Archive for the 'Portland' Category



Meals, Wheels, and Glass

MealsOnWheels_logo3Gentle readers, some opportunities are too good not to share: This Friday evening on April 12th, flute goddess Alicia DiDonato Paulsen and Yoko “88 Fingers” Greeney will be offering a benefit recital to help feed homebound seniors. A pair of brilliant Oregon Symphony musicians AND a good cause?! [um, yes please!] The All-American program will even feature a Philip Glass number, which will undoubtedly be totes rad. Want to go? More deets are available by clicking anywhere on this sentence.

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Button Up!

Beaver ButtonsHave you heard? We here at the home office have decided to do something super-duper special: Now through the end of this glorious 2012/13 season, anyone who contributes any amount to the blog via that handy Paypal button will get a limited edition, super-stylish, 1″ Beaver Button. [yay!] Have you wanted to show your appreciation for all those previews, reviews, and interviews this obsessive blogger has thrown your way? Well, a generous gift of electronically transferred cash is the perfect fit! Thanks to everyone who’s already donated ~ Your encouragement has been insanely kind, and I certainly could not have reported on Portland’s unbelievable classical scene for three seasons without you. Big beavertail salutes all around, yo!

Sunday Night’s Big Top Ten

SomewhereThis rodent is slightly embarrassed by the woeful lack of top ten lists it has posted this season. Gentle readers, please accept my heartfelt apology. In an effort to boost my quota for 2012/13, here are my Top 10 Favorite Things (in chronological order) About Sunday’s Oregon Symphony Concert:

#10 ~ Maestro Märkl skipping any chit-chat and delving directly into a kick-ass tone poem

#9 ~ That whiplash conclusion of the piano concerto’s first movement

#8 ~ Joe Berger on horn. Period.

#7 ~ Mr. Gerstein’s slow, gentle fingerings

#6 ~ Kirill’s use of a mic to introduce his encore

#5 ~ The (sorta) surprise appearance of Storm Large, singing a perfectly beguiling Somewhere Over The Rainbow

#4 ~ Slamming a glass of white wine during intermission

#3 ~ Yoshinori and Mark as the clarinet wonder twins [Bravo!]

#2 ~ Hearing another Dvořák symphony for the first time

#1 ~ Crossing the Willamette River, following the love of my life back home

What’s On Tap?

beer tapsThis Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 o’clock, the always-amazing Oregon Symphony hosts another pair of superstar artists: Guest conductor Jun Märkl and keyboard soloist Kirill Gerstein. The program kicks off with an orchestral portrait of mythological trickster Prometheus, followed by Rachmaninoff’s very first, very lush piano concerto. After intermission, the crowd will be treated to Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 for dessert.

Why go? Gentle reader, I certainly don’t mean to alarm you, and I hope you’re sitting down, but jeez… um, there’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just get it out plain and simple: It’s the last time this season we get to hear that gorgeous Steinway piano. [I know, right?!] Go if you can, since Mr. Gerstein will undoubtedly be da bomb. Oh, and a little bird told this rodent the promo code DVORAK25 will get y’all a 25% discount on tix ~ Just 32 smackers for a very excellent Lower Balcony seat! Niiice.

For more deets, click on *the band’s website, call one of their lovely phone reps at (503) 228-1353, or stop in today or Friday at their downtown box office at 923 SW Washington.

The Paper Bag Was On My Knee – Part II

DickGenerally speaking, the symphonic output of Shostakovich has all the charms of being waterboarded by a cackling Dick Cheney, and the composer’s final symphony is certainly no exception. Filled to capacity with haunting quotations, harsh angularity, and harrowing emotions, Symphony No. 15 by Dmitri Shostakovich is probably music best avoided if suicidal tendencies are at all an issue for you. This composition of uneasy listening was first played 41 years ago in Moscow, but the Oregon Symphony’s first performance wasn’t until Saturday night in downtown Portland. The work opens surprisingly with the bright clarity of a chiming glockenspiel and a deceivingly pleasant flute melody, but the playful façade is quickly destroyed by a stabbing onslaught of evil strings and an eruption of absolute percussive chaos. It’s freaking brilliant music. And to hear it played live by a technical army of 76 professional musicians? Shiiit. And as if the remarkable amount of solo time the composer offers to string goddesses Sarah and Nancy weren’t parting gift enough, the 65-year-old Shostakovich also left us with some insanely sick writing for symphonic percussionists. I’ll tell you what: Yoko & the Boys blew it up at the Schnitz, ripping through an arsenal of toys that included a bass drum, snare drum, cymbals, tam-tam, triangle, castanets, a whip (!), the xylophone, an entire vibraphone kit, four timpani, and a most ghostly celesta. Forty minutes of utter dread never sounded better. [whew!] Seriously.

The Paper Bag Was On My Knee – Part I

Courtesy of Black Red Media dot comLast evening Stumpland’s big band bid farewell to Hannu Lintu… a guest conductor who is apparently the love child of Garrison Keillor and Plastic Man. The Finnish dynamo mounted the podium after wrapping up his opening monologue and – with one fabulous swish of his baton – conjured up Mr. Modest Mussorgsky’s biggest number for orchestra: Atop the Bare Mountain on St. John’s Eve. Gentle reader, you can forget what you think you may have heard countless times under a slew of different titles and various guises, because ol’ Beavey is here to tell you the 28-year-old Russian’s original 1867 composition is not pretty, is not polite, and is definitely not Disney-fied. The raw ferocity of this music instantly shocked Monday night’s audience, and our brilliantly savage Oregon Symphony maintained its reign of terror all the way through to Mussorgsky’s final note. Yowza ~ Here’s hoping we won’t have to wait another 146 years to hear this revelatory and unpolished gem again. [whew!] Seriously.

After somehow surviving their stay on Mt. Bald, Maestro Hannu and the band welcomed jazzman Benjamin Schmid to the stage for a fiddle showstopper penned by Camille Saint-Saëns. [Please allow me to address any pronunciation concerns that have just flared up with my mention of Monsieur Saint-Saëns. It’s really no big whoop once you get the hang of it: Simply put on your favorite beret, shove a hunk of baguette in your pie-hole, develop a severe sinus infection, tilt your head back, pinch your nose (firmly), and confidently declare: Saint-Saëns!] Now that we’ve cleared that up, let me get back to this violin concerto and vainly attempt to describe how smokin’ hot the Oregon Symphony’s wind section sounded. Let’s see… um, okay… Beautiful? Glorious?? Striking??? Fugheddaboudit. Last evening during Saint-Saëns’ slow middle movement, Joe, Todd, Yoshinori, Evan, Adam, Zach, Jess, Marty, and both Alicia’s brought it on. Y’all never, ever cease to amaze this rodent. [whew!] Seriously.

Hannu Lintu and Benjamin Schmid Tackle 10 Questions

The Ultimate in Good TimingThis Saturday through Monday, the Oregon Symphony is hosting guest conductor Hannu Lintu and guest fiddler Benjamin Schmid. The classical beaver is so stoked for these upcoming concerts, it decided to go for broke and interview both of these superstars. Let’s meet ’em, shall we?

Maestro Lintu, you’re scheduled to conduct Shostakovich’s 15th (and final) symphony this weekend… a work the band has never yet performed! How would you describe this music?

I think this piece is a unique combination of humor and mature musical thinking. It is a touching testament of a great symphonic composer.

Can. Not. Wait. Hey, congrats on your appointment as Chief Conductor for the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra! Suppose I had 48 hours in Helsinki ~ Any suggestions?

I would go and see the home of Jean Sibelius, listen to a concert in our excellent new Music Centre, and explore the beautiful archipelago… including the fortress island of *Suomenlinna.

Sounds perfect! And speaking of music centres: You’ve been all over the globe and I’m wondering if you have any favorite concert spaces?

The Philharmonic Hall in Saint Petersburg, Russia and Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Japan.

Nice. Um, not to be weird or anything, but if I could buy you a drink, what would you order?

That would be a Negroni.

I’m a Bombay Sapphire rodent myself – hope that’s okay. Before I turn to Ben, what are you expecting from your visit to P-Town?

I’m looking forward to meeting my friends in the fantastic Oregon Symphony again – and to play with Benjamin Schmid with whom I have recorded and performed a lot. And eat well, or course. Everyone in Europe knows that Portland is the culinary capital of the US.

Well, perhaps I’ll run into you at Clyde Common then! So talk to me Mr. Schmid: Why is the violin so darned awesome?

Because it can connect two notes in the most beautiful and varied way.

Indeed. What’s so great about experiencing classical music live?

We constantly deal with the greatest spirits of mankind, making them alive through playing, and it is continuous team work: other great instrumentalists, conductors, composers, arrangers, violinmakers, concert promoters, audiences – we all work together to enable one fantastic and instant experience: Music.

Wow ~ Thanks for that sweet response! You’re on tap to perform the third (and final) violin concerto by Camille Saint-Saëns this weekend. What composers really rock your world hard?

Bartók and Brahms.

Awesome – No one ever says Bartók! You also perform a fair amount of jazz ~ What’s the biggest difference playing jazz versus playing classical?

In jazz you can change a mistake into an idea – if you can keep a pokerface. As a classical violinist, if you play with good intonation, it’s already half a win. In jazz if you play with good timing, it’s already a 95% win.

Since you’re a fan of both classical and jazz, do you happen to have any guilty pleasures in the world of pop music too?

I have lots of other vices.

Let’s leave it there so my little imagination can run wild. Maestro Hannu and Superstar Schmid, I am sooo looking forward to hearing you both Monday night ~ Thanks so much for chatting with the Beavs!