Aristo ShamPhoto by Matt Dine

Orchestral Abundance, Jazzy Intimacy

Music to get us through the dark nights

If December’s lack of lumens is leaving you sluggish, the Eugene Symphony’s Thursday concert at the Hult Center Thursday, Dec. 12, should supply just the recharge we all need. All three classical chestnuts on the program ripple with upbeat energy needed to goose us through the holiday gloom, travel and red-state family encounters.

After warming up with Berlioz’s dashing Le Corsaire Overture, the orchestra and guest conductor Andrew Grams (from the Elgin Symphony) welcome pianist Aristo Sham to join them in Sergei Prokofiev’s propulsive Piano Concerto No. 3.

Written just after World War I, his most popular concerto rockets off to a rousing start with rolling piano pyrotechnics (played by the composer himself in the 1921 premiere in Chicago). It never lets up through almost half an hour of dazzling wit and wonder, earning its place alongside works by Ravel and Gershwin as one of the 20th century’s most thrilling creations for piano and orchestra.

The concerto’s wry enchantment provides a needed antidote to (or maybe vaccination against) the over-the-top melodrama of the concert’s closing megalo-classic, Camille Saint-Saëns’ mighty Symphony No. 3, which even listeners immune to Romantic excess can enjoy for its sheer entertaining cheesiness.

The first time I heard it, which happened to be in a concert, I laughed out loud — no doubt much to the annoyance of the Serious Classical Music Maven to my left — in surprised delight at the pipe organ’s blaring entrance in the second movement. Like Homer Simpson bulkily bursting through the door in full Santa suit on Christmas morning with a bag full of tacky presents, the French composer’s 1886 “Organ” Symphony is similarly overstuffed with not just organ but also two pianists, beefy brass fanfares and much more. It’s literally one of the biggest blasts in classical music.

For a jazzy take on holiday music, the Emerald City Jazz Kings’ annual Christmas show at The Shedd Thursday and Sunday, Dec. 12 and 15, includes jazzed-up carols and other seasonal standards, plus sing-alongs. They’ll take the show on the road to Roseburg’s Jacoby Auditorium Monday, Dec. 16, and Corvallis’s LaSells Stewart Center the next night.

Speaking of jazz, Don Latarski’s D’Trio plays the venerable Eugene guitar master’s stylistically eclectic original compositions and more, including cuts from their latest CD and even newer tunes, on Friday, Dec. 13, at the Jazz Station.

Latarski’s long-time trio includes drummer Jason Palmer and bassist Mark Schneider, who reunites with his ’70s bandmates, guitarists David Mitchell and Jerry Gleason, at the Station Dec. 19 to play American Songbook standards, swing, bossa nova, blues and, of course, jazz — a perfect concert for a season of family reunions.