I’ve taken a step in a new direction this year, having accepted a position for this season with Third Angle, one of Portland’s two major new music ensembles (along with Fear No Music). There are several major works for string quartet on the docket for this season, and that was a primary reason why it intrigued me to do this, aside from my persistent interest in new and recent music. The first major work of the season is also the first major string quartet work – String Quartet No. 3 “In Darkness” by Georg Friedrich Haas (b. 1953). It is described by the composer as being
“composed as a verbal score, with many details and decisions left to the performers. They communicate solely through the sounds produced by their instruments, inviting one another into musical processes, accepting these invitations or responding in kind with an invitation of their own – and always deciding for themselves how far they choose to go down each path together, before turning back.”
The catch? It is to be performed in total darkness. Inky, pitch, can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face, black darkness. So the twenty-odd musical textures and invitations and snippets must all be internalized by the four of us and then extemporaneously worked out in the performance space. It is both a terrifying and exhilarating prospect.
The three performances that we’ll be giving will be at the OMSI planetarium, an ideal venue for such a work. They are a co-presentation of Third Angle and PICA’s 2013 Festival of Time-Based Art. Click here to see performance dates/times and ticket information.
After a well-deserved day of rest, we began the second week of the Sunriver Music Festival. Just two concerts in this “week” – really just Sunday through Wednesday – but quite a bit less to do than the previous rehearsal and performance period!
Our fourth concert was entitled ‘Hungarian Spice’, largely (in fact entirely) due to the presence of Kodaly’s Dances of Galanta on the program. It made an effective opener, featuring all the sections of the orchestra to great effect, and in particular the solo clarinet of Ben Lulich, whose instrument takes the role of story teller in this collection of local dances of the small Hungarian town of Galanta.
The middle of the concert was given over to two trumpet pieces, both featuring principal trumpeter Jeffrey Work. First up was the “Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto of trumpet concerti”, the Concerto in D E-flat major by Franz Joseph Haydn. Played on a Franken-trumpet which featured many lead pipe extensions and a coronet cornet mouthpiece (I’ll let Jeff explain in the comments if he wishes), Work gave a performance of ease and brilliance. After the intermission, Work returned to perform Georg Friedrich Händel’s Suite in D major for Trumpet and Strings, this time on a piccolo trumpet with 30 percent more valves. Again, Work proved his mettle in what could be a treacherous piece in the wrong hands. Sadly, Work did not provide the opening solo from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony either as part of his cadenza or as an encore. Perhaps next time.
The final work on the program was Stravinsky’s Suite from his ballet Pulcinella. A delightful work, which I’d only performed once before (and longer ago than I care to admit), it was a joy to perform. We were performing from Oregon Symphony parts, and it was a shock to note that the piece had not be performed by the OSO in Portland since 1982. Disgraceful! Highlights were members of the solo string quintet, particularly concertmaster Steven Moeckel and acting principal bass Jason Scholler; and trumpeter Charles Butler.
The closing concert of the 2013 Sunriver Festival featured Gold Medalist of the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, Vadym Kholodenko. He performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, K. 467. Clearly, he has chops for days, but his sound tended to be strident and a bit dry. His self-composed cadenzas proved to be very imaginative, but verged on the overly long, and had some ill-considered modulations that, to my ears, sounded a bit anachronistic. His extended improvised encore began as Chopin, veered into Rachmaninoff and Scriabin, and did not know quite when to end. The age of the competition as a career maker is perhaps on the wane, if these are the results that come from major competitions these days.
Colin Jacobsen’s composition “Ascending Bird” opened the program with a bit of Eastern mysticism and loads of propulsive dance rhythms, and featured extended solos by concertmaster Steven Moeckel, principal second violin Corine Brouwer, and acting principal cellist Nadine Hall.
The closer to the entire festival was Beethoven’s sprawling Third Symphony ‘Eroica’. Lots of good things happened, and it was rapturously received by the audience. I can hardly wait to return next year!
It’s been a busy first week at the 2013 edition of the Sunriver Music Festival. For the first time in quite some time the opening classical concert of the festival was once again held in the Great Hall at Sunriver Resort. Years of belt tightening by the resort had led to a greatly reduced availability of the hall (which is a wonderful venue in which to see and hear live music), so this was a very positive step on behalf of the resort management to give us a third date in the hall. As a result, however, of the late date that this date was granted us, there were five classical concerts instead of the usual four. This made for a season which was packed with music, including a very busy opening pops concert which contained works by John Williams, Rossini, Dvorak, and a few other pot boilers as well – which made for a tiring beginning to the festival! Continue reading “sunriver music festival report”