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Musical Homecomings

Don’t sit on your hands
Vagabond Opera

The Oregon Mozart Players begin a new era this Sunday afternoon with newly appointed artistic director Kelly Kuo’s first concert with the always enjoyable chamber orchestra, which also celebrates a most welcome return to its original home, the acoustically incomparable Beall Concert Hall on the University of Oregon campus with three works that celebrate worthy people and places. The Oregon native returns to his home state to conduct Edvard Grieg’s popular Holberg Suite (which honors an old Danish literary eminence) and one of the 20th century’s most beautifully poignant works, Maurice Ravel’s At the Tomb of Couperin, in which the composer turns a tribute to his French Baroque predecessors into a moving (though surprisingly non-lugubrious) memorial for friends killed in World War I around the time he was writing it. The concert closes with Mozart’s magnificent Symphony No. 38, which he wrote in gratitude to the people of Prague, who had embraced his music and in particular his great opera, The Marriage of Figaro. Though it starts slow, the symphony’s exuberant opening movement accelerates to become (in the right hands, of course) one of the most thrilling rides in all of classical music, and if the other two movements don’t quite match its excitement, the whole piece is still one of Mozart’s finest works. 

You probably have just enough time to dash from Beall to First United Methodist Church at 13th and Olive Sunday to catch an all-star ensemble of some of the Northwest’s finest Baroque music specialists, including Portland Baroque Orchestra regulars Victoria Gunn Pich (viola d’amore), Joanna Blendulf (viola da gamba and pardessus) and Hideki Yamaya (mandora and archlute), and Ashland based flutist Tessa Brinckman, perform scintillating music by Telemann, Locatelli and lesser-known 18th-century composers Ariosti, Milandre, Albrechtsberger and Roget. Baritone singer Aaron Cain, keyboard player Julia Brown and Baroque cellist and UO music professor Marc Vanscheeuwijck play still more delicious historically informed Baroque music in a free concert at the UO’s intimate Collier House on Sept. 29.

The UO music season really takes off next week, with a brass quintet concert Monday night at Beall, a concert of organ music on Oct. 7, and Oct. 5, the first major world music concert of the season at Beall: the great Mysore Brothers, a duo of immensely virtuosic violinists who’ll play the mesmerizing traditional Carnatic music of their South Indian homeland, accompanied by mridangam drummer Srimushnam Rajarao. Every time I’ve seen this pair, I’ve emerged blissfully astonished. They’ll also do a lecture demonstration that will help you understand the music at 3 pm at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

Speaking of world music, you can hear Linda Danielson and Janet Naylor play Celtic music for fiddle, voice and harp on Sunday, Sept. 30, at 2 pm. And if you crave still more Celtic sounds, you should head over to Corvallis’s First Presbyterian Church on Oct. 5 to catch the only Oregon appearance of one of the world’s pre-eminent traditional Irish music duos, legendary fiddler Martin Hayes and guitarist Dennis Cahill.

I suppose Vagabond Opera can also be considered a world music group, inasmuch as the intoxicating Portland indie classical ensemble often covers music from Eastern Europe as well as Western European cabaret, opera and art music. Mostly the band, which plays the WOW Hall Oct. 6, is a lot of fun, mixing Eric Stern’s operatically trained tenor voice, cello, guitar, violin, sometimes fire dancers and much more into a vibrant stage act that appeals to fans of world music, classical music, opera, pop and more. 

And speaking of stage acts, the Oregon Festival of American Music opens its fall season Oct. 4-7 at The Shedd with the latest in its Shedd Theatricals series, and it’s a delight: a concert version of George and Ira Gershwin’s dizzy Jazz Age Broadway musical, Lady Be Good! Along with the classic title tune and “Fascinatin’ Rhythm,” the score boasts less familiar items of Gershwin genius, and this production includes dialogue, authentic 1920s dance numbers and an irresistible Roaring ’20s vibe.