Classical is Back

Composer Steven Mackey was honored by the commission to write a new work for his longtime collaborators, the celebrated Brentano Quartet, but daunted by the subject matter: a quartet that commemorated one of the most tragic days in American history, the assassination of President John Kennedy half a century ago. How could he write music that was true to what happened that terrible day, without reproducing its ugliness and thereby distressing listeners? What could instrumental music add to our understanding of, or feeling about, that dark day in Dallas?

We’ll find out Sunday, Oct. 13, when the foursome plays the California-born, Princeton-based composer’s “One Red Rose” in its ChamberMusic@Beall concert at the UO. The quartet’s title, which Mackey discovered in researching JFK’s murder, gives a clue to the award-winning composer’s approach to creating the quartet: focus on intimate, personal details, like the single blood-soaked flower found on the floor of the presidential limousine, and on the experience of those who mourned the President’s death, especially his wife, Jackie. The three movements, Mackey explaines on his website, trace the tensions between chaos and self-control, the personal and the public responses to a national crisis. The concert also includes two classical composers’ mid-period masterpieces: Haydn’s Op. 64 No. 3, and Beethoven’s Op. 59 No. 2. Come November, the ensemble will play Mackey’s new quartet, which premiered at the Carnegie Hall, in Dallas on the 50th anniversary of the crime that happened there.

Unfortunately, that concert happens at the same time as two other recommended classical music events. The Cascade Slides trombone quartet perform more music by Haydn along with works by the early Italian Baroque composer Marini, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Leonard Bernstein, the Beatles and more, at 4 pm Oct. 13 at First United Methodist Church (14th and Olive). Also at 3 pm Oct. 13, singer Alice Davenport and lutenist Raleigh Williams will perform music from Renaissance Spain (which produced some ravishing sounds) at United Lutheran Church (22nd and Washington). It’s a pity that after months with little classical music in town at all these three worthy shows conflict.

The Eugene Symphony’s concert at the Hult Center Thursday Oct. 17 also focuses on American music, but leans to the fun side. California composer John Adams’s rambunctious 1995 “Lollapalooza” and George Gershwin’s bustling 1925 Piano Concerto, one of the greatest works of the Jazz Age (with Vancouver-born soloist Ian Parker), share one of the finest programs of the season with Rachmaninoff’s ferocious Symphonic Dances. Written while he was living in New York, it’s the 20th-century Russian composer’s last work and one of his most thrilling.

You can hear some of the early jazz that influenced Gershwin’s jazzy concerto on Oct. 10 and 13 at The Shedd when the Emerald City Jazz Kings play 1920s proto-jazz by Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Bix Beiderbecke, King Oliver and more. For a taste of today’s jazz, check out the latest Broadway House (911 W. Broadway, 541-686-9270) concert Saturday Oct. 12 featuring some of the UO’s hottest young jazzers, including trumpeter Tony Glausi, reed man Josh Hettwer, drummer Adam Carlson, bassist Sean Peterson and Torry Newhart on keyboard. They’ll play original, mostly straight-ahead jazz in an intimate setting. Bring food for the potluck intermission.

Oregon saxophone master Tom Bergeron is one of the latest in a long line of American jazzers (Stan Getz, Pat Metheny, Wayne Shorter et al.) who’ve been seduced by Brazilian rhythms over the decades. He returns to the country to study the music often, and teaches it at Western Oregon University. For his Oct. 12 concert of Brazilian jazz at The Jazz Station, his Brasil Band’s regular pianist, Cassio Vianna, will join fellow Rio native Marvio Ciribelli, who’s recorded 15 albums with some of Brazil’s top jazzers.

Speaking of world music, on Oct. 18 frequent visitor and renowned sitar master Kartik Seshadri joins tabla virtuoso Vineet Vyas at the UO’s Beall Hall for a concert of Indian classical music. His previous performances have been some of the hall’s most memorable.