Weekend MusicWatch: Festival Fireworks

Summer festivals flourish under the rockets' red glare.

Along with the usual pyrotechnics celebrating American independence via explosives, some flashy music is also available this weekend and into next via Oregon’s two major summer classical festivals and more.

Chamber Music Northwest, Friday-Tuesday, Lincoln Hall, Portland State University and Kaul Auditorium, Reed College. One of the summer festival’s most enjoyable events is its collaboration with Portland’s BodyVox dance company, which this year features the great bassist Edgar Meyer and mandolin master Mike Marshall, plus the young Dover Quartet in residence, Meyer’s violinist son George, festival regulars Peter Wiley and Paul Neubauer performing music by Samuel Barber, Meyer, Portland composer eminence David Schiff, and two short premieres by young composer Daniel Schlosberg.

BodyVox performs at Chamber Music Northwest this weekend. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert.

BodyVox performs at Chamber Music Northwest this weekend. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert.


Monday and Tuesday’s concerts feature the world premiere of a four-hand piano sonata for the husband and wife team of CMNW regulars Anna Polonsky and Orion Weiss that the festival commissioned from the fine California composer (and 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner) Stephen Hartke. The program includes Mendelssohn’s 1837 String Quartet Op. 44 #2 and Camille Saint-Saëns’s ever-popular “zoological fantasy,” Carnival of the Animals.

Oregon Bach Festival, Thursday-Wednesday, Beall Concert Hall and Hult Center, Eugene. The festival’s Composers Symposium has long been an incubator for new music by emerging composers, and its New Soundings concerts feature instrumental music performed by the symposium’s American Creators Orchestra and Chorus on Thursday, by Duo Damiana (the fantastic flutist and UO faculty member Molly Barth and guitarist Dieter Hennings) on Friday and the superb Portland-based FearNoMusic ensemble on Saturday. ArtsWatch’s Gary Ferrington will be reporting on the symposium next week.

On Thursday at Beall, cellist Jonathan Manson plays three of Bach’s immortal suites, and rarely heard music by one of his predecessors, the 17th century Bolognese composer Domenico Gabrielli. On Saturday, the Eugene Ballet joins the terrific Venezuelan-American pianist Gabriela Montero and the festival orchestra in a performance of French Baroque composer Jean-Fery Rebel’s The Elements, the delightful 20th century French composer Darius Milhaud’s saucy, jazzy The Creation of the World, and one of Montero’s popular improvisations, this time on one of Bach’s great French Suites for solo keyboard. Sunday’s Beall Hall concert features some of late Romantic composer Richard Strauss’s hundreds of songs, performed by a strong cast of singers: soprano Tamara Wilson, the sensational young tenor Nicholas Phan, and bass Tyler Duncan, accompanied by pianist David Riley.

The Discovery Series at the Hult Center’s Soreng Theater offers a clear chance to see the differences and similarities between the festival’s venerable founder Helmuth Rilling, who created this ingeniously enlightening combination lecture-demonstration-concert-conductor training workshop, and his successor. New artistic director Matthew Halls will lead a session devoted to one of Bach’s most famous cantatas, Christ Lay in Death’s Bonds Thursday using a Baroque ensemble, while Rilling leads Monday’s performance with the OBF orchestra, featuring Bach’s Ascension Oratorio. On Tuesday at Silva Hall, Rilling returns to lead two of Mozart’s late-career masterpieces: the dark, dramatic Symphony #40 and the mighty Requiem he never quite finished; happily, we’ll hear the completion made by Robert Levin in 1993 (which he led here not long after), which hews closer to Mozart’s ideas and just sounds “righter” than the sometimes clumsy completion made by one of the dead composer’s students. On Wednesday, Anton Armstrong returns to lead the seven dozen young voices of the the Stangeland Family Youth Choral Academy, in music by Mozart, world premieres by David Childs and Rollo Dilworth, and other 20th century music, classical and non,  plus a Bach cantata led by Rilling at the Hult Center.


Helmuth Rilling returns to the Oregon Bach Festival this week.

Helmuth Rilling returns to the Oregon Bach Festival this week.

Bachfest PDX, Sunday-Wednesday, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, First Baptist Church and Newmark Theatre, Portland. Sunday gives Portland audiences a chance to catch Montero’s show with the Eugene Ballet, while Monday brings Armstrong and his choir with the same program described in the Eugene listing above, minus Rilling’s Bach cantata. One of the world’s greatest organists, Paul Roberts, performs music by J.S. Bach and his son Emmanuel, plus works by Mendelssohn, Mozart and more on Tuesday at Trinity. The Portland Baroque Orchestra plays more C.P.E. Bach as well as a concerto by Italian Baroque composer Pietro Locatelli and music from the operas of the great French Baroque composer Jean-Philippe Rameau on Wednesday at First Baptist.

Newport Symphony, Friday, Newport Intermediate School, and Saturday, Newport Performing Arts Center. The free annual holiday concert features marches, fireworks and American tunes, while Saturday’s concert covers famous movie music.

Waterfront Blues Festival, Thursday-Sunday, Waterfront Park, Portland. Though illness forced headliner Gregg Allman to cancel his appearance, the annual outdoor party on the river continues to offer much more than straight blues, featuring funk/jazz from former James Brown sideman Maceo Parker, the incomparable LA rockers Los Lobos, African music from Bombino, various roots rockers, and of course the day-long zydeco swamp romp with a half dozen bands.

Dick Hyman & Friends, Monday, Jimmy Mak’s, Portland. In this benefit for Portland Chamber Orchestra, the legendary New York-based arranger (for many Woody Allen films), pianist (more than 100 albums), former Oregon Festival of American Music jazz adviser returns to Oregon to join Portland jazzers and other musicians (including the superb singer Rebecca Kilgore and sousaphonist Mark Vehrencamp) in classic jazz tunes and more.

3 Leg Torso, Tuesday, Lan Su Classical Chinese Garden, Portland. The irrepressible world chamber ensemble brings its accordion- and violin fueled musical antics to the loveliest spot in downtown Portland.

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