Weekend MusicWatch: Contemporary Chamber Choices

City of Tomorrow wind quintet performs in Portland Saturday.

City of Tomorrow wind quintet performs in Portland Saturday.

This weekend’s concerts feature several small ensembles that specialize in contemporary sounds, plenty of Baroque rarities and favorites, and much more.

eighth blackbird, Friday, Music Recital Hall, Southern Oregon University, and Sunday, Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon. One of the world’s finest contemporary chamber ensembles performs the haunting Murder Ballades by Bryce Dessner  (the guitarist in The National who also enjoys a burgeoning career as a contemporary classical composer, including an album last year with Kronos Quartet); the ethereal Duet for Heart and Breath by Read Parry (who plays in the Arcade Fire); selections from Slide, a theater work whose music (by another rock/classical composer, Steven Mackey), impressed me when I covered its 2009 premiere in California; another piece whose subject is losing grip on reality, Australian composer Brett Dean’s Old Kings in Exile; a flute and piano arrangement of the great 20th century composer Gyorgy Ligeti’s celebrated piano etudes, and more.

Prima Trio, Friday, April 4, Aasen-Hull Hall, University of Oregon. Clarinetist Boris Allakhverdyan joins the threesome (which like 8bb formed at Oberlin College) in music by the great 20th century nuevo tango master Astor Piazzolla, Mozart, Max Bruch, Khachaturian and more.

The City of Tomorrow, Saturday, Hipbone Studio, Portland. Read my Willamette Week preview of what looks to be Portland’s most fascinating show this weekend.

Doug Wieselman, Saturday, Information Warehouse, Portland (with the excellent Portland jazz quartet Battle Hymns & Gardens), and Sunday afternoon, United Lutheran Church, Eugene. Read my preview.

Arnica Quartet, Saturday, Portland Art Museum. The Portland foursome plays Benjamin Britten’s great 1975 third string quartet, inspired by Venice and therefore connected to the museum’s current exhibit. See Jeff Winslow’s ArtsWatch review of the quartet’s recent performance of all three Britten quartets.

Idit Shner, Saturday, Beall Hall, UO. Abetted by pianist Evan C. Paul, the faculty saxophonist plays modernist music by 1950s classical composers, the most famous being the great French mystic Olivier Messiaen, plus a J.S. Bach sonata.

“Matchmakers,” The Mousai, Sunday, First Presbyterian Church, Portland. The inimitable chamber ensemble specializes in scouting out listener friendly contemporary music that cheerfully defies the Difficult Listening stereotype too often unfairly applied to all new music — and playing it with verve. This concert in the Celebration Works series features appealing music by Portland-area composers Tomas Svoboda and Matt Doran, two more American composers, Stephen Paulus and Haskell Small, the Netherlands’ Hendrik Andriessen, and Switzerland’s Frank Martin.

Six, Sunday, Pacific Northwest College of Arts, Portland. The school’s annual electronic, surround sound performance series returns with experimental sounds by  
Catherine Lee and Matt Hannafin, Jesse Mejia, Jetfinger, Marcus Fischer and more.

Walter Burle Marx Tribute, Sunday, First Baptist Church, McMinnville. Musicians from the Portland Opera, Newport Symphony and other orchestras play chamber music for cellos, flute, oboe and piano by the Brazilian-American composer Walter Burle Marx, who died in 1990. The composer’s daughters, both of whom live in Oregon, will be there.

Chamber Music Amici, Monday, Wildish Theater, Springfield. Three of Eugene’s finest classical players, all present or former UO faculty members, perform Jon Deak’s fun Wager at the El Dorado Saloon, in which the musicians contribute some comic dialogue. The concert also includes music by Ukrainian composer Reinhold Gliere and Beethoven’s magnificent “Ghost” trio.

Stephen Hough, Monday, Lincoln Performance Hall, Portland State University. See Jana Hanchett’s ArtsWatch preview.


“The Vocal Concerto,” Portland Baroque Orchestra, Friday and Saturday, First Baptist Church, Portland, and Sunday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Salem, with other performances in Ellensburg and Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver and Victoria, BC. We generally think of concertos as pitting a single instrument against a larger orchestra of other instruments, but back in the early Baroque era, composers wrote for solo singers whose vocal virtuosity rivaled or exceeded that of the finest instrumentalists. In this refreshingly unusual concert, PBO brings guest bass vocalist Harry van der Kamp and Seattle-based lutenist Stephen Stubbs (one of the stars of the early music movement) to perform music for voices and/or viols from 17th-century Germany by Johann Christoph Bach, Buxtehude, Biber (one of his powerful Rosary or Mystery Sonatas), Johann Michael Nicolai, Samuel Scheidt, Romanus Weichlein and more.

Eugene Vocal Arts Ensemble, Oregon Mozart Players, Friday, Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon. The concert includes music by one of the Northwest’s finest choral composers, Joan Szymko, who composes for Portland’s DoJump theater, directs Aurora Chorus and teaches at Portland State University, plus Schubert’s little Mass in G, music by Baroque titan George Phillip Telemann and Latin American composers including Astor Piazzolla, and a humorous surprise.

VIR, Friday and Sunday, Grace Memorial Church, Portland. We’d love to tell you more about the new Portland-based men’s vocal ensemble’s concert, but since it still hasn’t sent us a press release nor replied to our email, we know  only that it features half a dozen Northwest composers plus music of Schubert, Mendelssohn and more.

Jefferson Baroque Orchestra, Saturday, Newman Methodist Church, 132 NE B Street, Grants Pass, and Sunday, First United Methodist Church, Ashland. The ensemble honors its recently deceased founder, Jim Rich, with a program of some of his favorites by J.S. Bach: Cantata #80, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, Motet 227, Jesus My Joy, and Brandenburg Concerto #5.

Portland Symphonic Girlchoir, Saturday, Zion Lutheran Church, Portland. The award winning chorus has quietly and commendably commissioned more than two dozen new works to add to the repertoire, five of them from New York composer Daniel Brewbaker, who returns for his latest world premiere and music by J.S. Bach, Handel, and other favorites from the choir’s quarter century history, including the Shona Mass.

Music at St. James, Sunday, St. James Lutheran Church, Portland. Able alto Angela Niederloh joins violinists Julie Coleman and Ryan Lee, cellists Tim Scott and Laurent Nickel, and organist Nancy Nickel in music by Corelli, Vivaldi, Bach, Dvorak, and Kreisler.

Cathedral Chamber Singers, Sunday, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Portland. Top choristers sing music by Palestrina and Gregorian chant, and Hannah Brewer plays organ voluntaries.

Ian José Ramirez, Tuesday, Whitsell Auditorium, Portland. Accompanied by assistant conductor and chorus master Nicholas Fox, the promising young tenor gives the last of Portland Opera’s always intriguing resident artist recitals this season, with a program that features songs by Spanish composer Joaquín Turina, Benjamin Britten’s song cycle Winter Worlds, and more.



Alban Gerhardt performs with the  Oregon Symphony in Portland and Salem.

Alban Gerhardt performs with the
Oregon Symphony in Portland and Salem.

Oregon Symphony, Friday-Sunday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland, and Tuesday, Smith Auditorium, Willamette University. Frequent visitor Alban Gerhardt returns from Germany to seize the solo spotlight in Dmitri Shostakovich’s searing second Cello Concerto, and the orchestra plays another 20th century masterpiece, the great Estonian-born composer Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten along with Dvořák’s Symphony No. 5. Gerhardt will also resume his admirable community outreach performances, including Friday at Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden and Mercy Corps headquarters and Saturday at Newberg’s Chehalem Cultural Center.

Salem Chamber Orchestra, Sunday, Hudson Hall, Willamette University. The band completes its two-year traversal of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos with the majestic sixth, and also plays Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2 and Haydn’s great Symphony No. 45, with the coolest closing in classical music.

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