat for Piano Quintet (homage to Aaron Copland), Op.118, by Tomas Svoboda
Ron Blessinger, violin
Dunja Jennings, clarinet
Hamilton Cheifetz, cello
Jason Schooler, bass
Susan Smith, piano

Trio Tranquillo, Op. 198, by Tomas Svoboda
Ron Blessinger, violin
Hamilton Cheifetz, cello
Susan Smith, piano
World Premiere

Four Autumn Landscapes by Chris Rogerson
I. A Cold Clear Dawn
II. Maple Creek
III. Scattered Leaves
IV. December Woods
Dunja Jennings, clarinet
Susan Smith, piano

Zaka by Jennifer Higdon
Dunja Jennings, clarinet
GeorgeAnne Ries, flute
Ron Blessinger, violin
Hamilton Cheifetz, cello
Gordon Rencher, marimba

Today's Birthdays

Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)
Goffredo Petrassi (1904-2003)
Bella Davidovich (1928)
Bryden Thomson (1928-1991)
Geoffrey Burgon (1941)
Pinchas Zukerman (1948)
Joanna MacGregor (1959)
James MacMillan (1959)
Helmut Oehring (1961)

and

Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)
Roald Amundsen (1872-1928)
Ginger Rogers (1911-1995)
Tony Kushner (1956)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Portland Opera stays financially on the upside!

Despite the economic crisis that has most arts groups on their heals, Portland Opera concluded the 2008/2009 season in the black. That's great news! Budget cuts, rental income, the touring national Broadway productions, and astute and shrewed management by general director Christopher Mattaliano means that Portland Opera has finished 11 of the past 12 seasons with a positive financial statement.

Here's more information from Portland Opera's press release:

Recapping the season, Mr. Mattaliano pointed to many things that, when combined, resulted in the positive financial conclusion. “We are a unique performing arts organization,” he said. “In addition to a very committed core of opera patrons and donors, we were very fortunate to have entered the season in a strong position—a history of fiscal responsibility, no accumulated deficit and an endowment, albeit somewhat challenged during these times.” He also noted the company’s diverse revenue streams, including rental income from the Hampton Opera Center and income from the Company’s presentation of nationally touring Broadway productions under the Fred Meyer Broadway Across America Portland banner. The season was also buoyed by one-time grants for special projects and continued contributions to pay down the Hampton Opera Center mortgage. These mortgage contributions, which have significantly reduced the amount of interest expense, have also put the Company on track to pay off the building’s mortgage during the upcoming 2009/10 season.

For the complete press release, click here.

Miró Quartet plus friends excel in music of Hersant, Mendelssohn, and Brahms

(3/4 of the Miros) (Tereza Stanislav - photo by Michael Miller)

The Miró Quartet has been around for 14 years, but they play like they’ve known each other for 30. That’s the incredibly strong impression that this ensemble left with the audience after it concluded a scintillating concert of music by Philippe Hersant, Felix Mendelssohn, and Johannes Brahms on Monday evening (July 13) as part of the Chamber Music Northwest Summer Festival.

The Miró Quartet played so well that my concert-going neighbor was flipping back and forth in his program booklet to read and re-read the details about the members of this ensemble. Then he found out that the ensemble was using a substitute because one of it members, second violinist Sandy Yamamoto is on maternity leave. Yamamoto is married to first violinist Daniel Ching, and her replacement, violinist Tereza Stanislav, was superb. But aside from the amazing playing of Ching and violist John Largess, one of the most fascinating things about this ensemble is the ultra-outstanding playing and leadership of cellist Joshua Gindele. Gindele seemed to have every note of the three works that he played memorized, and as he seemed to guide and inspire the ensemble throughout the evening. As a result, the ensemble did an incredible mind meld – surging forward together in both sound and tempo and then pulling back organically – then creating a woody sound – then making the music edgy or soft and tender – or effervescent and brilliant. It was something to behold and admire.

Ching, Largess, and Gindele were joined by flutist Ransom Wilson in Hersant’s “Héliades” for Flute, Violin, Viola, and Cello. Hersant, a French composer, wrote this piece in 2006. “Héliades” has three movements, and each one uses different kind of flute. And whether Wilson played a piccolo, alto flute, or just the regular flute, he made all sorts of fascinating sounds, sometimes fluttering like a bird and at other times adding soothing tones to the mix. The third movement of this piece was especially intriguing in the way that it moved from mournfulness to high tension and drama to a relaxed and sweet ending.

Following the Hersant number, the Miró Quartet gave an absolutely riveting performance of Mendelssohn’s String quartet No. 6 in F Minor, Op. 80. From the incandescent, highly charged opening to the anguished yet hopeful finale, this ensemble took us on a thoroughly engaging and emotionally rewarding ride. It was just thrilling to hear impeccable musicianship and the highest artistry at the same time.

The Quintet in F Minor for Piano and String, Op. 34 by Brahms received a heart-stopping, mind-bending, and totally committed performance by the Miró Quartet and pianist Shai Wosner (with Tereza Stanislav in first chair). They led us through all sorts of musical landscapes from sadness to rousing triumph and everything in between.

The Miró Quartet will perform again this week and early next week. Check the Chamber Music Northwest website for more information.

Today's Birthdays

Ronald Binge (1910-1979)
Jack Beeson (1921)
Julian Bream (1933)
Sir Harrison Birtwistle (1934)
Linda Ronstadt (1946)
John Casken (1949)
Richard Margison (1954)

and

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
Walter Benjamin (1892-1940)
Iris Murdoch (1919-1999)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Classical Revolution Portland presents Artist Showcase: Leander Star, French Horn

Press Release from Mattie Kaiser, Executive Director of CRPDX:

We are excited here at Classical Revolution PDX to present our very first artist showcase:

Leander Star, French horn on Tap
Wednesday July 15th, 2009. 8:30 PM
The Green Dragon, 928 SE 9th Ave, Portland
Donation requested, no one turned away

Classical Revolution PDX, known for “prodding classical music to be more hip and, dare they say, fun,” will present Leander Star on French horn. The recital will take place on WEDNESDAY July 15th at the Green Dragon Pub. He will be assisted by Portland native and Cleveland Institute of Music staff accompanist Adam Whiting and Oregon Symphony musician Graham Kingsbury.

The performance repertoire hails from the “Third Stream Movement”—the era when composers in New York City made attempts to combine the Jazz and Classical idioms. The results of that experimentation are sometimes campy, sometimes sexy, and always fun.

As a youngster, Leander Star played principal horn in the Portland Youth Philharmonic. When he was eighteen, Star won a position with the Columbia Symphony of Portland and the Co-principal horn spot in the Vancouver Washington Symphony Orchestra. Many Portlanders will also remember Leander from his days as songwriter and bassist in the queer activist punk band T-rexxxa. Star attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and is currently a fully-funded graduate student in the prestigious horn studio of Northwestern University.

The recital will be a great combination of beer, burlesque and brass. We hope to see you there!

Mattie

Summer Sings - part II with the Portland Symphonic Choir

Tomorrow evening, Kathryn Lehmann willi direct an open rehearsal of Brahms Requiem in the second week of "Summer Sings" with members of the Portland Symphonic Choir. Lehmann was the conductor of the Choir of the West at Pacific Lutheran University and is now the Assistant Conductor of the PSC.

So here's your change to warm up on Brahms - tomorrow night (Wednesday) at 7 pm in the Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building on the Cascade Campus of Portland Community College (at the corner of Killingsworth and Albina). Also, the Moriarty Arts and Humanities Building is airconditioned. The seating is comforable, and you get good sight-lines

Admission is $10 per person at the door, and scores are provided.

Parking is free.

----

On July 22, Ralph Nelson directs the B Minor Mass by Bach for the third and final Summer Sings!

National Music Teachers Appreciation Day


Leave it to a British bloke to come up with a great idea that we Americans should've proposed a long time ago. I'm referring to Stephen Llewellyn's latest quest to lobby congress and everyone else for a National Music Teachers Appreciation Day. Can you believe that our nation has special days set aside in recognition for cowboys and the corvette. Granted that they are part of our nation's identity, but what about music teachers! Who of us would learn how to sing or play any instrument at all without the help of someone who taught us. Especially when we consider the decline of music education, a special day of recognition, of concerts, and other ways of celebrating would be in order. Capital idea Stephen! Hat's off to the former barrister, who is helping to change the attitude in this country to something positive. Now, let's find all of the politicians who have had music lessons and sign them up to make National Music Teachers Appreciation Day a reality!

Today's Birthdays

Gerald Finzi (1901-1956)
Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)
Unsuk Chin (1961)

and

James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
Frank Raymond Leavis (1895-1978)
Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902-1991)

Monday, July 13, 2009

A change in program for the Jeremy Denk concert at PPI

According Harold Gray, artistic director of Portland Piano Interlational, Jeremy Denk will be changing his program this Saturday to the following:

Charles Ives: Piano Sonata No. 1
JS Bach: Golderberg Variations

Denk is one of the finest pianists on the planet; so you'll want to catch this concert.

Yeol Eum Son makes a splash with debut recital at Portland Piano International


Photo: © 2009 Altré Media

Yeol Eum Son, silver medalist at the 2009 Van Cliburn Competition, made a strong case for herself with her recital for the Portland Piano International Festival on Sunday afternoon (July 12) at the Wood Forestry Center. Son’s playing showed a lot of thought and plenty of spontaneity as well in a program that consisted of works by Robert Schuman, Mason Bates, Franz Liszt, and Frédéric Chopin.

In particular, Son’s performance of all 14 of Chopin’s Waltzes, during the second half of the concert, was very impressive, because each waltz stood out individually yet together they formed an interwoven tapestry. Son found the wistful melancholy that pervades some of the waltzes, but never went overboard. She also revealed the joyful sentiment in many of the waltzes yet kept that sentiment inbounds. She seemed to have an innate sense as to when to pull back the volume and the tempo, and that kept the audience fully engaged. After loud and sustained applause, Son returned to play the “Liebesleid” by Kreisler/Rachmaninoff as an encore.

Son also showed exceptional artistry with “Spanish Rhapsody.” She poured tons of emotion into this piece and there were moments in which her playing almost became ferocious. The results were spectacular and lots of cheering ensued after the piece came to its glorious end.

I also enjoyed Son’s playing of the short and almost jazzy “White Lies for Lomax” by Mason Bates. I had never heard this piece before, yet it is immediately accessible with a light rhythm and a series of notes that percolate like coffee to the top.

Son began her recital with Schumann’s “Fantasiestücke” (“Fantasy Pieces”), and she succeeded in drawing out the contrasting moods in some of the pieces. But, to my ears, they needed a little more shaping so that the work as a whole would have more of an arc.

-----------

Son will be in Oregon again to perform at the Sunriver Music Festival. On Thursday, August 13, she will give a piano recital. On Friday, August 14, she will instruct a master class, and on Saturday, August 15, she will perform a concerto with the Sunriver Music Festival Orchestra.

Today's Birthdays

Sir Reginald Goodall (1905-1990)
Carlo Bergonzi (1924)
Jeanne Loriod (1928-2001)
Per Nørgård (1932)
Albert Ayler (1936-1970)
Jennifer Smith (1946)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Oppens sparkles - Carter baffles


Ursula Oppens is a magnificent pianist who has conquered the numerous challenges of contemporary composers. Oppens has built a terrific reputation with her incisive playing of works by Anthony Braxton, John Harbison, György Ligeti, Witold Lutoslawski, Conlon Nancarrow, Frederic Rzewski, Joan Tower, Charles Wuorinen, and many other composers. Last year, Cedille Records released an album, "Oppens Plays Carter," in which Oppens performed all of the piano works of Elliott Carter, and her talent at the keyboard is unquestionably brilliant.

Yet the music of Carter remains a mystery to this reviewer. The sporadic and unconnected quality of each piece in this recording just doesn't resonate with me. Perhaps if one of the pieces had even the tiniest snippet of lyricism or harmony, then I would be able to relax my ears and enjoy the unrelenting, scattershot of notes that dominates each work. After thirty minutes, the spiky quality of Carter's music becomes tiresome. When I look at a picture of Carter, who was born in 1908 and is still composing new works, I see someone who looks like a benign grandpa, but his music is not avuncular at all. Oppens's scintillating playing of Carter's music deserves the highest praise. I'll try listening to the album again at a later date and see if I can warm up to it.

Today's Birthdays

Anton Arensky (1861-1906)
George Butterworth (1885-19116)
Kirsten Flagstad (1895-1962)
Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960)
Van Cliburn (1934)
Gerd Albrecht (1935)
Richard Stolzman (1942)
Roger Vignoles (1943)

and

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
George Eastman (1854-1932)
Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Chamber Music Northwest musicians uncork a spectacular vintage 1826 concert

(CMNW pre-concert dining at Reed College - photo Jim Leisy)

A lot of great music was written in 1826, and Chamber Music Northwest in its concert on Thursday evening (July 9) reached back to that year to present an outstanding program of works by Beethoven, Schubert, and Mendelssohn. A total of ten performers (not all on stage at the same time) just flat-out wowed the near-capacity audience in Kaul Auditorium with superb artistry that revealed the heights and depths of each piece. It was as if each duo and ensemble had been playing together for years and years, when, in reality, they had only a rehearsal or two to whip each piece into shape.

The concert started with Schubert’s Rondo in B Minor for Violin and Piano (“Rondeau Brillant”), Op 70. In 1826, Schubert was only 29 years old when he wrote this exuberant piece for the 20-year-old Josef Slavík, a Chech virtuoso who was often compared to Paganini. Both artists did not live much longer: Schubert died a couple of years later and Slavík succumbed to a reoccurrence of influenza in 1833 at the age of 27.

Violinist Jennifer Frautschi and pianist Shai Wosner played the “Rondeau Brillant” with free-spirited élan. I loved the demonstrative, grand chords at the beginning of the piece and how it all changed to a light-footed dance. When this stylistic switch occurred again later in the piece, Frautschi and Wosner ratcheted up the tension in the music until it was almost completely knotted. Then they loosened up the music and released it all effortlessly, skipping merrily along as if nothing had ever happened. This was a terrific opener, and listeners embraced the music enthusiastically.

In 1826, Beethoven, at age 56, wrote his String Quartet No. 16 in F Major, Op. 135. Since he lived only another year, this work became the last major piece that he finished, and its sunny disposition seems to suggest that he had intended to write many more works.

Combining facile dexterity with a genuine love for Beethoven’s music, violinists Lila Josefowicz and Steve Copes, violist Paul Neubauer, and cellist Fred Sherry reached into every nook and cranny of this masterpiece to deliver its full, emotional weight. The first movement was so conversational in nature, with each player having his or her turn to move the discussion forward. The second movement launched them into an exciting and competitive realm in which the music almost careened about wildly. Josefowicz got an incredible workout, impressively handling notes that quickly jumped to extreme ends of spectrum. Then the third movement arrived and the entire mood completely changed to that of a solemn and earnest prayer. The intensity of this inward-looking music mesmerized the audience that no one seemed to move a muscle. The buoyant, extroverted intensity of the fourth movement brought the piece to a jubilant end, and the audience rewarded the players with forte applause.

Next came five songs for soprano and piano by Mendelssohn, who was all of 17 years old when he wrote the first one in 1826 and only 23 years old when he wrote the last one in 1833. These songs were meant for gatherings in the living room, yet with the voice of Hyunah Yu and the fingers of pianist Wosner, they easily filled Kaul Auditorium yet retained the atmosphere of intimacy. Yu’s sound was buttery and like a bouquet at the same time. Her impeccable German diction was enhanced by gestures and facial expressions that made each word and phrase come alive. It was as if Yu and Wosner created something for each individual in the hall, and they received heartfelt and sustained applause after they finished the final song, “Neue Liebe” (“New Love”).

In 1826 Mendelssohn also wrote his Quintet No. 1 in A Major for two violins, two violas, and cello (Op. 18) and matriculated to Berlin University where he studied law, geography, and aesthetics (with Hegel). Mendelssohn had already composed, the year before, his amazing Octet for Strings (performed in a Chamber Music Northwest concert during the first week) and the magical “Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture.” (At that stage of this reviewer’s life, I was struggling to chew bubble gum and perfect a jump shot.)

For this Chamber Music Northwest performance of Mendelssohn’s First Quintet, violinist Copes was joined by fellow comrade Theodore Arm, violists Neubauer and Cynthia Phelps, and cellist Ronald Thomas. Displaying impeccable musicianship and understanding, this ensemble got past all of the nimble finger-work to make this piece sing. I loved the enchanting elfin-like quality of the “Scherzo” and the brief aggressive outburst in the lower strings that followed. The piece concluded with a terrific “Joie de vivre” that received a standing ovation.

Today's Birthdays

Liza Lehmann (1862-1918)
Nicolai Gedda (1925)
Herbert Blomstedt (1927)
Hermann Prey (1929-1998)
Liona Boyd (1949)

and

E. B. White (1899-1985)
Harold Bloom (1930)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Seattle Opera receives $500k for new opera

(Photo of Daron Aric Hagen)

A couple of weeks ago, the Seattle Opera announced that it will a $500,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to help underwrite costs involved in producing "Amelia," a new opera with music by American composer Daron Aric Hagen with a libretto by American poet and writer Gardner McFall, and a story by Stephen Wadsworth. In addition, The Charles Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences has given Seattle Opera $300,000 and will be the production sponsor for "Amelia." "Amelia" is the first opera to have been commissioned by Seattle Opera during the tenure of its general director Speight Jenkins.

Here's some excerpted information from the Seattle Opera press release:

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant will be used over a four-year period to support the production and presentation of contemporary opera at Seattle Opera and at two additional American opera companies. Seattle Opera will be sending out details for participation in early July. The grant will provide funding that will underwrite rental and royalty expenses for up to two other companies to present Amelia. It will also cover the cost of set and costume modifications undertaken by Seattle Opera to make the opera compatible with multiple companies. A percentage of the grant will fund any necessary score or libretto revisions and will fund audience development materials that can be shared in the various cities.

Amelia’s title character is a woman in her late thirties who is expecting her first child. Amelia is still traumatized by the death of her father, a Navy pilot lost in Vietnam in the mid-1960s. The opera spans a thirty-year period in both the U.S. and Vietnam, interweaving one woman’s emotional journey, the American experience in Vietnam, and elements of the Daedalus and Icarus myth. The opera’s emotional arc moves from loss to recuperation, paralysis to flight, ultimately embracing life and the creative force of love and family.

Today's Birthdays

Henri Weiniawski (1835-1880)
Carl Orff (1895-1982)
Ljuba Welitsch (193-1996)
Ian Wallace (1919)
Josephine Veasey (1930)
Jerry Herman (1931)
Arlo Guthrie (1947)
Graham Johnson (1950)
Béla Fleck (1958)

and

Marcel Proust (1871-1922)
Saul Bellow (1915-2005)
Alice Munro (1931)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Vajda takes the helm at Music in the Mountains


Gregory Vajda has been named the new artistic director and conductor of Music in the Mountains, which is a classical music organizaiton that serves Grass Valley and Nevada City, California (both are located north of Sacramento). Music in the Mountains offers concerts throughout the year, but each series is short. So, this will not be a full-time gig for Vajda. He is still the resident conductor of the Oregon Symphony, but he is on the short list for the music director position at the San Antonio Symphony.

Here is The Music in the Mountains announcement and an article in The Union newspaper.

Today's Birthdays

Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936)
Dame Elizabeth Lutyens (1906-1983)
David Diamond (1915-2005)
David Zinman (1936)
Paul Chihara (1938)
John Mark Ainsley (1963)

and

Oliver Sacks (1933)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Diverse program and spectacular musicianship as Chamber Music Northwest continues

Tuesday July 7th saw a performance by a number of well-known musicians at the Catlin Gabel School as part of Chamber Music Northwest's summer festival. Mandolin expert Chris Thile and violinist Leila Josefowicz, among others, took part in a program entitled the 'Bach-Haydn-Mendelssohn Loop,' the title a reference to 'looping,' a technique used in electronic music.

The night opened with a fascinating transcription of a Haydn piano sonata for violin, piano and cello with Thile playing the mandolin in place of the violin. In Trio in G Major for Violin (Mandolin) Viola and Cello after Piano Sonata Hob. XVI: 40 the blend was superb, the performance the very epitome of high classical delicacy and elegance. Balance between the players was key, and this was spot on with Paul Neubauer, violist, and Fred Sherry, cellist, keeping their more powerful sounding instruments under wraps in a superb fashion. The mandolin with its thin, silvery sound and rapid decay can easily be subsumed by more powerful instruments but Neubauer and Sherry never allowed this to happen. Consequently, Thile was free to demonstrate his brilliant technique and sparkling finesse. After the first movement a smattering of applause broke out at the sheer animation and perfection of Thile's playing.

John Adams Shaker Loops for String Septet (1978) was next, featuring Josefowicz on first violin. This was a programmatic work, meant to portray some aspects of charismatic Shaker worship ceremonies. Very minimal harmonically and melodically, it consisted of tutti tremolo in complex patterns that slowly built in infinitesimal yet measurable dynamic gradations, eventually reaching the climax of an extended crescendo with a rhythmic, cleaver-like hacking as if a final paroxysm had suddenly felled an ecstatic congregant who lay supine on the floor. The movements were linked, and the next began with strange squeaks and wails that morphed into a hive of wildly buzzing bees that became still again. Sighing glissandi from one instrument then another, starkly contrasting yet gently executed, formed an important textural break. This withering, almost non-stop torrent of shifting sonic patterns that continued for almost a half hour was an exercise in the will to continue for both performers and listeners alike. It was truly a difficult undertaking, but the performers responded with bravura.

The opening of the second half marked the second time in a little over a week that I heard a live performance of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048. In contrast to the historically informed performance at last week's Oregon Bach Festival, Tuesday night was a fresh arrangement by Rob Moose that substituted one fretted, plucked instrument in each of the three groups that make up this concerto (a mandolin substituted for a violin, a banjo for a viola and guitar for cello). The playing was by and large excellent. A slackening of the tempo occurred during the third movement, but the group seemed to sense it and brought it roaring back to life. It was also occasionally plagued by intonation issues but in all was invigorating and innovative.

The night closed with Mendelssohn's Sextet in D Major for Piano, Violin, Two Violas, Cello and Double Bass, Op. 110. The work really served as a miniature concerto highlighting Anna Polonsky's exceptional skills at the piano. Her playing was so leggieremente it felt like singing. The tempo was fierce and Polonsky seemed to be in a world of her own; the strings were having a conversation while the piano thundered and whispered in its own monologue, with Polonsky displaying supreme command of all registers of her instrument. The work was bookended by a pair of Allegro Vivace movements, and Polonsky's spritely dexterity was utterly astounding, as was the flawless accompaniment. The air is truly rarefied at CMNW, where a piece like this can be played this perfectly at this level of artistry. It was a simply exceptional interpretation. Bassist Paul Kowert deserves special mention for performing in every piece except for the opening of this wildly diverse evening.


NOTE: Quite often there are observations or insights from a particular performance that don't quite belong in a more formal review. As a consequence, I have decided to start writing a series called SideNotes at my own blog, Musical Oozings. I won't necessarily post a SideNote for every review, but when I do, I will simply link to it at the end of the review, saying "See SideNote here." The first one is about how I almost go to meet my mandolin hero Chris Thile.

--L. W.

Portland musicians at summer festivals

This summer many Portland area instrumentalists are performing at summer festivals. Here's a partial list:

Oregon Bach Festival Orchestra

David Buck - principal flute
Todd Kuhns - clarinet
Aaron LaVere - principal trombone
Karen Strand - oboe
Brenda Liu - viola

Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra

Julie Coleman - violin
Gregory Ewer - violin
Joël Belgique - viola
JaTtik Clark - Tuba
and
Amy Schwartz Moretti - concertmaster (ASM was the former Oregon Symphony concermaster)

Britt Festival Orchestra

Camilla Wilson Scott - violin
Barbara George - violin
Brenda Liu - viola
Catherine Barrett - harp

Sunriver Festival

Charles Noble - viola
Heather Blackburn - cello
Jun Iwasaki - soloist on August 14 - (Vaughan William's The Lark Ascending for Violin & Orchestra)
Jeffrey Work - soloist on August 22 - (Hummel's Concerto in E for Trumpet & Orchestra)

Also, Amy Schwartz Moretti is performing at the Seattle Chamber Music Society's Summer Festival and will be in Portland to direct the new Portland Summer Ensembles program, which is sponsored by Chamber Music Northwest.