Eugene Weekly : Music : 3.18.10

Effusions of Grandeur
Royal music all around Eugene
by Brett Campbell

The Shanghai Quartet

The Eugene Symphony gives its audience a royal treatment Thursday with some of the grandest sounds in classical music.  The orchestra concludes its survey of Beethoven’s piano concerti with the fine soloist Garrick Ohlsson in the epic fifth and final installment which despite its nickname (“Emperor”) was actually dedicated to his archduke patron. Beethoven wrote it while troops ordered by the real emperor, Napoleon, were occupying his Vienna. Mozart’s opulent Coronation Mass, with Eugene Symphony Chorus, maintains the ceremonial, regal bearing, as does Handel’s brash Royal Fireworks Music, commissioned by the King of England to celebrate the end of a major war pitting the composer’s former Prussian home against his adopted Britain. Deploying battalions of brass and winds, Handel’s suite delighted its audience of 12,000 much more than the pyrotechnics, which flopped.

For smaller scale but decidedly no lesser pleasures, don’t miss the UO’s final entry in this year’s excellent Chamber Music@Beall Series this Sunday, March 21, at Beall Concert Hall. The superb Shanghai Quartet (which starred at the Bach festival  the summer before last) will play one of the real gems in all of classical music: Claude Debussy’s (only) String Quartet. They’ll also perform one of the early masterpieces by the progenitor of the genre, Joseph Haydn, and a contemporary piece: the great Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki’s third string quartet, Leaves from an Unwritten Diary. This is easily one of the top chamber recommendations of the year.

The UO brings another attractive intimate concert to Beall on March 30, when the University of Texas piano duo of Betty Mallard and David Renner flee Austin’s post SXSW doldrums to perform Erik Satie’s characteristically and beautifully enigmatic Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear and music by Schubert and Rachmaninoff. From four strings to four hands to four organists — on March 26, a quartet of top local grinders — Barbara Baird, Julia Brown, ElRay Stewart-Cook and Robert Thompson — celebrate J.S. Bach’s 325th birthday with a free concert of some of his major organ works, including one nicknamed “the Wedgie.” Ah, Old Sebastian, ever the wigged out prankster. Oops, I guess that’s actually the “Wedge.” Never mind. They’ll take donations to buy a new console for the organ at the venue, First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive.

On a modern note, fans of jam bands and electronica would do well to plug into Signal Path at the WOW Hall on March 18. Their 2009 release Clash shows the Missoula-based jam/electronica festival faves incorporating more acoustic textures than ever, both live (guitar and drums) and sampled (banjo, mandolin, jazzy piano, etc). But the dubby, loping, bass-heavy beat that has endeared the laptop-wielding duo to dancers for the last eight years throbs on. The instrumental funk band Basin & Range opens. Contemporary jazz fans should head over to Albany to hear local fave Hashem Assadullahi’s quintet on March 27 at Calapooia Brewery.  

Finally, world music fans and anyone who treasures the sound of the human voice (and some nifty dance moves) should head Sheddward to the Jaqua Concert Hall at Broadway and 8th on March 30 to hear the great South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. As the peppy performance at the Oregon Zoo last summer proved, the ensemble still packs all the punch it did when it gained world fame by accompanying Paul Simon on the Graceland album.