my fall preview

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It’s right at the end of August, Portland has had temps at or above 100°F several times, the homegrown tomatoes are ripening, and the usual early bird maple trees are already starting to get some color on their leaves. That means that the fall arts season must be right around the corner.

Third Angle

Over at Third Angle New Music, we’re already hard at work on Steve Reich’s Triple Quartet (1999), which we’ll be playing at the Oregon Symphony’s day of local music performances at the site of the annual Waterfront Concert on Sept 1st. That will be a preview for our concert on Sept. 30/Oct. 1 at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. Also on the program, two other quartets by Reich, his masterpiece Different Trains (1988), and his reaction to the events of September 11, WTC 9/11 (2010). It will be an amazing concert for all of us.

Oregon Symphony

The evening of Sept 1, the Oregon Symphony takes to the outdoor stage at Tom McCall Waterfront Park to play our traditional Waterfront Concert. We’ll be playing a variety of light and serious classical works, partnered with Oregon Ballet Theatre, Portland Opera, Metropolitan Youth Symphony, Portland Youth Philharmonic, and Alpha Battery 218th Field Artillery of the Oregon National Guard. It will also be simulcast live on AllClassical Portland (89.9FM), hosted by Suzanne Nance and Robert McBride.

The season pretty much starts with a bang (literally, fireworks and canons), and keeps going like crazy for the first few months. Here are some of the highlights that I’m particularly looking forward to:

  • Renée Fleming sings Strauss’ Four Last Songs on our season opener, Sept. 10.
  • Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle with sets by glass artist Dale Chihuly, Sept. 24-26.
  • Music of David Bowie, Sept. 29.
  • Sibelius Symphony No. 3 and Rachmaninoff 3rd Piano Concerto, Oct. 8-10.
  • Ein Heldenleben and percussionist Colin Currie plays Andrew Norman, Oct. 22-24.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark, Nov. 10.

Find out about these and all of the Oregon Symphony’s other concerts at www.orsymphony.org.

Arnica Quartet

My quartet, the Arnica Quartet, is playing a midday concert at the University of Portland on Wednesday, November 2 at 12:30pm. We’ll be performing Webern’s early and Romantic Langsamer satz, and Beethoven’s Op. 131 quartet in C-sharp minor.

Definitely a lot going on this fall, I hope you can join me for at least some of what I’m doing!

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things to look forward to

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I’m in the midst of my summer festival season, and as time goes by, I’m gradually starting to turn my attention to the upcoming concert season, looking for both the obvious and the hidden gems it contains.

I wear quite a few hats during the year – quartet violist, new music violist, orchestral violist, teaching violist. There are a few things from each that I’m especially looking forward to.

Quartet Violist

  • The Arnica Quartet is only playing a couple of concerts this year, but the two big works of the year are also two of the greatest string quartets ever written: Dvorak’s Op. 104 in A-flat major, and Beethoven’s Op. 131 in C-sharp minor. There is plenty to sink one’s teeth into as a violist, and some incredible music.

New Music Violist

  • The 2016-2017 Third Angle season starts off with all three of Steve Reich’s string quartets, including a masterpiece of the 20th century, Different Trains. I am beyond stoked to get a chance to play that piece, as well as his Triple Quartet, and WTC 9/11.
  • Later in the season, Third Angle returns to the OMSI planetarium to perform Georg Friedrich Haas’ String Quartet No. 3 “In iij. Noct.” Audiences raved about this piece at the 2013 T:B:A Festival, and it was definitely an out-of-body type performance experience, too!

Orchestral Violist

  • Bartók’s one act opera Bluebeard’s Castle has long been on my bucket list. The fact that the Oregon Symphony’s production uses the huge glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly as part of the concert setting pushes it over the top into amazing.
  • The Oregon Symphony’s woodwind and brass sections have long been world-class, but this season we get to hear them take the solo stage in Frank Martin’s Concerto for Seven Wind Instruments.
  • Respighi’s Pines of Rome. Just thinking of the Via Appia movement gives me chills.
  • A Kenji Bunch world premiere (commissioned by the Oregon Symphony). Finally, a local commission by my orchestra. And it couldn’t have been by a nicer guy, violist and composer Kenji Bunch. No idea what he’s cooking up, but it will be fun, difficult, and beautiful!

So, that’s what has me excited so far. There are always surprises, things that I don’t expect to be great that are, things that I expect to be great that aren’t. And new things appear from out of nowhere. We’ll see…

third angle mixes words and music this weekend

It’s my third season with Third Angle New Music, and it seems that every single concert I play involves me doing something entirely new and different to me than anything I’ve ever done before. And that also involves it being one of the most difficult things I’ve done! Playing a memorized hour-long piece in complete darkness, playing insanely complicated rhythms, playing pieces comprised of only harmonics and played off tiny iPad screens – it’s always an adventure with Third Angle!

Our first concert of the season, Frozen Music, examined Finnish music in the context of an acclaimed Alvar Aalto library. This weekend’s Hearing Voices 4.0 concert comes to grips with three distinct ways of setting spoken words to music.

LJ White‘s “Wilder Shores” (a Third Angle commission, which we premiered at the Bang on a Can Marathon in New York last June), which is set on a text of Portland poets Matthew and Michael Dickman, uses a time-based approach to synchronizing the music and text. Each section of the work takes a set duration – everyone is working off a stopwatch, ensuring that each line of text is lined up with its musical accompaniment. For example, an opening introduction might be given 30 seconds to unfold, which tells the instrumentalists the pacing of the section, and tells the reciter(s) that at the 30 second mark, they start their lines, etc.

Jay Derderian‘s “Frozen Smolder” (also a Third Angle commission, and a world premiere), is set on a poem by Sandra Stone. It uses a cue-based system instead of a time-based one. There are sections in the score which give cues for where each line is begun, and the way they are spaced over the instrumental lines shows the pacing of the reading. If the reciter does not read music, this still enables one of the instrumentalists to give cues to the reader, and also to keep pace with their reading.

Lee Hyla‘s “Howl” is set on Allan Ginsberg’s eponymous epic beat poem. Hyla uses arguably the most challenging, but perhaps the most precise, way of matching text to music. He used a recording of Ginsberg reading his poem to establish the pace of the text. The beat patterns and tempos of the music then are based entirely upon the spoken rhythm of the poetry. This works relatively well if the ensemble (in this case a string quartet) plays with an audio recording of the original reading – if the ensemble follows the tempos closely, adjusting slightly to the audio cues, it is possible to achieve a close alignment. If a live reader is used, then it becomes a bit more complicated. If the reciter reads music fluently, then they can keep their pace adjusted to the music, and get a sense of the pacing of the text by following the score. If the reader does not read music, then it becomes a bit more of a puzzle to fit the parts together. In essence, the quartet must strive to stick very closely to the score, while at the same time establishing meeting points for the text and music to come together should things come out of sync during performance.

With these three diverse pieces, there is also a bit of alignment, too. LJ White studied composition with Lee Hyla. The Dickman brothers spent time with Allan Ginsberg. Ginsberg’s first recorded reading of Howl took place in Portland in 1956. Ginsberg’s poem is a lament for a lost artistic generation of the 1950’s, while Stone’s is about another lost generation, that lost to the insanity of the newly-mechanized warfare of World War I. It will be a fascinating concert, and I hope you can make it!

Fri & Sat, Nov 13 & 14, 2015 @ 7:30pm
Studio 2@Zoomtopia
810 SE Belmont

Click here for details and tickets.