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The New Classical

A new season, new cellist and new album featuring new music: Eugene’s Delgani String Quartet just keeps refuting the outdated notion that classical music is all about old stuff. 

Just starting its second full season, the young foursome has already won prestigious grants from Oregon Cultural Trust and Oregon Community Foundation, commissioned several new works, launched a summer chamber music camp in Cottage Grove, played more than 100 concerts and educational programs and impressed listeners throughout the Willamette Valley. 

That track record explains why the new group received applications from around the country when its founding violist and then cellist departed. New York cellist Eric Alterman, who’s been performing in Rio de Janeiro’s Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira, joins co-founding violinists Jannie Wei and Wyatt True and violist Kimberlee Uwate in this week’s season-opening concerts in Salem and Eugene. They’ll play music by early 20th-century composer Anton Webern; one of the 19th century’s most moving quartets, which Felix Mendelssohn wrote shortly after his beloved sister’s death and shortly before his own; and Dmitri Shostakovich’s famous 1960 String Quartet No. 8, the most personal and powerful of works from the Russian composer.

 Although its season includes those and other classics, Delgani has forged a distinctive identity by championing homegrown new music. Its new CD, Invisible Light, released at this week’s concerts, features quartets by Oregon’s greatest composer, Lou Harrison (whose centennial we will celebrate in 2017), University of Oregon professor Terry McQuilkin’s luminous title track and music by one of Eugene’s leading composers, Paul Safar. Other concerts include new music Delgani commissioned from UO music professor Pius Cheung, the winners of its first call for scores and more. Delgani Quartet keeps making classical music new again. 

The Delgani String Quartet performs 7:30 pm Tuesday, Nov. 1, at United Lutheran Church, 2230 Washington Street, and 3 pm Sunday, Oct. 30, at Prince of Peace Episcopal Church, 1525 Glen Creek Road NW, Salem. Tickets at delgani.org or 579-5882.