Imami Winds perform with Bodyvox Dance on June 27–30.
Imani Winds perform with Bodyvox Dance on June 27–30.

Feeling overwhelmed by the staggering, 31-day lineup of this year’s Chamber Music Northwest Summer Festival? You’re not alone. But don’t panic, we spoke with CMNW’s artistic director David Shifrin, and asked him for his must-sees and other insights into the festival.

First of all, “expected the unexpected,” says Shifrin. If there’s one common theme in this year’s Summer Festival, it’s the sheer diversity and innovation of other genres intersecting with chamber music. “The junction of different forms—the junction of jazz and chamber music, dance and chamber music, we're doing cabaret songs and chamber music—those would be themes,” says Shifrin. 

Chamber Music Northwest Summer Festival
Various venues
Thru July 28
It’s clear that Shifrin is interested in expanding the definition of what chamber music actually is. He notes that there is an obligation to perform works at the core of the classical cannon, but he also finds it his mission to grow the cannon and stretch the definition of chamber music. “The concerts are about beauty and communication, not about pretense and formality,” he says. “They’re a chance for everybody to get together and share the music.”

Since he knows the work better than anyone else, we asked the artistic director to describe his picks for what will be most memorable at this year’s fest:

In Motion with BodyVox
Imani Winds will play live for the world premiere of a dance by BodyVox directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland on a program that will also include "S.O.S.," set to Sibelius' Valse Triste, and “Foreign Tails,” set to music by Debussy and Ravel. This year marks the third collaboration between this long-time local dance favorite and CMNW. “It’s the most imaginative pairing of music and movement you’ll see anywhere,” says Shifrin, naming it an absolute must-see. June 27, 29, 30; St. Mary's Academy. 

Image: CMNW
Darrell Grant

Turning Points
This July 4th extravaganza honors five living American composers who all turn 75 this year: Charles Wuorinen, John Harbison, John Corigliano, Joan Tower, and William Bolcom. In Harbinson’s “Six American Painters”—written for flute, violin, viola, and cello—each movement is inspired by a different artistic style. July 4; Reed College.

A Sense of Place 
Here’s one for the history buffs in the audience: the Portland-based jazz pianist Darrell Grant's commisioned work for the Darrell Grant Ensemble, “The Territory,” is inspired by the history and settling of Oregon. It will culminate a night that also sees Gershwin's "An American in Paris for Two Pianos" and Ravel's "Sonata for Violin and Piano." July 6, 7. Reed College; St. Mary's Academy. 

Grand Encounters
The second work in this program is the West Coast premiere of “Quasi una fantasia” by the sought after composer Christopher Theofanidis, who has a “lyrical, romantic way” with classical music, and it's also the West Coast premiere of his “Quasi una fantasia.” The program closes with a septet by Johann Hummel, which Shifrin says will be a “pyrotechnical” display of piano virtuosity from Alessio BaxJuly 13, 14; Reed College, St. Mary's Academy. 

Image: Dario Acosta
Sasha Cooke

Voices and Virtuosity
This evening pairs world-class singers Sasha Cooke and Nicholas Phan with a series of musicians for compositions by Benjamin Britten, Hugo Wolf, and Felix Mendelssohn. While the tenor Phan has recently wowed Portland audiences, including his recent performance in Portland Opera's Falstaff, and will no doubt dazzle with piano virtuoso Pei-Yao Wang, prepare yourself for mezzo soprano Cooke, whos last performance at Summer Fest was 2011, as she takes the stage with the Miro Quartet. July 18; Reed College. 

Artistry and Innovation
Lowell Lieberman’s song cycle, "Four Seasons," is inspired by the poems of feminist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Edna St. Vincent Millay. It will be performed by piano quartet, clarinet, and Sasha Cooke. Shifrin adds, "we're doing this rather ambitious realization of Bach’s 'Art of the Fugue.' I think that'll be exciting." July 20, 21. Reed College, St. Mary's Academy. 

Image: CMNW
Gabriel Kahane

The Kahane Connection
Renowned pianist and director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Jeffrey Kahane and his son, singer-songwriter Gabriel Kahane, are joined by violinist and friend Joseph Swenson. The three describe the unusual program as "a tasting menu of miniatures" by Bach, Kurtag, Ives, Kahane, Kern, Prokofiev, Schumann and Schubert. This trio is “hard to get all in one place at one time,” according to Shifrin, so catch them while you can. July 25. Reed College.

Viva le Tango!: An afternoon of tango brings the festival to a Latin bang with Octavio Brunetti playing piano and Cho-Liang Lin on violin. The composition will be Lalo Schifrin’s “Letters from Argentina,” which David Shifrin tells us was composed at his request. It's one of the perks of being distantly related to the composer of the infamous Mission: Impossible theme. July 28. Reed College.


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