Weekend MusicWatch: Violin virtuosi and vibrant voices


Next stop: Portland. Boston's A Far Cry performs Sunday. Photo by Yoon S. Byun.

Next stop: Portland. Boston’s A Far Cry performs Sunday. Photo by Yoon S. Byun.

This weekend’s classical music concerts fix the focus on violin virtuosity, with at least a half dozen famously formidable fiddlers brandishing their bows around Oregon. Vocal music fans can also rejoice in a pair of compelling choral concerts, and contemporary music fans have ample reason to head out as well.

A Far Cry, Sunday, First Unitarian Church, Portland. One of the most eagerly anticipated concerts of the year brings this young, Boston-based 17 member chamber orchestra, founded in 2007 to perform the kind of program every orchestra should perform every time, mixing listener-friendly music from the past (Dvorak’s stirring String Quintet Op. 97, a short work by Charles Ives) and present: the Vjola Suite, by the fascinating Russian-American violist and composer Ljova, which incorporates Middle Eastern, African, Cuban and Eastern European folk influences, and Three Views from a Mountain by globe trotting young composer Kip Jones, who wrote his double concerto for bass and violin for AFC and who guest stars on violin. This Friends of Chamber Music concert also marks a homecoming for AFC violinist Megumi Stohs Lewis, Portland Youth Philharmonic alumna.

Eugene Symphony, Thursday, Hult Center, Eugene. Just because they missed Benjamin Britten’s centennial year by a few days is no reason to miss the orchestra’s performance of the great English composer’s dramatic Four Sea Interludes from his opera Peter Grimes. Those are instrumentals, but an actual opera diva, Mary Wilson, sings Mozart arias and his ever-popular motet, “Exultate, Jubilate,” before the band plays Brahms’s Symphony #3.

Beaverton Symphony, Friday and Sunday, Village Baptist Church, Beaverton. One of the rare Oregon orchestras that actually plays Oregon music more than once in a blue moon invites that quintessential and uncategorizable Portland band, 3 Leg Torso, led by violinist Bela Balogh and accordion accomplice Courtney Von Drehle, to join them in traditional Eastern European and original 3LT tunes, after a BSOnly set of music by Bartok, Brahms, and Khachaturian.

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Saturday and Sunday, Skyview Concert Hall, Vancouver, WA. Salvador Brotons will not be conducting this trio of popular 19th century musical postcards, two by French composers channelling the VSO music director’s native Spain, Chabrier’s Spain and Lalo’s popular Spanish Symphony (really a violin concerto starring guest artist Ryu Goto) and one by a German composer exulting over Italy, Mendelssohn’s ebullient Symphony #4. At the podium instead will be Gerard Schwartz, who ironically did so much for American music during his quarter century at the helm of the Seattle Symphony.

Oregon Symphony, Saturday and Monday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland. The orchestra makes a rare and welcome foray into music by a living composer in the moody, stormy 2009 tone poem Shoreless River, an excerpt from the German composer (and Hans Werner Henze protege) Detlev Glanert’s opera The Wooden Ship. Concertmaster Sarah Kwak seizes the spotlight in Polish Romantic composer Henryk Wieniawski’s 1862 virtuoso showpiece Violin Concerto #2, and the program closes with Sibelius’s 1900 Symphony #1.


Cappella Romana, Friday, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Portland. One of the finest choirs in the west sings music of the far north, as Helsinki based conductor Timo Nuoranne leads a reprise of their 2008 program of Finnish-language Orthodox choral music by 20th and 21st century composers, including Te Apostolic (premiered by CR in 2008) by renowned British composer Ivan Moody (whose new work composed for Portland’s In Mulieribus really impressed OAW’s Jeff Winslow and me), and music by the great contemporary Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara. Chances are you’ve never heard any of this music, and chances are you’ll want to hear much of it again after the show.

ViVoce, Saturday and Sunday, St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, Portland. The Portland Revels’ wide ranging a capella women’s choir sings songs from Macedonia, Appalachia, Germany, Renaissance Spain (Morales) and Italy (Palestrina) and more, including stories and poetry read by Anne-Louise and Bob Sterry and Ithica Tell.


Itzhak Perlman , Sunday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland. Accompanied by pianist Rohan de Silva, the venerable violin virtuoso plays Cesar Franck’s famous Violin Sonata, a sonata by Beethoven,  Tartini’s famous “Devil’s Trill” sonata, and more.

David Garrett, Martynas LevickisSaturday, Aladdin Theater, Portland. German violin virtuoso Garrett specializes in mixing reworked short classical standards with arrangements of pop hits. Lithuanian accordion virtuoso Levickis takes a similar approach.


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, as well as personal issues, including their very different attitudes toward keeping their homosexuality closeted.


Erin McCarthy, Tuesday, Walters Cultural Arts Center, Hillsboro. The local opera singer’s monologue that discusses the relevance of opera in modern life and in her own personal journey.

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Want to know more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch

2 Responses.

  1. Greg Ewer says:

    I understand the obvious differences in programming between last weekend’s Oregon Symphony program and A Far Cry’s upcoming program with Friends of Chamber Music. That said, last weekend’s preview included the following:

    “The program includes another arrangement/desecration (take your pick): an inflation of the magnificent “Great Fugue” movement from Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 133, one of the pinnacles of chamber music.”

    A Far Cry is performing a similar augmentation of a classic chamber music work, Dvorak’s String Quintet opus 97. Why call one out and not the other?

  2. Excellent point! Chamber music purists, you are hereby warned.

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