People who worry about classical music’s future point to its aging, dwindling audiences; stale, predictable repertoire (the same old pieces by the same old long-dead European composers); stuffy atmosphere (tuxedos! No unauthorized clapping!); dull, rote performances. Then come glimmers of hope like PROJECT Trio, which performs at The Shedd this Thursday, Nov. 6. Although the ensemble has played with major orchestras, the Brooklyn-based flute-cello-double-bass trio dresses informally, plays jazz and original music as well as classics (including an arrangement of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf set in Brooklyn). And member Greg Pattillo may be the only beat-box flutist in classical music. Their high-energy shows bubble with 21st-century music, quick humor, tight playing and fun — all qualities that classical music desperately needs more of if it wants to attract younger, broader audiences.
Another youngish trio that plays contemporary and classic sounds, Trio con Brio Copenhagen, performs Nov. 16 at the UO’s Beall Concert Hall, playing Romantic classics by Tchaikovsky and Brahms and contemporary Danish composer Per Nørgård’s glitteringly gripping Spell, which marries minimalism’s shifting pattern to a surprisingly, well, spellbinding harmonic richness. And the UO’s own Duo Chrysocolla (saxophonist Idit Shner and harpist Linda-Rose Hembreiker), which plays Beall Nov. 14, actually commissions new music for its unusual instrumental combo, as well as playing older works by French classical composer Jacques Ibert and American jazz master Yusef Lateef.
Speaking of endlessly repeated warhorses: Thursday, Nov. 13, the Eugene Symphony performs two of the greatest symphonies — Mozart’s magnificent 41st and final symphony and Schubert’s poignant so-called “Unfinished” symphony. The closest thing to a contemporary work, Samuel Barber’s powerful Violin Concerto is 75 years old, not exactly the kind of program that will attract the 20- and 30-somethings that classical music needs, but it’s one of the finest American classical music masterpieces, with a performance starring soloist Searmi Park. As historical museum concerts go, this is a good one. That same night, the UO Symphony plays the same Schubert symphony, Brahms’s first piano concerto and the excellent contemporary American composer Michael Daugherty’s Flamingo. For something more unusual, on Nov. 16, Beall hosts the Eugene Symphonic Band’s fall concert, which features a bunch of contemporary composers you’ve probably never heard of and an arrangement of a Wagner piece.
Also at Beall Sunday, Nov. 9, Oregon Bach Festival artistic director Matthew Halls returns to conduct the UO Chamber Choir in a Veterans Day-themed concert of music from his United Kingdom homeland: the great Baroque composer Henry Purcell’s Funeral Sentences and contemporary Scottish composer James MacMillan’s A Child’s Prayer, honoring the child victims of the horrific 1996 Scottish school shooting, plus Bruckner’s E minor Mass, featuring the University Singers and Oregon Wind Ensemble.
That’s one of a pair of strongly recommended choral concerts this weekend, the other being the Nov. 7 Eugene Vocal Arts Ensemble and Oregon Mozart Players’ Beall Hall performance of one of the greatest and most familiar Baroque vocal masterpieces, Vivaldi’s Gloria, and another Italian Baroque beauty by the died-too-young Giovanni Pergolesi — not the famous Stabat Mater but Magnificat — plus earlier Italian classics by Palestrina, Scarlatti, Lotti and more.
If your tastes run more toward the folk tradition, the young American band Bua, which plays Irish traditional music on fiddle, pipes, flute, guitar and more, has a house concert at 755 River Road Friday night, Nov. 14 (contact email@example.com for more information). And on Nov. 15, The Shedd brings the latest in its long line of Hawaiian slack key guitar masters, Makana, a protege of the renowned Sonny Chillingworth, who infuses the traditional dreamy, zingy sound with bluegrass, rock, blues and even raga influences to produce “slack-rock,” which, like PROJECT Trio, goes to show that updating old music can help it remain a living tradition.