Of Legends and Locals

The new classical music season, from Beethoven to the blues, is here

Bassist DaXun Zhang
Bassist DaXun Zhang

Just as the arrival of shorter, cooler days signal autumn, the arrival of some big names, at least in the little world of classical music, tells us that the 2014-15 classical music season is underway. The Sept. 28 Eugene Symphony concert featuring the legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman playing Beethoven’s majestic Violin Concerto offers a chance to see one of the last of the really big-name classical soloists (there’s Yo Yo Ma and not many others left) who can fill up a venue as cavernous as the Hult Center on reputation alone.

If Perlman’s lush, Romantic style and deliberate tempos feel as dated as the notion of a classical musician packing an arena, unlike many virtuosos, classical or otherwise, he knows how to connect to an audience, even one as big as he’ll surely encounter in Silva Hall. Even more meaningful than the laurels — eight Grammys, four Emmys — he’s a great humanitarian and ambassador for classical music. In a concert for fans of old fashioned Romantic warhorses, the symphony will also play Beethoven’s stirring The Creatures of Prometheus overture, Edvard Grieg’s crowd-pleasing first Peer Gynt Suite and Tchaikovsky’s dramatic Romeo and Juliet fantasy overture.

In the early ’70s, Perlman met a 12-year-old Taiwanese prodigy in Sydney and encouraged him to study with his own teacher, the famed Dorothy DeLay, at New York’s Juilliard School. Cho-Liang Lin may not be as well known to the broader public as fellow violin virtuoso Perlman, but he went on to a long, award-winning career as a star soloist and Juilliard faculty member — and he credits that encounter with Perlman for  changing his life. On Oct. 4, Lin joins bassist DaXun Zhang to open the Oregon Mozart Players’ season at the University of Oregon’s Beall Concert Hall. The pair will play Italian Romantic composer and bass virtuoso Giovanni Bottesini’s showy 1880 Gran Duo Concertante, and Lin — a Mozartean master — takes the spotlight in Amadeus’ tuneful Violin Concerto No. 2. The mostly Italian program also includes Mozart’s Lucio Silla overture and a 1928 piece that looks back to Mozart’s era, Respighi’s The Birds.

Lin and Zhang will also teach master classes at the UO, as will Zhang’s fellow University of Texas faculty member, pianist Anton Nel, a few days later, the day before the renowned South African pianist’s Oct. 7 Beall recital featuring more Mozart, Enrique Granados and some of Debussy’s sublime Preludes, the pinnacle of impressionist pianist beauty.

Don’t let the starry visitors eclipse some fine music by local artists. On Sept. 28 at United Lutheran Church (22nd and Washington), you can hear a very different kind of violin music when the Oregon Bach Collegium performs composer Heinrich Biber’s Sonata Representativa for solo Baroque violin (which uses a far more nuanced and intimate style, strings, tuning and even bow than Perlman’s amplified bazooka) and selections from fellow Baroque composer Marin Marais’ Pièces de Viole, plus orchestral works portraying war and the creation of the universe. The following Sunday afternoon, Oct. 5, First United Methodist Church’s (13th and Olive) Cascadia Concert Opera presents its most ambitious concert reading yet: Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio.

Still more intimate music is in the house — the musical bungalow at Adams and Broadway — on Oct. 3 when the Broadway House series resumes with The Tony Glausi Quintet. The award-winning trumpeter and composer, who graduates from the UO this year, brings young colleagues on sax, keyboards, bass and drums.

This Thursday, Sept. 25, The Jazz Station kicks off a new Thursday series, Jazz Alive, with pianist Gus Russell, who’ll join other veteran jazzers including crackerjack trumpeter Dave Bender and singer Laurie Hammond in American songbook, blues and Latin standards. Finally, Friday, Sept. 26, another Eugene music stalwart, tabla master Doug Scheuerell, joins Gurumukh Singh in a performance of Indian Drupad kirtan music at Yoga West.