Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Alban Berg (1885-1935)
Hildegard Behrens (1937-2009)
Ryland Davies (1943)
Paul Hillier (1949)
Jay Reise 1950)
Marilyn Hill Smith (1952)
Amanda Roocroft (1966)

and

Amy Lowell (1874-1925)
James Stephens (1882-1950)
Brendan Behan (1923-1964)
J.M. (John Maxwell) Coetzee (1940)
Alice Walker (1944)

Pianist Natasha Paremski and the Oregon Symphony remind us why live music is so irreplaceable

Natasha Paremski
The Oregon Symphony showcased its own prodigious talent, as well as that of guest pianist Natasha Paremski on Saturday night at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. The evening consisted of a short work by Stravinsky, a delicious set of jazzy pieces for piano and orchestra by Paul Schoenfield, and Gustav Holst's magnum opus The Planets.

Maestro Carlos Kalmar joked about the short works the symphony typically opens with as being 'parking overtures,' but also alluded to the desire to showcase shorter works of great importance, and Stravinsky's Fireworks was no exception. Flashy, brilliant and brief, it served as an appetizer for the challenging Schoenfield to come.

Schoenfield's Four Parables for Piano and Orchestra was a fascinating undertaking. Opening with  Rambling Till the Butcher Cuts us Down, it was aptly moody and sinister to start. Sinuous winds followed by an exploding piano, elephantine shrieks from the horns and intense, rapid syncopated rhythms combined to form a jazz danse macabre. Paremski demonstrated tremendous power, a necessary prerequisite for staging this difficult work. She showed speed, agility, and frankly a bit of daring, fortunately so because massive amounts of all were needed.

The second parable, Erlking, began with a walking electric bass line underlying fascinating little vignettes from various instruments, as though one were looking at, or listening to the world through warped but not unkindly lenses. Paremski hammered and sighed through a stride-style piano segment like a bacchanalian lounge player, pulsing with demoniac energy.

The final movements, Elegy and Dog Heaven must have required every bit of stamina and fortitude the brilliant Paremski had to offer: the incredible tremolando passages, thundering glissandi and titanic scalar motives whirling in rapid succession were like hot jazz fusion from the center of a star.

The second half consisted entirely of Holst's signature work, The Planets. Hearing it live is a vivid reminder of why this work is so beloved (and so imitated), and the Oregon Symphony is an ensemble perfectly capable of delivering every bit of wonder this work has to offer.

Opening with maybe one of the most famous fanfares in all the repertoire, the brass were magisterial and the strings brimming with menacing pomp for Mars, Bringer of War. And what a relaxing and placid refuge was Venus, following Mars. Mercury the Winged Messenger was full of delicate twittering strings and nuanced texturing; no one was phoning in this chestnut. Kalmar kept it lively and vibrant, and the orchestra was right there with him. Though not programmatic per se, one couldn't help but envision the jovial Jupiter striding through the spheres like some smiling behemoth. The mysterious harbinger of doom Saturn...one could feel the footsteps of inevitability, one's own demise approaching. The mystery of the final movements, Uranus and Neptune, between the warm and intimate caress of the violins and the ghostly women's choir...the OSO and guests Women of Portland State Chamber Choir and Vox Femina are a stunning reminder of why live music is so tremendously important, and how the experience so impossible to replicate in any other medium.


Monday, February 8, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Jacob Praetorius (1586-1651)
André Grétry (1741-1813)
Osian Ellis (1928)
John Williams (1932)
Elly Ameling (1933)
Gundula Janowitz (1937)
Margaret Brouwer (1940)
Stephen Roberts (1948)
Irvine Arditti (1953)

and

Jules Verne (1828-1905)
Kate Chopin (1850–1904)
Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)
John Grisham (1955)

Oregon Symphony announces 2016-2017 seaason

From the press release:

Record growth marks the 120th Anniversary Season with a 20 percent increase in the number of classical concerts, a new multimedia series in collaboration with artistic luminaries, two commissioned world premieres, and 16 Oregon Symphony premieres.

Music Director Carlos Kalmar and President Scott Showalter have announced the details of the Company’s 2016/17 season. Titled “Like Never Before,” the season, which celebrates the Company’s 120th Anniversary and builds on the records-shattering success of the past two seasons, marks a new era of artistic growth and community collaboration.
 
Armed with another Grammy Award nomination, its third in four years, the Symphony creates new artistic experiences in a signature series titled SoundSights, in which visual art is merged with orchestral sound. In each of the three installments in this series, the Symphony collaborates with some of the Northwest region’s most prominent artists. Renowned artist Dale Chihuly’s works of art provide the setting for the production of Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle; Pacific Northwest College of Art’s acclaimed animator Rose Bond and her team project dramatic video around the interior walls of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall for Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphony; and production design wizard Michael Curry transforms the stage for Stravinsky’s Perséphone.
 
Music Director Carlos Kalmar, commenting on the season—which marks his 14th at the artistic helm—said: “This is the most exciting season in my tenure. It is exactly what we should be doing—providing new musical experiences for our audiences.”
 
SoundSights concerts headline a Classical subscription series that grows from 40 performances to 48 performances, a 20% increase over previous seasons. That growth allows all classical programs to have three performances—on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays—providing patrons with more choices and opportunities.
 
In addition to that classical performance growth, all subscription packages expand to include eight classical performances, half of the season’s classical offerings.
 
Monday classical concert start times move from 8:00 pm to 7:30 pm, aligning the start times of all evening concerts.
 
Noting the Company’s changes, President Scott Showalter, for whom the 2016/17 season marks his third, said: “Our growth reflects the support of our subscribers, donors, ticket-buyers, and artistic partners. The Oregon Symphony is responding to what we’ve heard from our community and preparing for further growth. It’s an exciting time to make music and art.”
 
The 2016/17 120th Anniversary Season, which opens on September 10, 2016 and closes on May 22, 2017, includes 48 performances of 16 Classical subscription concerts, 8 performances of 4 Pops subscription concerts and 3 performances of 3 Kids subscription concerts, for a total of 59 performances of 23 different subscription concerts.
 
In addition to the subscription concerts, the season includes three renowned classical performers in Special Concerts: Soprano Renée Fleming kicks off the season on September 10; violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg performs and conducts Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on January 7, 2017; and violinist Gil Shaham joins the orchestra on April 2, 2017.
 
Every season, the Oregon Symphony performs between 20 and 30 concerts beyond its subscription series. These Special Concerts—under the Oregon Symphony Presents banner—span a wide range of genres. Patrons can expect the full slate of these Special Concerts to be announced in May.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Ossip Gabrilovich (1878-1936)
Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927)
Claudia Muzio (1889-1936)
Lord Harewood (1923-2011)
Stuart Burrows (1933)
Wolfgang van Schweintz (1953)

and

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957
Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951)
Gay Talese (1932)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Today's Birthdays

Henry Litolff (1818-1891)
Karl Weigl (1881-1949)
Andre Marchal (1894-1980)
Claudio Arrau (1903-1991)
Stephen Albert (1941-1992)
Paul Esswood (1942)
Bob Marley (1945-1981)
Bruce J. Taub (1948)
Matthew Best (1957)
Sean Hickey (1970)

and

Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)
Eric Partridge (1894-1979)
George Herman "Babe" Roth (1895-1948)
Deborah Digges (1950-2009)
Michael Pollan (1955)

Friday, February 5, 2016

Percussive Reich-analia performance takes pummeling to the next level

Drumming - Photo by Jacob Wade
The buzz in the air at Montgomery Park on Saturday evening (January 30) reflected the high level of anticipation from an overflow crowd, some of whom were patiently waiting to buy an unclaimed ticket from will call. They were looking forward a Third Angle New Music Ensemble concert devoted to the music of Steve Reich. The program, “aptly entitled Reich-analia,” featured two classic Reich pieces: “Sextet” and “Drumming” both of which explore intoxicating sonic possibilities from percussive instruments. The featured virtuosos of the performance were Sō Percussion, a New York City based percussion ensemble that consists of Eric Cha-Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Siliwinski, and Jason Treuting. They partnered brilliantly with several other superb musicians to elevate the propulsive, minimalist music of Reich. 

Sextet - photo by Jacob Wade
Because he uses repetitive rhythmic patterns so ingeniously, Reich’s music has a hypnotic quality, and that was evident right away with “Sextet” (1985), which featured Sō Percussion plus Oregon Symphony percussionists Sergio Carreno and Jonathan Greeney. Seemingly simple patterns evolved and devolved from an array of instruments that included keyboards, marimbas, vibraphones, bass drums, crotales, and tam-tams. Bows used on vibraphones created longer, more sustained tones that reminded me of a gentle fog horn. The overall tonal shape of the piece seemed to dip slightly and then rise on an upswing. Rhythmic patterns had a uniform quality that dissolved into a random-like style before syncing up again. The only glitch in the performance was a speaker that was turned on a few minutes after things got started. The sudden increase in sound briefly jarred people’s ears, but the artistry of the performers easily eclipsed that snafu, and they received an overwhelmingly enthusiastic applause from the audience at the end of the piece.
Drumming - Photo by Karney Hatch
In the second half of the program, sticks and mallets teamed up with voices and piccolo to give a trance-inducing performance of “Drumming” (1971). Members of Sō Percussion created a virtual thicket of rhythmic patterns that ricocheted off the walls. Sometimes one drummer would take over for another to give him a much needed break. Players would turn the end of their sticks around to use either the wooden end for a slightly sharper sound or the mallet end for a slightly softer sound. Somewhere along the way Carreno and Greeney got into the action on the marimbas, and later moved over to the glockenspiels. In the midst of all this, they were joined by Christ Whyte and Oregon Symphony colleagues Niel DePonte and Michael Roberts. Percussive vocals from Katherine FitzGibbon and Beth Meyers phased in and out of the soundscape but they were difficult to hear over the continuous pummeling. The same problem occurred when Sarah Tiedemann played her piccolo. Still, the musicians created an array of overtones that sounded otherworldly. Intriguing pattern-changes and incredibly speedy stickwork were also part of the hour-long sonic mixture, and the virtuosic effort of the ensemble was rewarded with a standing ovation.

I have to admit that I felt a brief wooziness when I stood up. Perhaps that was due to the vibratory level of the performance. But as I left the performance area, I noticed that one of the audience members had fallen and that EMTs were already in the building with a stretcher. It probably had nothing to do with the concert, but I could understand if that person stood up a little too quickly, he/she might have simply passed out. Weird things can happen at concerts. I've experienced an audience member throwing up on me during a concert. Such is the power of music - or the true feelings toward music critics!
Photo by Jacob Wade

Today's Birthdays

Ole Bull (1810-1880)
Christian Gottlob Neefe (1748-1798)
Ricardo Viñes (1875-1943)
Jussi Björling (1911-1960)
Sir John Pritchard (1921-1989)
Luc Ferrari (1929-2005)
John Poole (1934)
Ivan Tcherepnin (1943-1998)
Josef Protschka (1944)
Phylis Bryn-Julson (1945)

and

Henry Louis "Hank" Aaron (1934)
John Guare (1938)
William S. Burroughs (1914-1997)
Christopher Guest (1948)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Chamber Music Northwest's 2016 Summer Festival lineup announced

From the press release:

SEASON HIGHLIGHTS

Nine-time Grammy winners EMERSON STRING QUARTET; Violinists JENNIFER FRAUTSCHI, IDA KAVAFIAN, and ANI KAVAFIAN; Pianists MELVIN CHEN, GILLES VONSATTEL, and ANDRE WATTS; Ensembles DOVER QUARTET, MIRO QUARTET, ORION STRING QUARTET, ZORA STRING QUARTET, and AKROPOLIS REED QUINTET;
Festival favorites PAUL NEUBAUER, FRED SHERRY, and PETER WILEY;
Collaborations with OREGON BACH FESTIVAL, BODYVOX, and TANGO FOR MUSICIANS AT REED COLLEGE; BEETHOVEN'S COMPLETE STRING QUARTETS, lJ NEW PREMIERES, and NEW@NOON contemporary concert series

Chamber Music Northwest (CMNW), one of America's top chamber music festivals, is pleased to announce its 2016 Summer Festival. June 25-July 31,2016. Under the direction of acclaimed clarinetist David Shifrin, the five-week festival will be one of the most ambitious, entertaining, and expansive chamber music festivals ever presented in the Northwest. Exploring Beethoven. his influence and inspiration in over fifty concerts over its five week run. It will bring to Portland some of the world's most renowned chamber music artists and ensembles, highly acclaimed local artists, and the rising stars of classical music's next generation.

CMNW's Summer Festival is unlike any other music experience available in our region, presenting over 100 acclaimed artists and ensembles in over 50 concerts at Reed College's Kaul Auditorium, Portland State University's Lincoln Hall, and other venues throughout the Portland area. In all, they will perform more than 100 chamber works, ranging from Beethoven's complete string quartets and beloved classics by Mozart and Brahms to new and contemporary works by composers of today. CMNW's unique, collaborative environment is prized by the visiting musicians, allowing international artists like the Emerson String Quartet, Melvin Chen, and Jennifer Frautschi to collaborate with other world-class and rising star musicians in the beauty of a Portland summer. The festival also allows Northwest audiences the opportunity to hear the world's leading musicians play the world's greatest music in a fun, dress-down atmosphere that includes casual summer picnics on the picturesque grounds of the colleges, informal open rehearsals, educational opportunities, and three free community concerts.

"At the core of the 2016 Summer Festival is the entire cycle of Beethoven string quartets performed by five great American quartets," says Artistic Director David Shifrin. "Beethoven's quartets represent not only the core essence of the chamber music repertory, but one of the crowning achievements of human civilization." The inspiration for this ambitious festival came from the Emerson String Quartet's three­ concert series pairing Haydn's late opus 76 quartets with Beethoven's early opus 18 quartets. While these incredible works form the heart of the festival, it includes much, much more.

This year's festival will feature several incredible collaborations. CMNW is again working with Tango for Musicians at Reed College, the Oregon Bach Festival, and BodyVox. Working with Tango for Musicians CMNW will present their opening night concert featuring world-renowned tango musicians performing with CMNW festival favorite Peter Wiley. The Oregon Bach Festival will present two concerts as part of CMNW's festival featuring pianist and scholar Robert Levin, once performing with the Berwick Academy Chamber Orchestra and once with the Festival's faculty. CMNW and BodyVox will present Death and Delight, a multi-performance event featuring chamber music and dance themed around Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

This summer is New@Noon,- now featuring five concerts- is back! The groundbreaking concert series explores the diversity and depth of contemporary classical music. These concerts, as well as informal composer lunches, a family concert, three community concerts, and the premieres of four new works commissioned by CMNW, will allow audiences to become more familiar with the chamber music of the present and future.

CMNW is thrilled to bring over a dozen Protege Artists- rising stars of classical music- to Portland this summer. These incredible young artists will be featured in eight concerts bringing a fresh sound to classic chamber pieces.

Executive Director Peter Bilotta notes, "We are thrilled that our 2016 Summer Festival will bring us back together again with the Oregon Bach Festival, Reed College's internationally renowned Tango for Musicians conference, and BodyVox. And, we're very excited be able to expand our New@Noon concerts and our Wednesday night concerts to five performances each. It's going to be an incredible five weeks of music."



Week One I June 25-July 3

Le Grand  Tango
Saturday, June 25 I 8 pm I Reed College, Kaul Auditorium
Straight from  Buenos Aires, the faculty of Tango for Musicians at Reed College joins Peter Wiley and
CMNW  in a celebration of contemporary tango.


A Trio of Trios
Monday, June 271 8 pm I Reed College, Kaul Auditorium
Tuesday, June 28 I 8 pm I Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall
Ida Kavafian, Steven Tenenbom, and  Peter Wiley  perform an all-trio  concert featuring Haydn, Beethoven, and  Mozart.


OBF All-Stars
Saturday, July 218 pm I Reed College, Kaul Auditorium
Robert Levin  returns with the faculty of the Oregon Bach Festival to perform classic chamber works  by
Beethoven and  Mozart  on period instruments.


Week Two I July 4-July 10


Orion  String  Quartet plays  Beethoven & Mendelssohn
Tuesday, July 5 I 8 pm I Reed College, Kaul Auditorium
The Orion String Quartet performs string quartets by Beethoven and  Mendelssohn.


The Beethoven of Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 61 8 pm I Alberta Rose Theatre
Join Protege Project  artists as they  perform Op. 95, Op. g6, and Op. 97 from  the end of Beethoven's middle period.


Orion  String  Quartet plays  Beethoven & Schubert
Thursday, July 7 I 8 pm I Reed College, Kaul Auditorium
Let yourself  be carried away by the Orion  String Quartet in this concert of works composed late in life featuring Schubert's "Death and  the Maiden."

Week Three I July 11-17


The Razumovsky Quartets with the Dover Quartet
Monday, July n I 8 pm I   Reed College, Kaul Auditorium
Hear  Beethoven's complete Razumovsky Quartets performed by the exceptional young  musicians of the
Dover Quartet.
Emerson String  Quartet, Passing the Torch
Part I: Friday,  July 1518 pm I   Reed College, Kaul Auditorium
Part  II: Saturday, July 16 I 8 pm I   Reed College, Kaul Auditorium
Part  III: Sunday, July 1714  pm I Portland State University, Lincoln  Performance Hall
The Emerson String Quartet joins CMNW for three  concerts lauding Beethoven's innovation and inspiration.

Week Four I July 18-July 24


Keyboard Concertos through the Ages
Monday, July 18 I   8 pm I Reed College, Kaul Auditorium
Tuesday, July 19 18 pm I Portland State University, Lincoln  Performance Hall
Keyboard concertos from  J. S. Bach, Stravinsky, and  Mozart  will light up the stage.


Northern Lights: Scandinavian Gems
Wednesday, July 20 18 pm I Nordia House
Thursday, July 21  I 8 pm I Reed College, Kaul Auditorium
Celebrate the music of Scandinavia with works  by Nielsen  and  Portland composer David Schiff's  new arrangement of Grieg's Peer Gynt  Suite.

Week Five I July 25-31


Beethoven's Progression
Monday, July 25 I 8 pm I Reed College, Kaul Auditorium
Tuesday, July 26 IS pm I Portland State University, Lincoln  Performance Hall
Experience Beethoven's music through the ages with  his Septet in E-flat  Major and String  Quartet in
flat Major.


An Unlikely Muse: Brahms and  Muhlfeld
Friday,  July 29 I 8 pm I Portland State University, Lincoln Performance Hall
Sunday, July 31 I 4 pm I Portland State  University, Lincoln  Performance Hall
Join us for this exciting  world  premiere theatrical experience chronicling the last years of Brahms's life and  the unlikely source  of his musical inspiration!


Cooke, Shifrin, Watts & the Mir6 Quartet
Saturday, July 30 I   8 pm I   Reed College, Kaul Auditorium
The Mir6 Quartet is joined by David Shifrin,  Andre Watts, and Sasha  Cooke in the final concert performance of the 2016 Summer Festival.