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American Classics

Delgani String Quartet highlights a busy weekend in classical music in Eugene
Delgani String Quartet
Delgani String Quartet

How do you turn a mountain into music? Ask composer Benjamin Krause.

A recent University of Oregon grad, now teaching in Indiana, Krause just wrote a string quartet inspired by views of Oregon’s Cascade mountains (Jefferson, the Sisters, lava fields, lonely trees, etc.) from the Dee Wright Observatory. The terrain and the feelings evoked by the Cascades are audible in Krause’s music, commissioned and performed by Eugene’s Delgani String Quartet this Sunday (Nov. 5) afternoon and Tuesday (Nov. 7) night at United Lutheran Church, 2230 Washington Street.

The rest of the third-season opening concert by Oregon’s finest regularly performing chamber ensemble (I’ve heard just about all of them) contains more music inspired by America: the scampering 1936 quartet by one of the most accessible 20th-century American composers, Alan Hovhaness, who later lived in Seattle for much of his life, and Antonin Dvorak’s ever-popular 1893 “American” quartet, one of the masterpieces the Czech composer wrote during his fruitful sojourn in Iowa, and influenced by his American experiences, both musical and more (including a native songbird’s call). 

Of course, when most of us think of classic American music, we’re likely to lean toward pop, and especially the so-called “American Songbook” standards written between 1920 and 1960. That’s the territory covered by The Late Set, the alluring new release by Hilary Gardner and Ehud Asherie, who perform at The Shedd this Saturday, Nov. 4. Gardner’s glowing voice and Asherie’s supple pianism have attracted critical raves over the past decade on New York’s cabaret scene. Expect tunes (seldom the most-covered ones) from Rodgers & Hart, Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin and other stalwarts. 

That very same night — dueling duos! — brings another chance to hear American Songbook standards in a more-intimate setting, when Seattle jazz singer Greta Matassa and keyboardist Darin Clendenin perform at Broadway House. Email pbodin@uoregon.edu for reservations.

Musicians didn’t stop turning pop hits into jazz standards in 1960. On Nov. 5, the Bay Area piano and bass duo Negative Press Project (Andrew Lion and Ruthie Dineen) bring their fascinating tribute to late, great singer/songwriter/guitarist Jeff Buckley to The Jazz Station. That’s also where you can hear one of Canada’s most acclaimed jazz stars, saxophonist/composer Allison Au’s quartet, which plays her sweetly melodic original jazz. 

There’s some attractive non-American classical music onstage, too. This Saturday’s (Nov. 4) Oregon Mozart Players concert at the UO’s Beall Concert Hall focuses on French classics, including Saint-Saëns’ Romantic Cello Concerto No. 2, starring guest cellist Mark Kosower, principal cellist of the greatest American orchestra, Cleveland’s, plus a lovely pair of lyrical late Romantic compositions by Gabriel Faure, Masques et Bergamasques and the familiar Elegie, and Francis Poulenc’s breezy, dance-driven 1949 Sinfonietta.