MusicWatch Weekly: pianos aplenty

There’s also organ music, choral music, string ensembles and a couple orchestras’ worth of fine young classical players and more on Oregon stages this week

Portland’s most welcome frequent contemporary classical guests, DUO Stephanie & Saar, return for a pair of entirely different shows, bringing plenty of piano-playing colleagues with them; Portland Piano International’s latest Rising Star flashes across the keyboard; and two of jazz’s most forward looking pianists, Jason Moran and Ethan Iverson, bring their trios to town, the former celebrating still another great pianist/composer, Thelonious Monk.

Stephanie & Saar perform twice in Portland.

DUO Stephanie and Saar
The renowned New York based piano duo visit Portland, Stephanie Ho’s hometown, frequently. This time, they perform J.S. Bach’s final work, the massive keyboard monument to counterpoint, The Art of Fugue, which they recently recorded. The next night, they join some of Portland’s finest pianists (from Third Angle, FearNoMusic, and local universities) to reprise some of the “greatest hits” from the three annual installments of their Makrokosmos concerts, including music by the greatest living American composers (Steve Reich, George Crumb, John Adams) and more.
Wednesday, Agnes Flanagan Chapel, Lewis & Clark College, and Thursday, Portland Piano Company, 8700 NE Columbia Blvd. Portland.

Allison Au Quartet
One of Canada’s most acclaimed jazz stars, saxophonist/composer Allison Au’s melodic original jazz just garnered the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy award for best jazz album for her second release, Forest Grove. Unfortunately, they’re not actually playing it in Forest Grove, but you can hear them in Portland and Eugene.
Wednesday, Jo Bar and Rotisserie, Portland and Thursday, Jazz Station, Eugene.

Jerry Douglas Band 
Even if you’ve never heard of Jerry Douglas, you’ve almost certainly heard his dobro, a guitar augmented by a metal plate and amplifying cone that makes a distinctive twangy sound. A Nashville studio regular who’s played on over 1500 recordings, he’s transcended the  boundaries between bluegrass, country, rock, jazz, pop – even contemporary classical. Along the way, Douglas has garnered dozens of awards, including a baker’s dozen Grammies and a Musician of the Year award from the Country Music Association; added zing to albums by Ray Charles, Emmylou Harris, Paul Simon, Earl Scruggs, Bill Frisell, Phish, and dozens of other stars; played in bands with Ricky Skaggs and in Alison Krauss’s Union Station. He’s an American music legend and always worth catching with his own band.
Thursday, Alberta Rose Theatre, Portland.

Makrokosmos Project
With duo pianists Stephanie & Saar in town to play Bach (see above) and no doubt visit family, why not celebrate the third anniversary of its valuable Makrokosmos project (which ArtsWatch has covered extensively — type the word into the search field above) by reprising some of the three epic extravaganzas’ greatest hits by some of America’s greatest 20th century composers: Steve Reichʼs Six Pianos, John Adamsʼs Hallelujah Junction, George Crumbʼs Makrokosmos I and II and more, including works by Oregonians like Alexander Schwarzkopfʼs Recycled Wheels. Performers in this free concert include Susan Smith, Deborah Cleaver, Julia Lee, Monica Ohuchi, Jeff Payne, Schwarzkopf and DUO Stephanie & Saar.
Thursday, Portland Piano Company, 8700 NE Columbia Blvd, Portland.

Siri Vik
Accompanied by pianist Nathalie Fortin and chamber orchestra, the chanteuse helps revive the Shedd’s long-dormant classical series by singing one of the most beautiful of all American vocal works, Samuel Barber’s 1947 setting of James Agee’s magnificent prose poem, Knoxville: Summer of 1915, plus other Barber (a great singer himself) vocal classics and a slew of Aaron Copland’s gorgeous settings of Emily Dickinson’s poems. The band takes over for two of the most enduring American classics: Barber’s Adagio for strings and Copland’s Appalachian Spring.
Thursday, Jaqua Concert Hall, The Shedd Institute for the Arts, 868 High St., Eugene.

Vladislav Kosminov from Portland Piano Int’l / SOLO on Vimeo.

Vladislav Kosminov
In these free concerts, the Portland Piano International Rising Star plays Six Songs Without Words, a new work commendably commissioned from Portland’s own composer eminence, David Schiff, plus some of Felix Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words that inspired them, Schubert’s A major sonata, and more.
Friday, Performing Arts Building, Room 320, Reed College, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd, Portland, and Saturday, Cannon Beach Community Church, 132 E Washington St, Cannon Beach.

Carson Cooman
Organ recitals usually lean heavily on Bach and a few other old masters, but not here. The Harvard University organ eminence plays all the keys in music by contemporary European composers Carlotta Ferrari, Andreas Willscher, Marco Lo Muscio, Thomas Aberg, Flor Peeters’s Evening Song in Portland (written guess where?), America’s Craig Penfield, and a tune by Cooman himself.
Friday, St. Michael’s Lutheran Church, 6700 NE 29th St., Portland.

Ethan Sperry (far left) leads PSU Chamber Choir at Portland’s First Methodist Church.

PSU Choirs
Having just hit the top of the classical CD charts and won one of the biggest international choral competitions, in Bali last summer, the internationally acclaimed Portland State Chamber Choir, Man Choir and Vox Femina sing the soaring music of Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds, one of the world’s hottest young choral composers and the subject of their chart-topping new CD of his music. Read my ArtsWatch preview Friday.
Friday and Sunday, First United Methodist Church, Portland.

Third Angle New Music
The city’s oldest new music ensemble celebrates the 80th birthday of America’s most popular “classical” composer, minimalist pioneer Philip Glass, with performances of one of his string quartets, his String Sextet, and more. As has become its habit, the group performs in an usual venue, this time the Pearl District design/furniture store whose aesthetic is also influenced by a different kind of minimalism.
Friday and Saturday, Design Within Reach, 825 NW 13th Ave. Portland.

Musica Maestrale
Some people like guitar music, others like Beethoven. But wait: you can have both! John Schneiderman joins Musica Maestrale’s Hideki Yamaya on in arrangement of Ludwig Van’s music for Romantic guitar, terz guitar, and Milanese mandolin, including some of his own works for mandolin.
Saturday, First Christian Church, 1314 Park Ave. Portland.

Portland Youth Philharmonic
The precocious young musicians open their 94th season with Chopin’s second piano concerto , plus a fifth of Beethoven and a Dvorak overture.
Saturday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.

Metropolitan Youth Symphony
The youngsters’ admirably multicultural and modern opening night concert features Three Latin American Dances by California composer Gabriela Lena Frank (featured often on these pages lately), Gershwin’s An American in Paris, mariachi music by student mariachi groups Una Voz from Hillsboro and Tradición from Forest Grove, and more.
Sunday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

Vin Shambry performs with Resonance Ensemble Sunday.

Resonance Ensemble
This year, the Portland vocal group, like some other Oregon artists, is doing something much needed  in Oregon arts in general and classical music in particular: broadening its artistic perspective to include more diverse voices, styles, and audiences, and addressing the most important issues of our own time and place, not just 19th century Europe. This show offers different perspectives on the racial inequality that not only persists in this country, state and its major city, but is in some ways growing worse. The choir sings Portland opera singer Damien Geter’s arrangement of the spiritual, “There’s a Man Goin’ Round,” music from John Adams’s 1991 opera about the Palestine-Israeli conflict The Death of Klinghoffer, music by Suzanne Vega and Robert Owens, Portland State choral director Ethan Sperry’s attractive arrangement of Valerie Naranjo’s Ute Sundance,  and Sweet Honey in the Rock members  Bernice Johnson Reagon’s “We Are the Ones We Been Waiting For” and Ysaye Barnwell’s “Truth, Pressed to Earth, Shall Rise.” Adding welcome musical and stylistic diversity, Portland writer S. Renee Mitchell offers her words, the excellent Portland theater artist Vin Shambry reprises his striking sung monologue, Brother Man, from Resonance’s June performance, Jasmine Love sings Billie Holiday’s classic “God Bless the Child,” and Portland composer Kenji Bunch performers his beautifully haunting viola/voice solo Minidoka, inspired by the Japanese American composer’s visit to the site of one of America’s World War II concentration camps for innocent American citizens of Japanese ancestry. This show commences a season of similarly relevant — and resonant — music from the visionary ensemble.
Sunday, Cerimon House 5131 NE 23rd Ave. Portland.

Jason Moran & The Bandwagon 
If there was a moment when Thelonious Monk, by far jazz’s most covered composer and one of America’s greatest, broke through from avant-garde to mainstream fame, it was his 1959 performance with a 10-piece orchestra at New York’s Town Hall. The recording became one of jazz’s most celebrated live albums and helped land the pianist/bandleader on the cover of Time magazine. Years later, Jason Moran heard Monk’s music as a kid while growing up in Houston, immediately switched from classical to jazz, and now calls him “the most important musician In all the world — period” who “saved my life … gave me a reason to play.” Now, in Monk’s centennial year, pianist/composer Moran, a MacArthur genius grantee who’s one of today’s most artistically adventurous yet accessible jazz stars — just like Monk — revives his 2009 multimedia performance, In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall, 1959. Merely recreating that performance of one of American music’s greatest originals note for note would have been, well, un-Monkish. So Moran (this time with trio instead of Monk’s original 10-piece or Moran’s earlier eight-piece band) incorporates images, video projections, audio recordings of Monk’s own words and dancing (from rehearsals and interviews), Moran’s thoughts on Monk, and more. “In My Mind allows me to ruminate on African-American slavery, jazz history, the piano, my life, religion and redemption,” Moran has written. “Monk gave me life.”
Sunday, Winningstad Theatre, Portland.

Les Délices
The chamber ensemble performs tres elegant French Baroque music for voice, harpsichord, viola da gamba, oboe and recorder by François Couperin, arias and other music from Jean-Féry Rebel’s opera Ulysse, and other Homeric-themed compositions by Elisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre, François Chauvon, Thomas-Louis Bourgeois and more.
Sunday, Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon.

Bach Cantata Choir
ArtsWatch’s Bruce Browne writes: Ralph Nelson founded the choir primarily to perform all of J.S. Bach’s extant cantatas over a period of 30 years. Bach’s festive cantata #79, Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild (God the Lord is Sun and Shield), for the Feast of the Reformation, is most appropriate, in that this is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s famous “postings on the door” of his 95 theses, in 1517. Handel’s Chandos Anthem No. 9, O Praise the Lord with One Consent, opens with the highly recognizable tune “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” well known to many congregations. This is one of a minority of Handel’s involvements in church music, written for the Duke of Chandos, for whom Handel was house composer from 1717 – 1719. (Yes, there were all those oratorios (Messiah, Israel in Egypt et. al., but those were really considered show pieces, not performed for a religious service.) The concert also includes music by one of Bach’s students, Johann Altnickol, and by Renaissance composer Claude Goudimel, a convert to Protestantism who composed for the Genevan Psalter for the Reformed Church. He lived in dangerous times: according to Nelson’s program notes, he “encountered the firestorm created by the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre that had spread throughout France. Goudimel was murdered in late August, 1592 in Lyon, his body thrown into the Rhone.” A Baroque feast, with a Renaissance appetizer, and, after the concert, a chance to taste something more tangible: the second annual Harvest and Holiday Market, featuring handcrafted gifts and edibles, as well as wines, specialty baskets, and other surprises.
Sunday, Rose City Park Presbyterian Church, NE 44th & Sandy, Portland.

Pacifica Quartet’s most recent Portland performance. Photo: John Green.

Pacifica Quartet
Guest cellist Eric Kim joins one of America’s most admired string quartets in Monday’s Friends of Chamber Music concert, which includes not just one of the greatest of all 19th century chamber works, Schubert’s glorious Quintet in C, but also a new quintet by 2015 Pulitzer Prize winning composer and Bang on a Can co-founder Julia Wolfe, and a new quartet by Israeli-American composer Atar Arad, which repeats on Tuesday’s show alongside classics by Beethoven and Mendelssohn.
Monday and Tuesday, Lincoln Performance Hall, Portland State University, 1620 SW Park Ave.

The Baylor Project
The wife and husband team of singer Jean Baylor (of Zhane fame) and drummer (and former Yellowjacket) Marcus Baylor brings their band (Terry Brewer on piano, Ben Williams on bass and Keith Loftis on tenor saxophone) to Portland to play their jazz/gospel/R&B blend of originals, standards and hymns.
Tuesday, The Old Church, Portland.

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