It’s December and, these days, that means omnipresent standard holiday tunes have already crossed the threshold between inspirational nostalgia and annoying oversaturation. So it’s a special holiday treat to know that you can find some relief from the enforced overfamiliar tidings of comfort and joy in a few classical concerts this month.
One of the most acclaimed of living American composers, New York’s John Corigliano, scored an unexpected hit with his neo-Romantic score for the 1998 film The Red Violin, whose Twilight-Zone-y story chronicled the adventures of a mysterious, possibly haunted fiddle and its owners over several centuries.
Corigliano turned his film score into a popular violin concerto, a contemporary composition that can appeal to fans of all eras of classical music. Chloë Hanslip performs a movement from it with the Eugene Symphony Thursday, Dec. 6, at the Hult Center, in a concert that also features music by the great early baroque composer Buxtehude (in a 20th-century orchestration), Saint-Saëns’s dreamy, Cuban-inspired Havanaise and Mendelssohn’s exuberant, ever-popular “Italian” symphony.
Another holiday tradition featuring non-stereotypically holiday music resumes on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 8-9, at First Christian Church with Oregon Mozart Players Candlelight Concert. The chamber orchestra joins University of Oregon Chamber Choir in Mozart’s sweetly somber Ave Verum Corpus and also plays his other great night music, the rousing Serenata Notturna, plus a suite from English baroque master Henry Purcell’s tuneful musical drama Abdelezar.
J.S. Bach’s six sublime suites for solo cello are always welcome, regardless of the season. They’re rightly considered some of the greatest and most spellbinding music ever written for any solo instrument, capable of inspiring such depths of contemplation that it still haunts even the world’s most famous cellist, Yo Yo Ma.
Still finding new dimensions in this four-century-old music, Ma just released his third recording. But to really hear what Bach composed and intended, you need to hear them played on the kind of instrument and in the tunings he wrote them for. In Bach’s day, different tunings made each key sound distinctly different, and no composers used tunings for expressive purposes as masterfully as Bach.
In a concert presented by Eugene’s invaluable Oregon Bach Collegium this Sunday afternoon, Dec. 9, at United Lutheran Church, 22nd and Washington, Delgani String Quartet/Eugene Symphony/Oregon Mozart Players cellist Eric Alterman plays and explicates Bach’s first three suites on the much more intimate baroque cello rather than the usual anachronistic modern instrument.
OK, I guess we can’t really escape this month without some seasonal music. Next Sunday, Dec. 16, Eugene Concert Choir presents its fully staged musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which happily includes plenty of seasonally appropriate sounds that you nevertheless don’t hear ad nauseam in stores and commercials everywhere this time of year.
ECC artistic director Diane Retallack has placed the ghost of Christmas Past’s setting in a Renaissance Feast, with appropriate madrigals and carols performed by the costumed “Lords and Ladies” of Eugene Vocal Arts in Elizabethan attire and accompanied by Byrdsong Consort.
The ghost of Christmas Present inhabits Dickens’s mid-19th-century Britain, with English carols and other music of the period, including Arthur Sullivan’s (of Gilbert &) Handelian Festival Te Deum, accompanied by Eugene Concert Orchestra.
The ghost of Christmas Future appears in a “raucous, kitschy look at contemporary culture” with flash mob, break dancing, circus-y acrobatics, an Elvis impersonator and Churchill High School’s Concert Choir. This colorful experience is more than just a concert, featuring costumes, sets, theatrical lighting and sound, action, pageantry, choreography and, of course, Dickens’s immortal story of Scrooge (played by actor William Campbell, no relation), Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and the rest. Wassail is available for quaffing before the show.
Don’t miss Byrdsong Consort’s own free show at 6 pm Friday, Dec. 7, at Eugene Public Library, which includes music from England, Ireland and Scotland from the 16th through the 18th centuries for viols, violins, recorders, flute, harpsichord and voice, plus some traditional holiday tunes and even contemporary music.