Weekend MusicWatch: Season swan songs

Violinist Jennifer Koh performs with the Oregon Symphony. Photo by Fran Kaufman

Violinist Jennifer Koh performs with the Oregon Symphony. Photo by Fran Kaufman.

To everything – except the NBA playoffs, which seem to stretch on forever (especially if the Trail Blazers aren’t involved) – there is a season, and in Oregon classical music, it pretty much ends now, just in time for outdoor pleasures. But never fear, the summer season will gear up soon, and we’ll be telling you all about the Oregon Bach Festival, Chamber Music Northwest, and before you know it, it’ll be time for TBA.

The Oregon Symphony’s Storm-y program featuring the music of Weill, Schubert and the rest (originally scheduled for Carnegie Hall) felt like a season climax, making this weekend’s final concert more like a coda — or rather, Koh-da. The state’s signature orchestra closes 2012-13 chapter this weekend in Salem (on Friday) and Portland (Saturday-Monday) with war-hoariest of classics, Brahms’s powerful Symphony #1, plus Bela Bartok’s brilliant second violin concerto. Earlier this year in connection with another story, I interviewed the soloist, the always-adventurous Jennifer Koh, and asked her about her impressions of Portland.

“I love Portland!” she exclaimed three times. “I travel so much and the three things I look for are good coffee, good food and good bookstores, and Portland has them all. And I don’t mind the rain at all.” Given this weekend’s forecast, that’s fortunate.

Other orchestral closers include the latest in Portland Chamber Orchestra‘s inventive series multimedia performance talks, this one about brain health and featuring Oregon Health Sciences University neuroscientist John Smith and artist Lisa Caballero, Monday night at Newmark Theatre, and the Starlight Symphony’s program of opera music (including soprano and chorus) Sunday in Tualatin.

Choral and Chamber Closings

Speaking of choruses, this weekend offers several final opportunities for multi-vocal delight. On Friday at southeast Portland’s St. Stephens Catholic Church and Sunday at Kairos-Milwaukie United Church of Christ, Portland State University’s nationally renowned chamber choir sings for its airfare to Italy’s 52nd Annual Seghizzi International Competition, where it’ll be the first American choir to compete. You can hear the program they’ll sing there, which ranges from Mendelssohn and Verdi to contemporary composers Eriks Esenwalds (whose “Passion and Resurrection” at last month’s Oregon Repertory Singers concert was a highlight of the season) and Eric Whitacre, American spirituals and folk tunes, and more. On Saturday night, choirs known for mixing classical choral and popular music offer competing concerts. Cantico Singers perform Beatles, Brahms, and more at First Baptist Church, while Consonare Chorale chirps bird-oriented songs by Mozart, McCartney, contemporary British Columbia composer Stephen Chatman and much more at First Congregational. And Portland Peace Choir does its thing in a free concert at Unity of Portland.

Speaking of Verdi and vocals, Portland Opera’s excellent production of the composer’s larger-than-life Falstaff closes Saturday, and it’s a fine way to close PO’s season.

Portland Opera's "Falstaff":  Caitlin Mathes as Meg Page, Eduardo Chama as Falstaff, Angela Niederloh as Dame Quickly;.© Portland Opera / Cory Weaver

Portland Opera’s “Falstaff”: Caitlin Mathes as Meg Page, Eduardo Chama
as Falstaff, Angela Niederloh as Dame Quickly;.© Portland Opera / Cory

It’s a strong weekend for more intimate sounds, too. On Friday at Classic Pianos of Portland, pianist Marja Kaisla Finnishes the solo piano season with music by composers from her homeland — Sibelius, of course, but also much more rarely heard Finns Leevi Madetoja, Selim Palmgren, and Einar Englund. At the University of Oregon’s Aasen-Hull Hall Saturday, one of Oregon’s most valuable musical assets, the new music ensemble Beta Collide (led by UO faculty members trumpeter Brian McWhorter and flutist Molly Barth) play music by some of today’s most prominent living composers, including Frederic Rzewski, David Lang, and Mark Applebaum.

On Sunday afternoon, chamber music fans face another agonizing choice: the Museaux Trio (PSU faculty members Denise Fujikawa and Sydney Carlson plus Third Angle violist Brian Quincey) playing music for flute, viola and harp by Piazzolla, Libby Larsen, Jan Bach, Debussy and more, performing at the Tigard Library in the excellent Music in Small Spaces series? Or catch another contemporary-oriented trio, Bird in My Horns, featuring City of Tomorrow flutist and hornist Elise Blatchford and ArtsWatch contributor and veteran Portland pianist Maria Choban, playing music by Catherine Hoover, Brahms, and Portland indie rockers and folkers, in the Celebration Works series at downtown Portland’s First Presbyterian Church? Or, if your tastes run to more venerable sounds, you could hear the excellent Wildwood Consort performing music by one of the Baroque’s greatest pre-Bach composers, Dieterich Buxtehude just a few blocks away at Multnomah County Central Library in downtown Portland. If it’s Bach himself you crave, you can get your fill of his music at the American Guild of Organists’ annual Bach-a-thon at northwest Portland’s Anglican Parish of St. Mark, which includes other instrumentalists and singers as well as organ-izers galore. They’re all at 2 pm Sunday, and it’s supposed to be raining anyway, so why not spend a spring afternoon indoors?

And speaking of Baroque chamber music, Springfield’s Chamber Music Amici close their season by playing Bach, Telemann, Vivaldi and Leclair at the Wildish Theater Tuesday.

Finally, you can hear original music by a Portland music prof who studies Renaissance and medieval music, and writes folkish songs influenced by them and played on modern instruments, including the kind you plug in. Lewis & Clark prof Nora Beck’s CD release concert is Sunday night at Sellwood’s SMILE Station in southeast Portland.

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