Everyone loves a smorgasbord—even curators of contemporary classical music. This month brings the third annual installment of March Music Moderne, 32 loosely affiliated concerts happening all over the Portland area, Mar 7–23. Artistic director Bob Priest was kind enough, in his own words, to give us the heads-up on a half-dozen shows that should not be missed. Bonus! Some of them are free!
Ears Wide Open
Mar 7 at 7, Free
"I always try to encourage people to come opening night, not only because it’s opening night but because I think it’s a dynamite evening. For example … cellist Diane Chaplin … is going to play [Finnish composer] Esa-Pekka Salonen’s solo cello piece to get things underway, which is probably the most intense virtuosic piece in the entire cello repertoire. It’s just going to pin people to the wall right off the bat—it’s incredible."
Free Marz String Trio
Mar 8 at 8, Free
Community Music Center
"To celebrate the 100th anniversary of [Stravinsky's] Rite of Spring, I picked 10 Portland composers, … scattered all over Global Village PDX, from the jazz community to people like David Schiff over at Reed, to composers with Cascadia Composers, and I said, 'OK folks, we’re gonna celebrate the Rite of Spring and I would like to ask all of you to take any single aspect that you like from the Rite of Spring—be it a melodic fragment, a harmonic progression, a rhythmic figure, an orchestrational device, a gesture, anything you want—but you have to write it in a march form, it can’t be longer than one minute, and it’s for string trio."
24 Preludes & Fugues for Painters
Mar 14 at 6:30, Free
Muse Art and Design
"Muse Art and Design is a fabulously well-appointed art supply store, very high-end paints, canvases and such over on [4220 SE] Hawthorne. And the owner, Peter Rossing, has a background as a pianist, he has a bachelor’s degree in piano accompaniment. So I said, 'Hey Peter, any way that you could bring your two words together over there?'"
"We have a big Shostakovich thread throughout the festival, the Friends of Chamber Music are bringing in the Jerusalem String Quartet to play all 15 Shostakovich string quartets over four nights during March Music Moderne. So he, with an absolute stroke of genius in my opinion, said, 'Hey Bob, Shostakovich has 24 Fugues and Preludes for Piano that he wrote as a tribute to Bach. What if I get 24 different local painters to each interpret one of the preludes and fugues, as a painting, as a diptych?' So they all have the same size canvas and they divide the canvas in two, and one part of it is a prelude and the other is a fugue. So it’s a trans-genre collaboration I guess you could say. He’ll have all 24 of these new paintings in his space and there’ll be a reception that night with all the artists, some Shostakovich music playing, and a goodly bit of drinking."
Tessa Brinckman & Mitsuki Dazai
Mar 16 at 4, $15
"Tessa Brinckman and Mitsuki Dazai … they’re doing a very unusual program of music for flutes and koto [traditional Japanese string instrument]. It’s still contemporary classical and some jazz—they’re doing some Chick Corea, some piano music actually, his children’s songs, for flute and koto. Now just think about that for a minute, that’s really an unusual sound and I think it’s going to be magical with those pieces that Chick wrote. And then she’ll be playing a work by Esa-Pekka Salonen for alto flute that is a killer piece with a lot of heavy breathing, and gasping for air and all. And then some other new music by traditional Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa and Elizabeth Brown."
Mar 20 at 7:30, $15
The Old Church
"Ah, yes, Gordon Lee, he’s played piano around here for a long, long time, he’s sort of a Portland icon. So I asked Gordon, I said, 'Hey look, not a lot of people realize you write really excellent contemporary classical music in addition to being one of the top jazzers in town, playing with Mel Brown and others. Why don’t you put on a retrospective evening at the Old Church that shows the two sides of your work?' So he’s going to bring in the Mel Brown Septet and they’re going to blow some new charts that he’s written for them; we’re going to have a new piece he’s written for four cellos, which is really different; and then he’s going to play some of his solo piano music, so that’s going to be a wide-ranging program, a really worthwhile retrospective evening of Lee's varied output."
Northwest New Music Ensemble
Mar 23 at 7:30, $25
Community Music Center
"Northwest New Music, is the last event, one of the absolutely most vibrant and virtuosic, relatively new music groups in town. They‘re co-directed by Diane Chaplin, cellist, and Florian Conzetti percussionist, and they adhere more to the modernist leanings of contemporary classic music, as you’ll see Esa-Pekka Salonen in there, Luciano Berio, Franco Donatoni, and they are absolute virtuoso players. It's a core of six virtuosi and for this particular concert they’re also bringing in a guest woodwind quintet, the City Of Tomorrow Woodwind Quintet, a first-rate group. So that’s gonna be a bang-up closer to be sure."