Eugene Weekly : Music : 11.23.11


Rising Stars

Almost-holiday music comes to Eugene

Vijay Iyer

Chee Yun

If you thought the days of watching jazz stars being born were gone, witness what happened to Vijay Iyer last year. After more than a decade and 15 albums of accomplishment and invention, his state-of-the-art trio album Historicity (which channeled artists from MIA to Tribe Called Quest to avant jazzers Andrew Hill and Julius Hemphill) deservedly swept most of jazz’s album of the year prizes, and jazz journalists named the 40-year-old New York-based composer/ pianist Musician of the Year. Iyer’s weeklong UO residency culminates in a Dec. 3 solo concert at Beall Concert Hall. 

Academia is familiar ground for Iyer. He’s published research in academic journals and lectured at most of the country’s most prestigious universities. His music, though sophisticated, doesn’t suffer from pretentiousness or icy intellectualism. He claims influence from jazz deities as well as 20th century composers like Steve Reich and Gyorgy Ligeti, electronica, African drumming and most of all, the complex patterned Karnatic music of his South Indian heritage. He’s written for wind quintet, string quartet, dance, film scores, orchestra and installation art. He even composed a clever Mozart completion that stole the show at last summer’s Chamber Music Northwest by the Brentano Quartet. His highly recommended UO concert will likely draw primarily from his dazzling 2010 solo album, which ranges from covers of Monk, Ellington and Michael Jackson to Iyer’s own exploratory originals.

Another rising solo pianist, Inon Barnatan, who gave an excellent solo show in Portland last month, will play a recital benefiting the Eugene Symphony’s important community and education programs on Wednesday, Nov. 30, with a fine program featuring music Ravel, Debussy and Schubert. Still in his early ’30s, Israeli-born pianist Barnatan has already racked up awards, a three-year stint with prestigious Chamber Music at Lincoln Center, performances with major chamber stars and orchestras around the world, recitals at Carnegie Hall and other top venues. 

The next night, Barnatan is one of three under-trumpeted soloists performing with the ESO in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. Seoul-born violinist Chee Yun, anointed the next big string thing with major prizes in the early ‘90s, has built a solid career since. Not yet 30, cellist Joshua Roman scored the prestigious first cello chair with the Seattle Symphony out of college in 2006 — then, after ecstatic reviews, boldly left two years later for a solo career that may make him the successor to earlier hot young cellists like Matt Haimovitz, Maya Beiser or Zoe Keating. 

Family-oriented fare takes center stage as the holidays approach, and it doesn’t get more family friendly than Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1959 musical, The Sound of Music, which chronicles the von Trapp family’s escape from the shameful 1938 Nazi annexation of Austria. Along with the popular songs familiar from the 1965 movie The Shedd’s new, fully staged production of the original 1959 Broadway version, which runs from Dec. 2-18, contains extra songs and music dropped from the film.

You have a couple last chances to hear intrepid music before the holiday standards descend like winter frost and drive musical adventure into hibernation. Two of these chances involve UO’s celebrated percussion ensembles, which will perform on Nov. 28 at Beall and then at Aasen-Hull Hall on Dec. 4. The next generation of classical players appear on Dec. 5 and 7, when Arts Umbrella youth orchestras perform at South Eugene High auditorium. You can hear free organ recitals of Advent, Christmas and other seasonal classical music at First United Methodist Church on Dec. 2, 9, 16 and 23. And then comes a new annual Handel Messiah singalong, featuring the Oregon Mozart Players and accomplished local vocalists, on Dec. 6 at the Hult Center.