Past, present and future in classic form
By Brett Campbell
The good news: The first two major Oregon Bach Festival concerts rank at the top among concerts in Eugene this year. The bad news: Unless you already have a ticket, you probably cant see them, as Thursdays concerts featuring classical musics greatest ambassador, the restless explorer cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and one of todays finest composers, Osvaldo Golijov, as well as Fridays return of former Eugene Symphony music director Miguel Harth-Bedoya with his fascinating pan-South American Caminos del Inka project, are sold out. Nevertheless, a strong lineup of concerts remained available at press time, including Saturday mornings “Travel the Inca Road” educational program and that evenings Hult Center concert featuring Maria Guinands magnificent Schola Cantorum de Venezuela. The Caracas-based choir gave one of the greatest performances Ive ever seen at the festival a few years back, and Saturday theyre singing a superb program featuring one of Americas leading choral composers, Eric Whitacre (Cloudburst), major Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer (Magic Songs), and works by a passel of Latin American composers rarely heard in the U.S. Its far more than a consolation prize. Sunday afternoon offers OBF founder/artistic director Helmuth Rilling leading the Venezuelans and festival orchestra and chorus in one of his favorite works, Brahmss consoling Requiem, at the Hults Silva Hall. That evening, choirs from across the country converge atFirst Baptist Church for the 14th annual Pacific International Childrens Choir Festival.
On Monday, you can catch one of Oregons hottest bands, Portland Cello Project, in the Hult lobby at 1 pm. Theyve won national acclaim and tours for their covers of pop and indie rock music as well as classical fare. On Monday and Friday (July 1), in the ideally intimate atmosphere of the UOs Beall Concert Hall, cellist Alban Gerhardt performs J.S. Bachs mesmerizing solo cello suites and their 20th century counterparts by Benjamin Britten. Harth-Bedoya returns to Beall on Tuesday, accompanied by sterling singers James Taylor, Christine Bradnes and Tyler Duncan, to lead chamber arrangements of Debussys pathbreaking “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun,” Richard Strausss cheeky “Till Eulenspiegel,” and Gustav Mahlers “Songs of the Wayfarer” and “Symphony #4.”
This years edition shows the festival at a real crossroads, with Rillings venerable if increasingly archaic modern-instrument repertoire demonstrating his vision of the past 40 years. And it also offers a possible glimpse of the future, starring two of the main contenders to succeed Rilling. Longtime festival pianist Jeffrey Kahane (who has also led the Colorado Symphony) leads the opening night concert and the festivals always enlightening Discovery Series at Beall on June 24. Rising young English conductor/keyboardist Matthew Halls (representing the burgeoning European historically informed, period instrument movement) leads the July 5 series, and also offers a talk at that day at noon in the Hult Studio. You can hear Rilling work his usual Discovery Series magic on June 27 and 29, as well as on July 1 and 8 ã compare and contrast!
A nice ã and free ãcomplement to the OBF happens at the Atrium at 10th & Olive downtown on Saturday afternoon, June 25, when Baroque harpsichordist and flutist Rachel Streeter and the excellent baritone singer Sandy Naishtat perform Baroque music by J.S. Bach, his son Carl Philipp Emmanuel, Purcell, and the composer considered the greatest of Bachs day at the time, Georg Philipp Telemann. That same evening, the Eugene Jazz Composers Orchestra plays music by Douglas Detrick, Andrew Rowan and other Oregon composers.