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Ivory Ticklers

This is the month to hear talented young pianists — and a spooky mausoleum concert
Songhoy Blues
Songhoy Blues

October closes with a plenitude of pianistic delights for classical music fans, beginning with Thursday’s Eugene Symphony concert at the Hult Center featuring the rising young pianist Conrad Tao.

When he appeared at the UO’s Beall Hall in 2011, Tao was a 17-year-old prodigy who could seemingly play masterpieces with one hand tied behind his back. He’ll almost get the chance in Maurice Ravel’s dramatic 1931 piano concerto written for the great Austrian virtuoso Paul Wittgenstein, who’d lost his right arm to a Russian bullet in World War I.

Tao will also solo in Liszt’s wild, colorful 1838 Dance of Death (Totentanz), and the orchestra will play a Mozart symphony about which its composer wrote, “I hope that even these idiots will find something in it to like.” He was talking about Parisians, not Oregonians, who’ll find plenty to enjoy.

Speaking of young Lisztian talent, head over to Beall Hall on Sunday, Oct. 22, to hear UO music students play Liszt opera transcriptions.

Even younger classical musicians play another Romantic piano classic, Chopin’s second piano concerto, plus a fifth of Beethoven and a Dvorak overture, when the superb Portland Youth Philharmonic comes to Umpqua Community College’s Jacoby Auditorium in Roseburg Oct. 28 and to Oregon State University’s LaSells Stewart Center the following afternoon. As with Tao, if you close your eyes, you won’t believe you’re not hearing seasoned pros.

Another youthful piano masterpiece, the lively piano trio the 19-year-old prodigy Leonard Bernstein wrote in 1937, tops a terrific all-American program in the Ahn Trio’s Oct. 22 performance at Beall. Bernstein owed a lot to jazz, and the three Korean sisters also play the soaring jazz- and bluegrass-influenced Skydance by Turtle Island String Quartet founder David Balakrishnan. They’ll also play a pair of transcriptions by two of the greatest American guitarists, Jimi Hendrix and Pat Metheny, a violin solo by one of Oregon’s — and America’s — leading composers, Portland’s own Kenji Bunch (whose music you heard at Eugene Ballet’s Snow Queen last spring) and Bunch’s arrangement of Prince’s Purple Rain. 

There’s actual jazz on the bill in the Tony Glausi Experiment’s Oct. 21 show at Broadway House, 911 W. Broadway. The award winning flugelhornist and composer’s new group (including singer Shenea Davis and MC Rafael Newman) blends jazz, R&B and hip-hop elements that should appeal to more than his core jazz audience. It’s one of his last local shows before taking his talents to New York City. The show kicks off a four-concert run for the next month at the intimate bungalow performance space. To reserve seats, email pbodin@uoregon.edu.

Jazz/funk fans might also check out two recommended road shows: Skerik, Doria, Will Bernard and Ehssan Karimi at Hi-Fi Lounge Oct. 22, and Bay Area drummer Scott Amendola and organist Wil Blades at the same spot on Oct. 29. The Cherry Blossom crew of terrific composer Paul Safar on piano, singer Nancy Wood and clarinetist Ben Farrell will play original and classical music at Tsunami Books Oct. 21.

Malian desert blues by the likes of Salif Keita, Toumani Diabaté and Ali Farka Touré has won big audiences and admirers like Robert Plant and Eric Clapton over the years, and now a younger generation of Malian musicians, Songhoy Blues, is incorporating American blues, hip hop, rock, funk, reggae and more into their tight songs. Thanks to Damon Albarn, they’ve won fans at SXSW, WOMAD festival, and even opened for Alabama Shakes and released acclaimed albums. Catch them at the WOW Hall Oct. 24.

Finally, with the Day of the Dead approaching, that means it’s time for Mood Area 52’s annual performance of their splendid live score (electric guitar, cello, accordion, bass, horns, toy piano, percussion) to F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu on Oct. 27 at Bijou Theater, or for the annual Pipe Screams crazy costumed organ music show at First Methodist Church the same night, and for Vox Resonat’s lamentable early music concert at Hope Abbey Mausoleum in the Eugene Masonic Cemetery.

This time the concert features a series of (appropriate) laments for great Renaissance composers by later composers who knew them: Ockeghem for Binchois, Josquin for Ockhegem, and Richard for Josquin. You’ll feel lucky to be alive after that!

Oh, and speaking of early music, check out the handmade historic instruments and Reformation era music performed by Portland’s venerable Ensemble De Organographia, with Margret Gries on organ, on Oct. 22 at United Lutheran Church, 22nd and Washington.