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Weekend MusicWatch: Revolutionary Gathering

By Brett Campbell

June 21, 2013

Sergey Antonov stars at the Astoria Music Festival.

Sergey Antonov stars at the Astoria Music Festival.

Amsterdam, Paris, New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, London and three dozen more cities, with more falling every year. Classical Revolution’s mission to rescue classical music from entombment by mindless, archaic performance rituals, deadening formal presentations, and exorbitant ticket prices is spreading around the world from its San Francisco origins. But even among those mega-metropoli, Portland’s chapter shines, having completely packed its birthplace, The Waypost, so often for its increasingly aptly named classical jams that it’s had to triple the number of monthly gatherings in cafes and bars. And the Portland chapter has increasingly focused on original music, further expanding the audience to people who crave music born in their own time and place.

Maybe that’s why the loose national aggregation of classical revolutionaries chose Portland for its second annual world conference. After the participants engage in day-long discussions about the movement’s present and future, it’s the audience’s turn. At CRPDX’s summer showcase at 9 pm Saturday at downtown Portland’s Star Theater (which, to give you an idea of its usual vibe, features an Iron Maiden tribute that afternoon and a John Waters cabaret tribute the following night) Portland musicians will play – to mix a metaphor – the cream of recent jams, including works by Portlanders, such as the string quartet by Damen Liebling that won the organization’s composition competition, a pair of poetry settings, Brent Weaver’s gorgeous “Caminos” (lyrics by Spanish poet Antonio Machado) and CRPDX president Christopher Corbell’s Baudelaire settings for vocal trio Bergerette, who will also sing  “500 year old French Sex Pop,” and more, including Mozart and Haydn. It’s a great chance to see how classical music can work when yanked from its usual (in today’s museum culture, anyway) context.
Most of the rest of this weekend’s classical action again happens at the Oregon coast. On Friday, the Astoria Music Festival offers a Brahmsian chamber music program featuring not only Johannes’s lovely first string sextet but also late Romantic works that bear his influence: the Austrian composer Ludwig Thuille’s greatest hit (a piano and winds sextet), and Ernst von Dohnányi’s teenage breakthrough, his first piano quintet. They’re played by AMF chamber chief and pianist Cary Lewis, Oregon Symphony players Charles Noble, Evan Kuhlmann and Joe Berger, former OSO flutist David Buck and other first-rate musicians.

Also at the Liberty Theater, Saturday’s matinee chamber show features Lewis, violinist Roy Malan and returning star cellist Sergey Antonov in music by Samuel Barber and Shostakovich, while Saturday night’s “Otello” opera orgy features highlights from Verdi’s masterpiece sung by Met vets Richard Zeller, Ruth Ann Swenson and Allan Glassman, plus Verdian chamber and choral appetizers. Keith Clark conducts Sunday’s closing orchestra concert in Dvorak’s grand and unavoidable ninth symphony, Lalo’s Cello Concerto (featuring Antonov), and Aaron Copland’s “A Lincoln Portrait,” with dulcet voiced Oregon Coast resident and long time classical musician as well as certified  Famous Actor David Ogden Stiers stepping in as narrator.

New York pianist and arranger Dick Hyman performs at Siletz Bay Music Festival this weekend

New York pianist and arranger Dick Hyman performs at Siletz Bay Music Festival this weekend

Fans of the music of our own time and country might head down the road apiece to Salishan Spa near Gleneden Beach, where the Siletz Bay music festival continues with Portland Chamber Orchestra music director Yaacov Bergman conducting contemporary composer Corigliano’s vibrant Voyage for flute and orchestra, music by 20th century American composers Samuel Barber, Carlisle Floyd, Leonard Bernstein, John Williams, George Gershwin, and frequent Oregon visitor Dick Hyman, the eminent New York historical jazz master and film score titan who’ll star in his own piano concerto. His colleague, violnist Lindsay Deutsch, who’s been playing a lot of Gershwin around Oregon lately, will do the same here.
Saturday’s Siletz show features Bergman leading a pair of Mozart’s glorious piano concertos (the sunny #17 and ever-popular #21, starring Lorna Griffitt and Gerald Robbins, respectively), plus some opera arias and violin showpieces. Sunday morning’s family show features festival orchestra playing Tzvi Avni’s “The Three Legged Monster,” a story about musical instruments told with narration (by Portland classical radio host Edmund Stone) and projections. That afternoon’s fundraiser has Hyman joining singers Susannah Mars and Rocky Blumhagen in the Gershwin song and story revue they’ve been performing in Portland lately.

The solstice is upon us, which means Chamber Music Northwest is nigh. Monday and Tuesday night’s opening concerts feature long time music director David Shifrin and New York chamber music stars David Finckel and Wu Han playing trios for clarinet, piano and cello by Brahms, Beethoven and Bruch. The festival really heats up next week, and we’ll tell you all about it here.

We’ll also be telling you about that other big Oregon summer classical music festival that begins next weekend in Eugene, which this weekend hosts the first annual Women’s A Cappella Festival at the Shedd. Founded by two singers with long roots in Oregon music, Lisa Forkish (now based in Oakland, where her students triumphed in the international high school a cappella championships) and Shedd veteran Evynne Hollens (who co-founded the University of Oregon’s splendid Divisi women’s choir), it includes workshops and master classes (on everything from voice arranging and vocal percussion to live looping and social media) as well as Friday performances by Divisi, Honey Whiskey Trio, Chicago’s Men in Drag, Oregon State’s Divine, the female high school ensemble Synergy (directed by Hollens) and Forkish’s The Riveters. Saturday’s headliner concert brings the all star Musae sextet and Boston solo singer Julia Easterlin. A cappella singing is one of the hottest trends in music today, especially with young singers, so it’s a treat to see a new music festival born here even as that other Eugene festival is reborn under new artistic leadership starting next year.

Portland’s temporary classical interregnum offers opportunities to sample some other sounds, including Hindustani classical music (by bansuri flutist Steve Gorn and Ancient Future founder and multi instrumentalist Benji Wertheimer at northeast Portland’s Movement Center Saturday), or the Moroccan born, Israel- and France-bred, Australia-based, Metheny influenced jazz guitarist Albare (Sunday at Portland’s Blue Monk).
Speaking of jazz, as we first reported on ArtsWatch, Oregon jazz fans are already missing one of Portland’s most impressive young jazzers, Andew Oliver, who, as first reported here on ArtsWatch, is leaving the state and the country and heading to London. You can read my Willamette Week story here.
And in another sad farewell, fans of Portland’s annual William Byrd Festival are grieving the news that the English co-founder and music director for many years, Richard Marlow, died last week. This summer’s festival will be dedicated to his memory.

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