Fab Five

The must-see events at 2015’s Oregon Bach Festival

Masaaki Suzuki. Photo by Marco Borggreve
Masaaki Suzuki. Photo by Marco Borggreve

It’s no easy task picking the top events of OBF, but here’s a working list. For a full lineup of events, times, locations and tickets, visit oregonbachfestival.com

The Seven Deadly Sins, June 26, Hult Center

Portland rocker-turned-theater singer Storm Large joins the OBF orchestra to reprise her 2013 star turn (with the Oregon Symphony) in Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s searing 1933 satire, with help from the superb vocal quartet Hudson Shad. Don’t worry, you can atone yourself, courtesy of Aaron Copland’s ballet score, Appalachian Spring, whose 1944 premiere featured Merce Cunningham in that role. Happily, the mostly 20th-century show starts with an overture by one of today’s hottest young composers, San Francisco’s Mason Bates.

Passio, June 28, Beall Concert Hall

Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s magnificent Passio sets the story of Jesus’ crucifixion in a more contemplative way than we’re used to hearing at the fest, which regularly features J.S. Bach’s immortal Passion settings. One of the world’s greatest living composers, Pärt has had a long and fruitful relationship with the OBF, which commissioned one of his major works two decades ago. Craig Hella Johnson, who leads Austin’s superb Conspirare chorus, conducts.

The Beauty of Baroque, June 30, Beall Concert Hall

The festival’s new Berwick Academy players and their teachers (some of the world’s top historically informed Baroque performers) play some of the Baroque’s loveliest chamber music, by J.S. Bach, Zelenka, Vivaldi, Telemann, Geminiani and more. This is Baroque music performed as close as we can come today to the way its composers intended.

Berwick Academy: Suzuki Conducts Bach, July 3, Beall Concert Hall

This concert stars two of the most esteemed leaders of the historically informed performance practice movement: Masaaki Suzuki, founder and director of the Bach Collegium Japan (which made a legendary series of recordings of Bach’s cantatas on period instruments) and Monica Huggett, who ran the Juilliard historical performance program and leads Portland Baroque Orchestra and other major ensembles. They’ll join members of the festival’s new Berwick Academy in some of the most celebrated music of the era: one of J.S. Bach’s orchestral suites (with a very famous air), one of his Brandenburg Concertos and one of the concertos from Handel’s finest set, his Op. 6.

Chamber Music Northwest: Mozart and Ralph’s Old Records, July 5, Beall Concert Hall

The festival’s recent partnership with Portland Baroque Orchestra has enriched its offerings, and this year, it’s hooking up again with a Portland partner: the venerable Chamber Music Northwest presenting organization, founded the same year as OBF, which regularly brings some of New York’s top classical music performers to its summer series. This show features some of those players in Mozart’s Flute Quartet in D Major and his magnificent String Quintet in D Major, plus a most welcome (and unfortunately too rare) dose of music from here and now: the premiere of a new piece by Portland composer Kenji Bunch, recently returned home after earning a deserved reputation after two decades in New York as one of the finest and most listener-friendly composers of his generation.

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