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Take Six!

EW’s must-see picks

1. Monteverdi’s Vespers

The first great Baroque breakthrough, Claudio Monteverdi’s magnificent Vespers of the Blessed Virgin ranges from ancient plainchant to Renaissance polyphony to early operatic styles, performed here by a large choir propelled by the rich, toothy instrumental textures provided by British period-instrument ensemble, His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts, who’ll also perform their own show June 29 at Beall Hall. Just as Monteverdi’s Vespers signaled the beginning of the Baroque, it’s a terrific way to kick off the Matthew Halls era at the Bach Festival.

7:30 to 9 pm Thursday, June 26, at Silva Concert Hall


2. Bach’s St. Mark Passion World Premiere

The festival has often performed Bach’s two pinnacles of choral orchestral music: the St. John and St. Matthew Passions. But the composer also probably wrote three more that haven’t survived, including a smaller-scale piece based on the gospel of St. Mark for which only the words, not the music, exist today. Matthew Halls and Zurich-based scholar Dominik Sackmann repurposed some of Bach’s existing choruses and arias (as the composer himself did in the other passions) that fit the libretto, and Halls wrote music in Bach’s style to replace the now-lost music Bach himself composed. 

7:30 to 9:30 pm Tuesday, July 1, at Beall Concert Hall


3. New Soundings I-III

The festival’s Composers Symposium has long been an incubator for new music by emerging composers, and this year offers opportunities to hear premieres of choral (June 29) and instrumental music performed by the symposium’s American Creators Orchestra and Chorus, by Duo Damiana (the great flutist and UO faculty member Molly Barth and guitarist Dieter Hennings) on July 4 and by the superb Portland-based FearNoMusic Ensemble on July 5. 

New Soundings I-III runs 7:30 to 9:30 pm June 29, July 4 and July 5, at Beall Concert Hall


4. Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil 

One of the 20th century’s greatest choral works, this 1910 setting of hymns, canticles and psalms (sometimes called “Vespers”), like so much of the Russian Romantic composer’s music, gazes backwards — this time, to pre-Revolutionary Russian Orthodox liturgical ceremonies. And no, it doesn’t last all night, but it will be performed by candlelight.

9 to 10:30 pm Thursday, July 10, at First United Methodist Church


5. Creation Triple Bill

The Eugene Ballet joins the terrific Venezuelan-American pianist Gabriela Montero and the festival orchestra in a performance of three exciting works: French Baroque composer Jean-Féry Rebel’s The Elements, the delightful 20th-century French composer Darius Milhaud’s saucy and jazzy The Creation of the World and one of Montero’s popular improvisations, this time on one of Bach’s great French Suites for solo keyboard.

7:30 to 9:30 pm Saturday, July 5, at Silva Concert Hall


6. Portland Baroque Orchestra

One of the best moves the Bach Festival has made recently is forging a strong relationship with one of the country’s finest historically informed performance ensembles, which happens to be based just up I-5. Led by long-time artistic director (and one of Matthew Halls’ own mentors) — the dynamic violinist Monica Huggett — Portland Baroque Orchestra performs delightful 18th-century music by C.P.E. Bach (one of J.S.’s sons and an excellent composer in his own right), the great French Baroque composer Jean-Philippe Rameau and Italian composer Pietro Locatelli. 

7:30 to 9:30 pm Saturday, July 12, at Beall Concert Hall