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Eugene Weekly : Music : 10.15.09




Happy Anniversaries

Celebrating a quartet of composers

by Brett Campbell

Belcea Quartet

The two big classical music bicen-tennials this year are Haydn’s (death) and Mendelssohn’s (birth), and it seems like every other classical music institution in the world is performing their music in tribute. On October 18, you can see two concerts featuring their music performed on the instruments the two great composers intended when writing it. 

At 3 pm at Episcopal Church of the Resurrection (3925 Hilyard), the Oregon Bach Collegium plays some of Haydn’s lighter music, including his Violin Concerto in G, various serenades and divertimenti as well as English and Scottish folksong settings. Haydn fans know about all the little jokes embedded in even his largest scale works (including one of classical music’s great instrumental farts); the composer was by all accounts a fun dude, so these genial pieces show him in his element. 

After a leisurely dinner break, head over to the UO’s Beall Concert Hall, where, at 7:30 pm, violinist extraordinaire Monica Huggett leads the Benvenue Fortepiano Trio in an all-Mendelssohn concert featuring the composer’s second cello and piano sonata, some of his lovely “Songs without Words” and his second piano trio. Aside from the fact that you hear Felix’s chamber music a lot less often than his orchestral music, another attraction is that the trio plays the authentic instruments of the time, including an 1841 Viennese fortepiano (played by Eric Zivian) whose sound is much more restrained and transparent than the boomy grands designed for later big concert halls. The result: a better balanced, crystalline sound that suits the music much better than modern instruments. 

Huggett is one of the brightest lights in classical music. Not only is she one of the finest violinists alive, playing her Baroque instrument with uncommon passion and historically informed skill, she’s also led the London-based ensemble Sonnerie, starred as soloist under three of the most important advocates of historical authenticity in pre-Romantic music (Ton Koopman and his Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, Christopher Hogwood of the Academy of Ancient Music and Trevor Pinnock of the English Concert) and led the Portland Baroque Orchestra (whose principal cellist Tanya Tomkins also plays in the Benvenue Trio) to international acclaim for 14 seasons. She’s a real Oregon treasure, and she’s leading PBO in another all-Mendelssohn concert (featuring the great Octet, a string symphony and a piano and violin concerto) at Portland’s Reed College Oct. 23-24.

The Eugene Symphony’s Oct. 22 concert features music by Haydn’s most obstreperous pupil, a knucklehead named Beethoven (his first piano concerto, although it’s numbered two, with Inon Barnatan as soloist), and Haydn’s great friend Mozart’s overture to The Magic Flute. The big showcase is Sibelius’s Symphony #2. You can hear more of the Finnish master’s music (Andante Festivo and Karelia Suite) along with music from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty ballet at the University Symphony’s Oct. 25 afternoon concert at the UO’s EMU Ballroom.  

There’s more Beethoven and Mozart on tap at Beall that evening when Britain’s excellent Belcea Quartet performs string quartets, including one of Mozart’s magnificent quartets dedicated to Haydn (the so-called “Dissonance,” which is anything but) and Benjamin Britten’s third quartet. More Bach and Britten on the bill at Kate Petak’s harp concert on Oct. 24, along with music by Carlos Salzedo and more, with guest harpists galore.

Speaking of composer anniversaries, some UO graduate piano students are celebrating Franz Liszt’s birthday with a performance of his knucklebusting Transcendental Etudes at Beall on Oct. 22. And at 6:30 the next night, visiting North Carolina clarinetist (and Portland native) Shannon Thompson and pianist Brad Martin will play music by J.S. Bach, Clara Schumann, Camille Saint-Saëns and Carolina composer Bruce Frazier. On Oct. 20 at Beall, another guest instrumentalist, Texas trombonist Eileen Russell (accompanied by pianist Kiyoshi Tamagawa), plays music by David Gaines, Paul Hindemith, Donald White, Hiroshi Hoshina and Schubert. And on Oct. 15 (hurry!), you can hear UO graduate French hornist John Dodge with violinist Yvonne Hsueh and pianist Nathalie Fortin.

Still another composer anniversary looms. One of America’s great song-writers, Johnny Mercer, was born in 1909, and on October 15 and 18 at the Shedd, the Emerald City Jazz Kings are celebrating with a typically well-chosen program including “That Old Black Magic,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Skylark,” “One for My Baby” and a slew of other classics. And speaking of jazz, Eric Richardson’s Invisible Arts Project plays the music of Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and some originals, too, on Oct. 25 at Cozmic Pizza.