Mike Anderson

Making More With Less

microphilharmonic, a scaled-down orchestra in its second season, plays Jan. 27 at The Shedd

Think classical music and most people visualize a full-size orchestra, with 50 or more musicians, all led by a conductor on a podium front and center on the stage. By the time you get to big lush work by composers like Gustav Mahler, that might grow to as many as 100 people on stage.

A new classical music group in town is going the opposite direction. Founded and co-directed by Eugene clarinetist Mike Anderson and his wife, violinist Alice Blankenship, microphilharmonic — yes, it’s not capitalized — is in its second season performing at The Shedd Institute.

microphilharmonic uses a dozen or fewer musicians for its concerts at The Shedd’s Jaqua Concert Hall. The musicians sit or stand in a semicircle, giving the audience a clear view of each player, offering the intimacy of a jazz concert while still performing big works by Beethoven or Mahler.

Playing without a conductor, microphilharmonic takes on music traditionally done by larger orchestras, arranged so that a single musician takes the place of an entire section.  That can lead to a lighter, crisper, cleaner sound. 

Anderson, well known in the music community here — he plays clarinet in Eugene Symphony (where Blankenship is a violinist) and is an administrator at the Oregon Bach Festival — says the less-is-more approach offers many advantages for both musicians and their audience.

“You can do big pieces of high quality on a less-than-symphonic budget,” he says.

The program coming up at 4 pm Sunday, Jan. 27, includes works by Johann Strauss II, Claude Debussy, Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg. Tickets and more info at TheShedd.org.