Eugene Weekly : Music : 10.30.08

American Romantics
And more sounds from around the world
By Brett Campbell

After struggling for years to embrace the then-trendy atonality, the great composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein said, approximately, “the heck with it,” and in 1965 composed “the most B-flat majorish tonal piece I’ve ever written.” Not surprisingly, his Chichester Psalms, commissioned by an English cathedral choir and using some material cut from West Side Story, proved both exciting and popular, one of the finest choral works of the last century. Two years later, Samuel Barber arranged the searing Adagio movement from his 1936 String Quartet for a choral setting of the Agnus Dei section of the Catholic Mass. Barber’s Adagio gained a huge audience when it was arranged for string orchestra and later used to great effect in movies such as Platoon and on various occasions that seem to demand emotional profundity, from President Franklin Roosevelt’s funeral to the memorial for the September 11 World Trade Center victims. Both modern sacred works demonstrate that 20th-century classical music could be popular without pandering. On Nov. 7 and 9, the Eugene Concert Choir will perform both works at the Hult Center.

ECC will be accompanied by the Oregon Mozart Players, who also have their own attractive concert Nov. 1 and 2 featuring perhaps the most dramatically moving work of classical music ever composed: Mozart’s darkly magnificent Piano Concerto #20, with soloist Anne-Marie McDermott from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. From its ominous opening through its almost unbearably poignant second movement to its driving finale, Mozart’s masterpiece struck the ideal balance between classical form and the nascent Romantic expressivity. The show also contains Beethoven’s somewhat neglected Symphony #8 and Joaquin Rodrigo’s Four Madrigals of Love, succulent settings of Renaissance songs that the Spanish composer created in 1947 just after his popular Concierto de Aranjuez

Jeffrey Kahane

Everybody’s favorite Oregon Bach Festival pianist, Jeffrey Kahane, will play a solo show at the UO’s Beall Concert Hall on Nov. 9. The program features three of Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words, Schubert’s joyously pastoral A major piano sonata (written the same year as the famous Trout Quintet) and the West Coast premiere of North Carolina composer Kenneth Frazelle’s “Wildflowers.” 

The nexus of forward- looking music in Eugene continues to be DIVA. This Friday, Oct. 31, the downtown art center at Broadway & Olive presents Nicholas Chase’s intriguing multichannel electronics and interactive video, and Spark Applied to Powder’s ambient drones. Chase’s works have garnered good reviews in the L.A. area and he’s performed them internationally. On Nov. 8 and 9, DIVA hosts the fourth annual Eugene Noise Fest, featuring more than two dozen regional and national performers — none of whom you’ve probably heard of — in this burgeoning genre. Like any shorthand, the rubric “noise” doesn’t do this emerging experimental music justice; you’ll hear a wide range of textures, some of it surprisingly nuanced and sophisticated. Noise music is finally starting to attract mainstream attention; check it out while it still has underground cred. 

Another visual arts venue, the UO’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, is also bringing in music. The new Music at the Museum series kicks off Nov. 7 with the veteran Cuban jazz duo of singer Jessie Marquez and guitarist Mike Denny. The university hosts more Latin-inflected jazz at Beall Concert Hall on Nov. 2 when faculty members Carl Woideck (sax) and Don Latarski (guitar), joined by woodwind genius Tom Bergeron, pianist Steve Larson and more, celebrate the half-century anniversary of bossa nova. The breezy Brazilian rhythm, a descendant of samba, started with João Gilberto, Tom Jobim and others, and quickly became wildly popular in the U.S. thanks to recordings by Stan Getz (including the inescapable “Girl from Ipanema”) and then practically every jazzer who needed a pop hit in the late 1950s and early ’60s. Perhaps the last broadly popular form of jazz, its frequent resurgences have kept the bossa wave flowing.

Another jazzer who’s embracing world music elements is Japanese pianist Keiko Matsui, who plays the Shedd Nov. 1. Asian influences have made her music more interesting than the smooth jazz genre she inhabits, and the South African musicians (including the great Hugh Masekela) and sounds on her 2007 album  Moyo further enriched her palette. The Shedd hosts another recommended world music show Nov. 12, when the great slack key guitarist Led Ka’apana (who’s played with everyone from Bonnie Raitt to Alison Krauss and earned multiple awards, including Grammys) joins  Hawaiian 12-string guitar master Mike Ka’awa for a concert of warm South Pacific sounds.  




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