String quartets might be the most common classical music chamber ensemble, but it’s hard to find a quartet that performs regularly hereabouts and thereby develops the kind of chemistry that can really make the music sing. That hole in Eugene’s musical tapestry will be repaired at 7:30 pm Tuesday, April 7, at United Lutheran Church (2230 Washington), when the new Eugene-based Delgani String Quartet takes it opening bow.
After obtaining their graduate degrees from the UO last spring, founding violinists Wyatt True and Jannie Wei, who’d performed together as students, decided to stick together (they married last summer) — and stick around Eugene. With fellow Oregonians, cellist Kelly Quesada (another UO colleague) and violist Morgan O’Shaughnessey, the foursome began playing small private events. Although in their 20s and 30s, they’re already veterans of ensembles including Oregon Mozart Players, Oregon Bach Collegium, Portland Cello Project, Eugene Opera and Eugene Symphony.
And they’re devoted to the classics as well as music of our own time. “We’re all interested in contemporary music because it’s a breath of fresh air,” True explains. Unlike the classics, with their formidable history of innumerable recordings, “with contemporary works, we can form our own interpretations and let people follow us.”
The debut show features the premiere of southern Oregon composer Jason Heald’s fifth string quartet. Based on traditional Celtic melodies, its movements will be interpolated (as is often the case with Irish airs in traditional shows) before and between the other two works on the debut program. Antonin Dvořák’s so-called “American” quartet and Dmitri Shostakovich’s eighth quartet understandably are played often by touring ensembles, and they’re magnificent pieces, but both composers wrote other, equally compelling music in that format.
Delgani will instead play Dvorak’s gorgeous 13th quartet (his first after returning to his Czech homeland from the American sojourn that spawned its popular predecessor) and Shostakovich’s blistering ninth quartet, from 1964. The third movement of Dvorak’s quartet, a traditional Czech spring dance, makes a fitting harbinger of the season, and this concert heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice in Oregon classical music.
The group has already set an ambitious four-concert season in Eugene next year that sparkles with accessible contemporary music by 20th- and 21st-century composers, including Oregon’s own Lou Harrison. They’re also freshening the performance format with multimedia and narrative elements. And they’re working with one of Eugene’s top composers, Paul Safar, in a concert later this month (we’ll be telling you more soon).
With other shows scheduled in the Willamette Valley and a repertoire ranging from the 18th to the 21st centuries, Delgani is a welcome addition to Oregon music.
Composer Heald and three of the four Delganis are graduates of the UO music school, one of the state’s principal generators of 21st-century music in the classical tradition, which includes music from non-Western cultures. At 7:30 pm Friday, April 3, the school’s Beall Concert Hall hosts Bangalore-born flutist Shantala Subramanyam performing music of South India. Based in Chennai, she’s taught all over the world, and her improvisatory skills on her venu bamboo flute have been lauded in the Indian press. This concert is a prize opportunity to hear Carnatic ragas, one of the world’s loveliest musical traditions.
Finally, at 5 pm Sunday, March 29, at the Church of the Resurrection (3925 Hilyard), the Oregon Bach Collegium is presenting a free program of sacred music in conjunction with the Christian Holy Week. Singers Heather Holmquest and Jan Nelson — accompanied by historically informed, period-instrument performers Margret Gries on harpsichord and Ann Shaffer on viola da gamba — will perform settings of two of the most famous Christian texts: “Stabat Mater” (about the grieving Mary, mother of Jesus) with music by 17th-century composer Giovanni Felice Sances, and “Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet” (about the destruction of Jerusalem) with music by the great French Baroque composer François Couperin.