Weekend MusicWatch: Unseasonable sounds



The Amphion Quartet plays the Someday Lounge.

The Amphion Quartet performs at Chamber Music Northwest.

The post-solstice skies are gradually getting lighter, but listeners will be in the dark Friday night, and despite the wintry conditions, will be hearing the sounds of spring and summer all weekend at Chamber Music Northwest — which normally happens in the summer. Confused?

Cascadia Composers, Friday, Temple Baptist Church, 1319 NE 7th Ave., Portland. As its recent Crazy Jane concert demonstrated, Cascadia Composers’ concerts just keep getting more interesting and entertaining. This one features different works by several of the Crazy Janes (Bonnie Miksch, Susan Alexjander, Jan Mittelstaedt, Lisa Marsh), plus several more of Oregon’s finest contemporary music creators, including David Bernstein, Jack Gabel, Paul Safar, Jay Derderian, and more. (Note: click on the composer name links to learn more about them via OAW’s Oregon ComposersWatch.) This edition’s lineup puts the focus on works with voices, flute and/or tape (i.e. recorded sounds) music, but also includes piano, viola, clarinet and even a dancer. Oh yeah, and (shades of last summer’s Third Angle New Music concert!), it takes place in the dark, or at least low lighting, the better to appreciate these 21st century, homegrown soundscapes.

Chamber Music Northwest Winter Festival, Friday-Sunday, Reed College and Portland State University. The four-decade summer fixture, which has been adding occasional concerts during the rest of the year, stages a winter mini-fest featuring some veteran regulars and their young proteges performing music related to the seasons. Friday’s concert at Reed’s Performing Arts Building Recital Room features Ida Kavafian, Oregon Symphony flutist Jessica Sindell and oboist Martin Hebert, and more in a violin sonata by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky’s lovely solo piano suite The Seasons (actually, “The Months” is a little closer but who’s counting?), and Samuel Barber’s breezy Summer Music for winds.

Saturday night’s show at Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium features Vivaldi’s inevitable yet irresistible The Four Seasons violin concertos, in a stripped down arrangement for octet, preceded by Schubert’s immortal song cycle Winter’s Journey , with baritone Randall Scarlatta accompanied by legendary pianist Gilbert Kalish, offering a chance to compare and contrast with next week’s performance by baritone Gerald Finley, courtesy of Friends of Chamber Music — Schubert smack down! Schubert’s two dozen settings of poems by Wilhelm Müller follow a spurned lover’s bleak winter’s journey into solitude, yet as choreographer Bill T. Jones recently explained on National Public Radio, can leave listeners with a feeling of catharsis rather than mere gloom.

Sunday afternoon’s American music concert at Lincoln features the Amphions, Kavafian, Oregon Symphony cello champ Nancy Ives and concert master Sarah Kwak, Sindell and other top local musicians from the OSO, Portland Baroque and more. The program includes the great Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla’s Southern hemispherical, 20th century response to Vivaldi, The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, the small-ensemble (and superior) version of Aaron Copland’s great ballet suite Appalachian Spring, and, the highlight of the festival, its sole contemporary work, the world premiere of Portland composer eminence David Schiff’s Echoes of Seasons, which incorporates earlier works on the seasonal theme.

Axiom Brass Friday and Saturday, Music Recital Hall, Southern Oregon University, Ashland. The international award winning brass quintet plays music by Bach, Mendelssohn, Piazzolla, Monterverdi, Palestrina, Albinoni, Tchaikovsky and more, including contemporary works.

The Ensemble and Musica Maestrale, Saturday, Central Lutheran Church, Eugene, and Sunday, First Presbyterian Church, Portland. A pair of Portland’s most valuable musical players, The Ensemble (a small vocal group drawn from the city’s superb large choirs) and Musica Maestrale, which has been enriching the city’s early music scene with small-ensemble performances of music from across the Baroque era, team up in solos, duets, and theater music by the great Baroque composer, Claudio Monteverdi, including including one of the most heart-rending of all madrigals, the plangent Tears of a Lover in the Sepulchre of his Beloved.

Josh Mong, Saturday, Blackfish Gallery, Portland. The Portland composer and artist, who opened for Nirvana and befriended synthesizer inventor Robert Moog, performs his 35 Dreams in Color for theremin, synthesizer and marimba.

Alice Davenport and Raleigh Williams, Saturday, The Atrium, Eugene. The singer and lutenist play music from the English Renaissance, including works by John Dowland, Thomas Campion, and songs from Shakespeare’s plays.

Gary Noland, Saturday, 3026 SE Berkeley Place, Portland. The veteran Oregon composer showcases his singular music, with help from several other pianists, in a house concert.

Oregon Bach Collegium, Sunday, United Lutheran Church, Eugene. Where’s Oprah when we need her?  Singer Heather Holmquest, violinist Michael Sand, harpsichordist Margret Gries, cellist Marc Vanscheeuwijck, and flutist Kim Pineda perform a pair of cantatas — Handel’s Lucrezia and Clérambault’s Medée — featuring betrayed women driven crazy by slimy guys, in a program that also includes Tartini’s Dido Abandoned.


Camerata PYP, Sunday. The chamber orchestra of the Portland Youth Philharmonic continues to give its young musicians opportunities to explore the music of their own time with another work by one of its favorite composers, Christopher Theofanidis, who also happens to be one of America’s finest and most listener friendly. Along with his ebullient, Bach-influenced 2007 Muse (written for the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra), along with the work that inspired it, the third Brandenburg concerto, plus another descendant of that J.S. Bach classic: Stravinsky’s jazzy Dumbarton Oaks concerto.

Newport Symphony, Saturday and Sunday, Newport Performing Arts Center. One of the most exciting orchestral programs of the season spotlights the harp, and includes Oregon native Lou Harrison’s tribute to his mentor and fellow great West Coast composer, A Reel in Honor of Henry Cowell, from Harrison’s Symphony #3, Debussy’s ravishing Sacred and Secular Dances, the great 20th century Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu’s haunting Tree Line, John Kuzma’s new Noels for Harp and Orchestra, which NSO conductor Adam Flatt premiered with the Denver Philharmonic in 2012, and Schumann’s Symphony #1.

Oregon Symphony, Saturday and Sunday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland. This pops concert features the spectacular trumpeter Byron Stripling and other jazz and blues specialists in music by Basie, Bessie (Smith), Billie (Holiday), Basin Street and and more.


Music Makes a City, Friday, PBS. The award-winning 2010 documentary shows how a mid-sized American city far from the cultural centers built new audiences and invigorated its music scene by fostering original American music rather than playing the same old Euroclassics over and over. If only Oregon orchestras were so visionary….

The Habit of Art, Sunday, World Trade Center Theater, Portland. Third Rail Theater’s presentations of the English National Theater’s NT Live series is really almost like being on stage with the finest actors in the world, and this fabulous Alan Bennett play is especially relevant to classical music fans as it chronicles a (fictional) encounter between composer Benjamin Britten and his one-time creative partner, W.H. Auden, late in both their lives as Britten grapples with his opera-in-progress, Death in Venice.

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