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Eugene Weekly : Music : 1.7.10




Sounds from the South

The UO kicks into high winter term gear

by Brett Campbell

One happy result of the Dudamania now consuming the classical music world with the ascension of the charismatic young Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel to the helm of the Los Angeles Philharmonic is a long overdue resurgence of attention to Latin American music. Of course, Eugene is no stranger to this repertoire, thanks in part to the Eugene Symphony’s last two music directors, both hailing from south of the U.S. border. And this weekend’s Oregon Mozart Players concerts on Jan. 9 and 10 at the Hult Center present a splendid program of 20th century works by great composers heard far too seldom in this country. The major work is the stirring, neoclassical Symphony #5 by Carlos Chavez, often considered Mexico’s greatest composer (although I might hold out for Silvestre Revueltas), who frequently conducted orchestras in the U.S. as well as Latin America and was a great friend to important 20th century American composers such as Aaron Copland and Lou Harrison. The most familiar name on the menu is no doubt Hector Villa Lobos, Brazil’s great composer, who wrote a series of Bachianas Brasileiras dedicated to J.S. Bach. Like the Chavez symphony, the ninth in that series looks back to European models, this time Baroque forms (such as Bach’s many prelude and fugues) instead of Classical, and combines them with Brazilian folk elements. Alberto Ginastera’s Concert Variations for Chamber Orchestra is a delicious suite of a dozen variations on the greatest Argentine composer’s original tunes, each featuring different orchestral soloists. The players top off the program with the world premiere of Tango Fantasy by their conductor, Glen Cortese, whose earlier originals have shown an intriguing compositional voice. This is surely one of the season’s most attractive orchestral concerts.

The UO’s 2010 season gets under way with one of the faculty’s real masters, pianist Dean Kramer, who’ll play the first half of J.S. Bach’s massive, magnificent cycle of preludes and fugues, The Well Tempered Keyboard, on Jan. 7 at Beall Concert Hall.  Surprisingly, Kramer says this is the first time it’s ever been performed in its entirety at UO, and it’s long overdue. Far more than a theoretical exercise, it’s simply one of the great solo works of the Baroque era and one of the pinnacles of keyboard music. He’ll play the second half Feb. 8. On Jan. 19, guest flutist Jennifer Rhyne graces Beall with a recital of seldom heard flute music by 20th century French composer Philippe Gaubert, Camille Saint-Saens, Bartok and more.

Another fine UO pianist, jazzman Toby Koenigsberg, joins Portland saxophonist (and Eugene native) Tim Willcox in a program of Willcox originals on Jan. 8 in the music school’s Aasen-Hull Hall. 

Trio con Brio Copenhagen

The UO’s Chamber Music@Beall series kicks off the 2010 chamber music season with one of the world’s finest young chamber ensembles, which has garnered deserved awards and acclaim in recent American and European tours. Trio con Brio Copenhagen’s terrific Jan. 17 program at Beall Hall opens with the mysterious chords of Maurice Ravel’s fervent 1914 Piano Trio, which combines Basque themes and modern devices  to create one of the 20th century’s great chamber works, written in the shadow of impending war. Also in that pantheon is another work on the program, Shostakovich’s 1944 Piano Trio #2, whose Eastern European folk influences and fierce dance rhythms may convey the composer’s response to wartime atrocities. Its dance of death is one the most memorable moments in 20th century music. The program closes with one of Antonin Dvorak’s most beloved compositions, the so-called “Dumky” Trio, nicknamed after a Ukrainian folk song form, whose unforgettable melodies show the great Czech composer at his best. 

For fans of earlier music, the Oregon Bach Collegium presents a rarely heard gem: James Shirley’s 1634 masque (a sort of dance-theater piece), The Triumph of Peace, featuring music of English Baroque composers William Lawes and Simon Ives and including recorders, strings, singers and dancers. The afternoon workshop and informal evening concert both happen Jan. 9 at United Lutheran Church, 2230 Washington.

And for equally compelling music in a different classical tradition, try the concert of Hindustani music by sitarist Josh Feinberg, accompanied by Ravi Albright on tabla drum. They’re at Tsunami Books on Jan. 16.