chamber music concert preview string quartet summer festivals

preview: willamette valley chamber music festival – week one

A bit of backstory: for the past twenty-odd years or so, my summers have followed a pretty stable pattern of festival-hopping. Some years I’ve done five festivals in a summer. I spent much more time on the road and in a homestay or dorm room than at home. I’d come back home and feel pretty burned out – just in time for the Oregon Symphony season to start. This year, feeling as tired as I ever have at the end of the ‘regular season’, I made a last-minute decision to take a leave from one of my favorite festivals, the Sunriver Music Festival. Not long after that happened, I was contacted by Leo Eguchi, the co-founder and cellist of the festival. I had heard from Oregon Symphony and 45th Parallel Universe colleague Greg Ewer that Leo and his wife, violinist Sasha Callahan, were wonderful people and great musicians. So the four factors that made it impossible to turn down: great chamber music, fantastic musicians, great wine, and sleeping in my own bed, . This was surely the burnout remedy that I needed!

Festival co-founders Sasha Callahan and Leo Eguchi.

This is the third summer for the Willamette Valley Chamber Music Festival, and in its first two years the festival has had a strong commitment to the music of living composers, with a featured composer-in-residence each summer. The first composer was Portland resident (and FearNoMusic artistic director) Kenji Bunch, followed in the second season by the fantastic Californian Gabriela Lena Frank (by the way, the festival recorded several of her wonderful quartets last year and is crowd funding to raise the money to release them commercially – please help if you can!) In its third year, the festival has attracted Joan Tower – one of the leading composers in America – who is celebrating her 80th birthday year.

Composer Joan Tower.

Joan Tower will be on hand for the first weekend’s concerts (August 11-12). Two of her works will be featured on the program, one each on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday afternoon’s program, it will be Tower’s Rising for Flute and String Quartet, with Portland flutist Amelia Lukas. On Sunday afternoon, it will be her String Quartet No. 5, White Water.  Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 33 no. 2 “The Joke” and Beethoven’s mighty Op. 59 no. 2 “Rasumovsky” will round out the program on both dates.

The first week’s concerts both take place at J. Christopher Wines in Newberg. I’m looking forward to these concerts very much, because not only does this winery have exceptional wines, but also incredible chamber music acoustics in their subterranean barrel room!

The barrel room performance space at J. Christopher Wines.

Saturday’s concert is selling well, but there is still good availability for Sunday’s concert. Tickets are available at the festival’s website here.

As rehearsals progress this week, I’ll chime in with new posts that just might have some surprise content, so keep checking in, or enter your email address and click the “Subscribe” button on the upper right column to be notified of fresh updates!


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