chamber music

Northern Lights, shining bright

Chamber Music Northwest takes a joyous trip to Scandinavia with a pair of Nielsens and Grieg's "Peer Gynt"

On Thursday Portland had a few hours of ideal summer, and the Reed College campus was lush with green trees, thick grass, and the lovely scourge of ivy. A few black tents dotted the landscape, shelters for people serving coffee and tea. Ladies in dresses and men in button-down shirts came and went. The relative ease of the atmosphere at sunset recalled an English lawn party. It was a prototypical evening at Chamber Music Northwest, and the spirited crowd had gathered to hear the concert Northern Lights: Scandinavian Gems. The music of the title’s two “lights” – the lesser-known Carl Nielsen and the more popular Edvard Grieg, with a new arrangement of his Peer Gynt – summoned less an imagining of the aurora borealis and more the mysterious spirits of nature on the move.

Violinist Theodore Arm (left) discusses David Schiff's new arrangement of "Peer Gynt" during rehearsal. Photo: Kimmie Fadern/Chamber Music Northwest

Violinist Theodore Arm (left) discusses David Schiff’s new arrangement of “Peer Gynt” during rehearsal. Photo: Kimmie Fadern/Chamber Music Northwest

Kaul Auditorium, Reed’s 750-seat concert hall, must be a musician’s dream. It’s made for acoustics, not just the audience’s leg room or vantage point, and outside and in seemed to blend. The welcoming smell of fresh timber filled the air. The greens gave off a vibrant hue through the windows as the stage lights glowed off the fresh polished neutral woods. The five chamber musicians took the stage in white coats and black shirt and tie, with the exception of cellist Mihai Marica, who wore an aubergine-colored gown. Not a stern soul was to be found: they entered the stage with bright eyes and glee in their cheeks.

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