asian mysticism & feminine strength

waterfall at portland's japanese garden

This past Saturday night was the official opening of the 2013-2014 subscription season for the Oregon Symphony. Just two works filled the evening, and each could not have been more different from the other, but they both managed to complement and enhance the experience of their counterpart. Toru Takemitsu’s From me flows what you call Time, his concerto for five percussionists and orchestra, took the first half of the program. Featuring the four regular Oregon Symphony percussionists Niel DePonte, Sergio Carreno, Jonathan Greeney, Michael Roberts, and guest percussionist (and frequent substitute and extra) Luanne Warner Katz, the piece is perhaps best considered as the aural equivalent of a carefully conceived and manicured Japanese garden. It is not coincidence, then, that this work was presented to honor the 50th anniversary of the world-renowned Portland Japanese Garden – proclaimed as the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan. From me… is not a typical percussion concerto. Seldom do its sounds rise above a non-shouting forte. The music never really moves quickly, either. It just unfolds, just ask the landscape of a garden unfolds as one explores its intimate confines, with brief glimpses of a larger, over-arching vista. It was given a beautifully heartfelt and quietly virtuosic performance by the five soloists. We are blessed with a fantastically musical percussion section, and it was shown to full effect in last night’s transcendent performance.

 

11970335163_2ac08f6d56_bThe second half was filled with Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade (which colleague Joseph Berger suggested could be renamed Sarahazade, in honor of the contributions of our fabulous concertmaster Sarah Kwak). The piece is a swirling kaleidoscope of orchestral colors and textures, and a superb example of program music at its finest. It struck me in the rehearsals and this first performance, that virtually all of the primary solo lines were handled by the female principal players of the orchestra. And handled they were, with grace, power, and beauty. Concertmaster Sarah Kwak played her extensive solos as the eponymous heroine of the story. Principal harp Jennifer Craig swirled with panache. Principal bassoon Carin Miller played her extensive solos with the most beautiful bassoon tone imaginable, and principal flute Jessica Sindell floated above the orchestra with mellifluous ease. And principal cellist Nancy Ives steered her melancholy barque through the storm-tossed seas with aplomb. There were also some Y chromosome contributions to the performance as well: piccolo virtuosity was provided in spades by Zachariah Galatis, and the impossibly easy sounding (but very difficult in fact to play) clarinet solos were dispatched by principal clarinet Yoshinori Nakao. Throw in some terrific brass playing from all involved, colorful wind playing, and warm and flexible string sounds, and it was a fantastic performance to both take part in and listen to.

The performance repeats this Monday evening, September 23, at 7:30  8:00 p.m.
Click here for tickets and information.

 

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