Hidden Gems

Find the musical diamonds in the rough of OBF and beyond

It’s easy to overlook some of the hidden — and often less expensive — gems amid the many choral and orchestral treasures the Oregon Bach Festival offers each summer. Maybe the best deal of OBF is this weekend’s Composers Symposium “Living Music” concerts at Beall Concert Hall, where on July 5 (for $10 or less), you can hear some of the late 20th century’s most compelling chamber music by the great composers Toru Takemitsu, Morton Feldman and John Cage, performed by Beta Collide, directed by one of today’s finest flutists, Molly Barth, and trumpeter Brian McWhorter. Those three Beall concerts also include music of today and tomorrow crafted by participants in the festival’s biennial symposium, all performed by New York’s Fireworks Ensemble (created by UO alum Brian Coughlin) July 7.

Other enticing low-cost shows include some of Eugene’s best jazz with UO jazz prof and pianist Toby Koenigsberg’s trio for free 1 pm Friday, July 5, in the Hult Center lobby, which also hosts a free concert by the Calgary Girls Choir July 6. On July 13, you can take the kids to see Portland’s inventive Tears of Joy Puppet Theatre’s Pinocchio for $5 each.

Naturally, the summer’s brightest spotlight likely falls upon July 5’s symbolic passing of the concert baton at Silva Hall featuring music of Brahms and Mendelssohn. It’s a shame it happens simultaneously with the Composers Symposium show, but at least the latter gives an exciting new music alternative to the Hult concert’s paleo-programming. July 8’s big orchestral concert at Silva features two superb soloists, festival stalwart Jeffrey Kahane in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 and Chee-Yun in Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5, and the OBF orchestra also performs one of the greatest of all symphonies, Haydn’s 99th. Kahane also gives a solo recital at Beall on July 11 featuring the music of Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann and more — including his son, the hot indie songwriter Gabriel Kahane. More Romantic music is on the program on July 13 at Beall when Rilling’s daughters and the Adorjan brothers team up in the Hohenstaufen Quartet to play the most famous string quartets by Schubert (“Death and the Maiden”) and Dvoràk (“American”).

Attend July 7’s Beall solo recital by former prodigy and still sparkling violinist Midori, or Portland Baroque Orchestra’s highly recommended concerts at Beall on July 12. They’ll play some of the composer’s greatest hits, including the Orchestra Suite No. 3 and Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, whose epic harpsichord solo will be played by none other than the OBF’s incoming music director, English keyboard master Matthew Halls.

Bach was probably best known in his own time not as a composer but as the greatest keyboard virtuoso in Europe, and he wrote many of his finest works for the organ. On July 5 one of today’s greatest organists, Paul Jacobs, gives an all-Bach recital on the superb Brombaugh organ at Central Lutheran Church. There, you can also hear free recitals by the excellent keyboard masters Julia Brown (who’ll introduce us to the works of one of Bach’s north German Baroque predecessors, Heinrich Scheidemann, on July 9, and Michael Kleinschmidt on July 11). On July 15-17, Brown, Barbara Baird and Kraig Scott will play Bach and more in non-Bachfest organ and harpsichord recitals at Central Lutheran, Beall and First United Methodist Church, as part of the Oregon Keyboard Institute.

The Bach Festival began as a choral workshop and is still best known for its choral music. On July 9, the festival’s Stangeland Family Youth Choral Academy sings Bach, Britten, Bernstein and lots more at Silva, then Rilling ends his tenure as festival music director on July 14 at Silva with maybe the greatest of all choral orchestral works, Bach’s B Minor Mass. It’s a glorious note to end on.