Saturday, May 20, 2017

scooping up the culture

Today starts the cultural portion of my Oregon tour.

One thing I truly miss in my area of Mexico is biting into a chewy bit of culture. I should add an immediate caveat. We do have some artists who produce challenging paintings near my home. Several of those hang on the walls of the house with no name. Paintings, mind you; not the artists.

But when it comes to string quartets, oratorios, operas, or orchestras, there are not so many. Of course, there are in Mexico City and Guadalajara. But I do not get there as often as I would like.

So, that leaves my travels to feed my cultural jonesing. And I try to take advantage of anything of interest that is offered while I travel. That is why opera in Sydney, orchestra in Barcelona, and string quartets in Venice are such a treat.

On this trip, I have found three days of cultural diversion, starting tonight with the Crown City String Quartet in Bend. Crown City is Pasedena-based, but the quartet play often in the Pacific Northwest, including for the series sponsored by High Desert Chamber Music. I saw them perform two years ago here (staging the day). Tonight's performance is the finale of the HDCM's 2016-17 season.

Pre-concert discussions of the pieces to be performed are now quite common. And they are a great idea.

Most people who attend these concerts have a vague idea of what the music might offer. But they often do not have the tools to analyze the music's depths. These mini-lectures help bridge the gap.

I often write that I want my music to be challenging -- just as I want paintings or sculpture or opera to be challenging. Once the listener understands the sonata form, there are potential signposts to understand the composer's statement and restatement of themes.

It also helps if the program is populated with pieces that are almost entry-level (but still extremely good). That is what the Crown City String Quartet is offering tonight:

  • Schubert "Quartettsatz"
  • Mozart String Quartet in B Flat Major K.589
  • Schumann String Quartet No. 3 in A Minor 
On Sunday afternoon, Darrel, Mom and I will attend the season's last performance of the Central Oregon Symphony -- an orchestra that used to bill itself as "the largest symphony in Bend." An appellation that has all the weight of  being "world-famous in Poland."

Tomorrow's guest is Linda Wang, who I saw perform in Bend on one of my earlier visits. I look forward to seeing her perform again. The performance will also be noteworthy because the second piece on the program, Cascades, was commissioned by the orchestra to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

And here is the full program:

  • Brahms Violin Concerto
  • Barnes Cascades Suite
  • Marquez Danzon No.2
The first and third pieces are not very challenging, but I look forward to hearing the premier of the commissioned piece. Anything new is always worth a listen.

And, of course, even though it is not very demanding music, the Marquez is one of my favorite pop concert pieces (sex on the floor). I suspect it will be a fun afternoon.

Then there is the concert that kept me in Oregon this long. On Wednesday night Joshua Bell will be the guest performer with the Salem Symphony.

The Salem Symphony is a recent creation -- reminiscent of the days when every town had its own band. Or boys' band, as Professor Harold Hill would have it.

I have long-admired Joshua Bell's work. Including his off-stage antics. It is not every day a performer of his quality shows up in the town where I once lived.

The program for Wednesday is:

  • Saint Saens Bacchanale
  • Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture
  • Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor
  • Sarasate Ziguenerweisen
Bell will perform with the orchestra on the last two pieces. Both are well-designed to showcase his show biz style, but not his subtle virtuosity.

Having said all that, I am looking forward to each of the three performances. The Bell has all the elements of being a memorable night. But I may be surprised at what the other two performances offer, as well.

I do know, though, that when I return to Barra de Navidad, I am going to miss having all of these options available.

Guadalajara and Mexico City may get to see a lot more of me.

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