Published May 30, 2013
classical music , Oregon Symphony , Portland
Tags: Adam Trussell, Alban Gerhardt, Benjamin Schmid, Carlos Kalmar, Hannu Lintu, Hugh Wolff, James Ehnes, Jon Kimura Parker, Katherine Lefever, Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Martin Helmchen, Oregon Symphony, Sergio Carreno, Stephen Hough, Yossif Ivanov
All things must come to an end, and the time has arrived for this large, surprisingly industrious, semi-aquatic rodent to hang up its blogging cap for good. Gentle readers, the past 3+ years have been an absolute hoot because of you, and I can’t say thanks enough for your constant support and encouragement. Extra-special beavertail salutes go out to all the
victims musicians who agreed to tackle my inane questions this season, including pianist Jon Kimura Parker, violinist Yossif Ivanov, high-flying cellist Alban Gerhardt, percussionist Sergio Carreno, pianist Martin Helmchen, conductor Hugh Wolff, bassoonist Adam Trussell, soprano Katherine Lefever, pianist/hero Stephen Hough [sigh], conductor Hannu Lintu, violinist Benjamin Schmid, the entire Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, and rockstar fiddler James Ehnes. Trust me… the pleasure was all mine. And it may go without saying, but just in case: Thanks most of all to Maestro Carlos and the kick-ass musicians of the Oregon Symphony. Witnessing 76 (or so) brilliant technicians perform some of the greatest music ever composed with such passion and precision week after week will never get old. Seriously. Smooches to each and every one of you! Already looking forward to 2013/14, tell you what.
And speaking of next season, if you find yourself hankering for some bon mots from the classical beaver, feel free to drop in on *my Twitter account, which is quite possible even if you ain’t officially on Twitter. I’ll be sure to supply the best in orchestral coverage with 140 characters or less, guaranteed.
Let’s see… Express gratitude? Check. Plug my twats? Check. Well, I guess that’s it for this 474th and final post. Arrivederci from the Upper Balcony! xoxo, cb
Even though the Oregon Symphony’s 2012/13 season now belongs to the ages and most musicians have already slipped into summer vacation mode, Ol’ Beavey still finds himself daydreaming about the sonic glories revealed during the previous 16 programs. *heavy sigh* Old-school classics like Mahler’s brutal Sixth, Symphony No. 5 by Sibelius, and (of course) Beethoven’s epic Ninth… Contemporary gems like Andrew Norman’s Drip, Asyla by Thomas Adès, and Narong Prangcharoen’s trippy Phenomenon… Orchestral surprises like Antheil’s brilliant Jazz Symphony, Hindemith’s Concerto for Orchestra, and Mussorgsky’s kick-ass original version of Night on Bald Mountain… Visiting virtuosos like Alban Gerhardt, Jennifer Koh, James Ehnes, André Watts, and (of course) Stephen Hough… Oh, don’t get me started! Extra-special beavertail salutes go out to a pair of musicians who made this season extraordinary: Joe Berger on horn who produced so many astonishing sounds during 2012/13 that I simply lost track, and soprano Amber Wagner who graced the Schnitzer stage with Coach K. and Concertmaster Kwak to deliver the most transcendent moment of the year with her heart-rending, soul-searching, and mind-blowing performance of Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss. Oh my, what a season!
Published May 22, 2013
classical music , Oregon Symphony , Portland
Tags: Carlos Kalmar, Jessica Sindell, Johannes Brahms, Jonathan Greeney, Martin Hebert, Oregon Symphony, Sarah Kwak, Symphony 1
Following intermission, Carlos & the Gang closed out 2012/13 with a classic, old-school gem: Brahms’ massive First Symphony. The oft-gruff composer took two decades to write this music, but it only took the Oregon Symphony about 45 minutes to knock it out of the proverbial ballpark and prove, once again, why they are Stumpland’s ultimate cover band. The stormy opening measures were underscored by the ominous timpani strokes of Jon “Animal” Greeney who (per the youzhe) held court with a kettle drum masterclass until the final roll of the rocking finale. Every freakin’ section demonstrated sublime moments of glory throughout… Captain Frank and the stand-up guys of the double basses… Mr. John Cox and the impressive array of alpine-infused horns… Evan ably leading the battalion of bassoonists… Jeffrey workin’ it with the sexiest line-up of brass you ever will witness. [Yowza!] And extra-special beavertail salutes go out to oboe god Marty Hebert, flute wonder Jess Sindell, and our kick-ass concertmaster Sarah Kwak: Um, y’all are simply brilliant. Period. Monday night proved to be the perfect capstone atop another transcendent Oregon Symphony season filled with surprises, loaded with talent, and chock-full of the most jaw-dropping music humanity has ever produced. I don’t know about you, but this rodent is already stoked for 2013/14 ~ YAY!
Bedecked in tails and a scarlet vest for the Oregon Symphony’s final show of the season, Maestro Carlos bounded out of stage right last night and picked up a mic to welcome the crowd and give props to Steve Price (a 41-year veteran of the viola section!) who was only a couple hours away from his retirement. The crowd cheered in appreciative admiration for this amazing musician, and the raucous applause segue-wayed perfectly into a rousing overture composed by Franz von Suppé. My apologies in advance for dropping an F-bomb so soon in this review, but there’s just one word, and one word only, that can adequately describe this opening number… a word that more conservative and learned reviewers usually avoid: FUN!
The joyous sounds of Suppé subsided and the stage was set for an utterly different kind of musical experience featuring 2012/13’s last guest soloist. Jennifer Koh’s elegant, strapless, floorlength gown of billowing indigo belied what was about to go down: Béla Bartók’s utterly primal Concerto No. 2 for Violin and Orchestra. The plucked harp strings that open this composition apparently conjure up some ancient gypsy curse, because without warning Ms. Koh was instantly possessed for the next 36 minutes by an untamed frenetic spirit. Her black bob cut bounced wildly atop her convulsive head as her fingers and her hands and her arms danced with supernatural speed and unearthly technique. Her fiddle shrieked and wailed as she shredded it with a bow that somehow did not break under the pressure of such vicious virtuosity. The mutual gratitude between Koh and the band was almost palpable following the concerto’s conclusion, as though everyone was relieved to have survived, unscathed by the brutal spell of Bartók. WOW!
Near the end of her performance last night in Seattle, the sexually assertive Storm Large sang one of humanity’s age-old queries: “What is the use? Beauty will perish and youth will pass away.” We are all left to decide for ourselves what’s the use of it all, but the beautifully youthful energy the Oregon Symphony generated with their opening number certainly gave this rodent a reason to carry on. I remember with great fondness when the band kicked off their 2010/11 classical season with Narong Prangcharoen’s impressionistic Phenomenon, and getting to hear it yet again was a total blast… especially within the acoustically charged confines of Benaroya Hall. Once more, the Mekong River marveled and the fireballs fizzled with mysterious intensity, thanks in large part to Concertmaster Kwak and her magical army of string players. Bravo!
Intermission was followed by Franz Schubert’s Symphony #8 – a bittersweet pair of movements brought to life gorgeously by P-Town’s orchestra, spearheaded by Chief Oboist Marty Hebert who seared miraclulous melodies directly into my soul. Maestro Carlos didn’t so much finish the famously unfinished symphonic wonder, but chose to submit a wonderfully colorful epilogue instead: Maurice Ravel’s La Valse (which followed Schubert’s two movements without pause for applause – a favorite artistic trick firmly lodged up Coach K.’s sleeve!) With downright Mahlerian creepiness, the work felt like a final late-night waltz around the dance floor with Death, who stubbornly insisted on taking the lead despite any futile attempts at resistance. Big beavertail salutes to the always spot-on percussion section, with extra-special props to Mike and his seductively subdued cymbals. Hearing Ravel is a revelation, and when it’s played live by our hometown band at the top of their game? Dear. God. I urge you gentle reader, for the love of all that is holy, catch this concert tonight or tomorrow at the Schnitz!
Gentle Reader: For over three years now, I’ve done my very best to bring you previews, reviews, and interviews completely dedicated to the Oregon Symphony and P-Town’s brilliant classical scene. These written adventures have been an absolute blast, so it is with a touch of sadness I make this bittersweet announcement: The classical beaver blog will be ending this month. [Yikes!] As a consolation, the Beavs will retain its Twitter account, but the string of blog postings throughout the season will soon be no more. Thanks so much for your encouragement and attention over the years ~ I couldn’t and wouldn’t have done it without you. Beavertail salutes to everyone! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a northbound Bolt Bus to catch… [Yay!]
Published April 23, 2013
classical music , Oregon Symphony , Portland
Tags: A Jazz Symphony, Boston, Carol Rich, George Antheil, James Ehnes, Jennifer Craig, Leonard Bernstein, Michael Roberts, Nancy Ives, Oregon Symphony, Serenade, Symposium
For the past three nights, P-town’s ultimate cover band ended their program with Aaron Copland’s Symphony #3 – a composition whose well-known brassy chorales of American triumph made it an easy dedication to the recently terrified people of Boston. What preceded this symphonic sympathy note, however, was a pair of works so filled with palpably resilient energy, they were more than equal reminders of what’s best about the human condition. Kicking off the show was A Jazz Symphony written by the über-intriguing figure of George Antheil. Its herky-jerky syncopation, unpredictable insanity, and super sick stylings resulted in 8 solid minutes of perma-grinning for over 2,000 folks. [In my book, the kick-ass piano chops of Carol Rich were independently worth the price of admission.] And the evening’s soloist was Manitoban genius James Ehnes, whose deft display of violin virtuosity throughout the entirety of Bernstein’s Serenade was almost unnerving. Even from Row Y in the Upper Balcony bleachers, my ears were struck by the cool brilliance and unstoppable technique of Mr. Ehnes and his 298-year-old Stradivarius. Glimpsing the sublime moments when Jimmy’s fiddle teamed up with Nancy’s cello or Jennifer’s harp or Mike’s xylophone was like capturing sonic encomiums of love, tenderly delivered within a Schnitzer symposium. Oh, what a night!