MusicWatch Weekly: transformations

This week's Oregon concerts feature music that transforms words into music, one kind of music into other kinds, stories into music, and more.

Eugene Symphony
Maybe the best known violin virtuoso in his time was Niccolo Paganini, the early 19th century Italian phenom whose reputation for flashy performances enchanted audiences but also overshadowed his compositions (for guitar and violin) after he died. Simone Porter, a 20-year-old rising star from Seattle joins the orchestra for Paganini’s dazzling first violin concerto from 1818. The orchestra also plays Dvorak’s dark, dramatic seventh symphony and Berlioz’s sizzling Roman Carnival Overture.
Thursday, Hult Center, Eugene.

Ari Shapiro
The NPR newsman, Portland native and occasional Pink Martini guest vocalist brings his new Homeward project, featuring  his stories and songs (accompanied by veteran Portland musicians including at least one regular Pink Martini chanteuse) that Shapiro found were important to displaced people he’s interviewed in far-flung lands.
Thursday-Saturday, World Trade Center #2, 121 SW Salmon, Portland.

Ari Shapiro performs this weekend in his hometown.

Reed Orchestra Concert: In Remembrance
In memory of three of their fellow students who died last year — Mara Gibbs, Nico Villarreal, and Max hero Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche — the students play a free concert of appropriate music: Henry Purcell’s Dido’s Lament, Charles Ives’s The Unanswered Question, and the Unfinished Symphony by another composer who, like Purcell, died too young.
Thursday, Kaul Auditorium, 3203 Southeast Woodstock, Portland.

Portland Baroque Orchestra
When you think of the great cities of Baroque music, Dublin doesn’t leap to mind. Turns out, the Irish city drew famous performers and composer like Handel and Geminiani, both of whom have works on PBO’s bassoon-boosted program this weekend, along with Vivaldi and others. The ensemble’s own crack bassoonist, Nate Helgeson, joins guest director Peter Whelan in a two-bassoon concerto (transformed from a two-cello concerto) and more.
Friday-Saturday, First Baptist Church, 1110 S.W. Taylor St. and Sunday, Kaul Auditorium, Reed College, 3203 S.E. Woodstock Blvd. Portland.

Ronn McFarlane rocks the Portland Guitar Society Friday.

Ronn McFarlane
The ace lutenist, Baltimore Consort stalwart, and Portland resident gives a too-rare hometown recital, including Renaissance, Baroque, Celtic, and his own splendid original music.
Friday, Marylhurst University’s Wiegand Hall, 17600 SW Pacific Highway, Marylhurst.

Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra
Piano star Andreas Klein takes the solo spotlight in Beethoven’s spectacular Piano Concerto #4, and the orchestra also plays a Beethoven overture and a neglected 20th century masterpiece: the Variaciones Concertantes by Argentina’s most venerated composer, Alberto Ginastera, whose frenzied conclusion was inspired by the dueling cowboy dances of Argentine gauchos.
Friday, First United Methodist Church, and Sunday, Reynolds High School Performing Arts Center, Portland.

Nonsense: The Fantastical Musical Multiverses of Daniel Brugh
In Cascadia Composers concerts over the years, Dan Brugh has forged a distinctive aesthetic, at once a kind of mad genius of Portland contemporary classical music as well as a composer whose music reaches beyond the traditional classical audience to embrace electronic textures, audience-appealing stage sensibility, and 21st century artistic ambition. This free concert taking place in an appropriately offbeat venue (a Portland design firm) includes three keyboardists, singer, clarinet, narrator, contemporary dance (courtesy of Portland’s Agnieszka Laska Dancers), unusual tunings and sounds, colorful synth wizardry, absurdist poetry, and even flying fish.
Saturday, The Place, 735 NW 18th Ave. Portland.

Portland Concert Opera
Read my ArtsWatch preview of the gala fundraising concert.
Saturday, The Old Church Concert Hall, Portland.

Consonare Chorale
The Portland choir’s show features settings of the words of great writers (Mark Twain) and orators (Abraham Lincoln) and more, including music by John Purifoy, Andrew Ramsey, an arrangement of a Haitian folk tune, an Eric Whitacre standard, and more.
Saturday, Imago Dei, 1404 SE Ankeny St. Portland.

Cappella Romana
Think Byzantine music, Cappella Romana’s specialty, and most people would assume it’s coming from Greece or Asia Minor. But the Portland all-star choir has long championed other Orthodox musical traditions. This concert includes sacred music from from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Estonia, some of which they’ve recorded to critical acclaim.
Saturday, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Portland, and Sunday, St. Anne’s Chapel, Marylhurst University, Lake Oswego.

Oregon Symphony
An appealingly oddball 2010 composition by one of America’s most performed living composers, John Adams, features both a string quartet (San Francisco’s St. Lawrence String Quartet) and the orchestra. Absolute Jest quotes Beethoven’s music (especially his last string quartets) but it’s more than pastiche, more like Stravinsky’s transformations of earlier music in The Fairy’s Kiss>and the latter an inspiration for this jest, a term Adams uses in the Latin definition: doings, deeds, exploits. The orchestra also plays some actual Beethoven, his second symphony, and one of Paul Hindemith’s greatest hits, Symphonic Metamorphosis, which actually began life as a request (by Massine, the choreographer who commissioned Stravinsky to write Pulcinella, not to mention Rite of Spring) for Hindemith to adapt tunes by Beethoven’s contemporary Carl Maria von Weber for a dance. But like Adams, Hindemith went way beyond that, Massine hated it as much as the composer hated the choreographer’s idea of hiring Salvador Dali to design sets, so instead of becoming a ballet score, Symphonic Metamorphosis became a 20th century orchestra classic.
Saturday-Monday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland.

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Chamber Music Series
Six winners of past Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Competitions join pianist Michael C. Liu in music by J.S. Bach, Dvorak, Poulenc, Massenet, Chopin and more.
Sunday, Kiggins Theatre, 1011 Main St, Vancouver, WA.

Donald Harrison performs Tuesday in Portland.

Donald Harrison
The New Orleans jazz legend, actor (Treme), inventor, entrepreneur, saxophonist, teacher/mentor, composer, and certified Big Chief, has performed with most of the music’s major stars since his days in Art Blakey’s famed Jazz Messengers, has blended so many elements with jazz — from his hometown brass band tradition to what he dubbed “nouveau swing” (mixing old swing with new dance forms) to hip hop, soul, symphonic music, and more – that it would take too many hyphenations to accurately describe it. So he calls what he plays (and sometimes sings) “quantum jazz.” Whatever you call it, it swings.
Sunday. Jack London Revue, 529 SW 4th Ave. Portland.

Play It Forward For Houston
Portland pianist Michael Allen Harrison, who’s also one of Oregon’s great musical philanthropists, extends his valuable Play it Forward program, which provides musical instruments and lessons to Portland-area students in need, to Houston’s Kingwood High School orchestra, which lost most of its supplies to Hurricane Harvey floods. Performers include Julianne Johnson, Tom Grant, Barbara Lusch, the Brown Sisters, Ida Rae Cahana, Israel Annoh, Renato Caranto and more.
Tuesday, The Old Church Concert Hall, Portland.

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