catherine van der salm | THE SOLOIST

MONICA HUGGETT | The CONDUCTOR

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Choral Glory
Portland Baroque Orchestra with Cappella Romana
Oct 12–14
First Baptist Church & Kaul Auditorium
pbo.org

 

 

Image: Dan Gay
Catherine Van Der Salm: The Soloist

  There was a moment during soprano Catherine van der Salm’s early 2011 performance of Bach’s The St. John Passion that was so beautiful, she started to choke up. The performance was a two-pronged collaborative experiment between Portland Baroque Orchestra and Cappella Romana, the internationally renowned vocal ensemble with which van der Salm sings. First, the two groups wanted to learn if there was an audience for vocal/orchestral efforts beyond the holiday tradition of Handel’s Messiah. (There was.) Second, they wanted to record a complete major work that would garner international attention. (It did: the prestigious French magazine Diapason called it “a major reinterpretation of the work.”)

 But for van der Salm, the tear-jerking moment was triggered by the expressive dance of bow on string
during the penultimate movement, “Ruht wohl,” by PBO artistic director and world-renowned violinist Monica Huggett. “She’s so impassioned,” van der Salm says, “and in that movement, I was so full of emotion that it almost overwhelmed me.” 

Van der Salm will have the opportunity to work even more closely with Huggett this fall when she performs as a soloist in the next collaboration, a concert of choral masterworks from the three giants of Baroque music: Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi (including Vivaldi’s blockbuster, Gloria). 

Image: Dan Gay
Monica Huggett: The Conductor

 Baroque music might not seem the richest soil for collaboration. The composers are long dead, the conductors call the shots, and the performers simply play their parts, right? Not when Portland’s most skilled period ensembles come together.

“I’m not the big maestro who sweeps in,” says Huggett of her rehearsals with the choir. At 16 players each, the two groups are small, and given the almost question-and-answer style of many Baroque compositions—where melodies echo between groups with improvised ornamentations—each performer
affects the whole. 

“Every choice that Monica makes, for example,” says van der Salm, “from the way she plays a given melody to the notes she emphasizes, informs the way I sing a vocal line. We’re creating a greater whole together.” —AS 

 

SHOWS TO KNOWCLASSICAL MUSIC

 

Views from cascadia

Sept  27 Leading contemporary composer and Alaskan resident John Luther Adams named this concert-length composition with a line from an Inuit poem: Earth and the Great Weather. In this performance, Third Angle Ensemble will bring together its skilled base of musicians, four singers, and spoken recordings from native Alaskans and translators to take us on what Luther describes as “a journey through the physical, cultural, and spiritual landscapes of the Arctic, in music, language, and sound.” —LL $5–35. Agnes Flanagan Chapel, Lewis & Clark College, 615 SW Palatine Hill Rd. 503-331-0301. thirdangle.org

 

Gerhardt Plays Tchaikovsky

Oct 27 & 29 German cellist Alban Gerhardt has performed with orchestras worldwide to spectacular reviews, but he’s also known for playing in unusual venues. During a tour of Germany during which people called into radio stations to propose sites for free concerts, he performed in a train station, a commune, strangers’ living rooms, and a maternity ward. As the Oregon Symphony’s first artist-in-residence, he’ll bring the big, emotive fullness of his playing to Tchaikovsky at the Schnitz, but he’ll also take suggestions for other venues. So think twice before passing a guy with a cello at the streetcar stop. —Riley Stevenson $26–95. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway. 503-228-1353. orsymphony.org

  

Bass baritone Daniel Okulitch as Don Giovanni serenades Keri Alkema as Donna Elvira at the New York City Opera.

 

Don Giovanni

Nov 2–10 How do you go about casting the world’s most famous rakish lover in one of the world’s greatest operas? You can start with the voice, but to really sell his anti-hero charm, it doesn’t hurt to also think of the body. Operachic.com called Canadian bass baritone Daniel Okulitch “a swaggering rock star” after his New York City Opera debut as Don Giovanni, but he’s likely best known for his full monty showing in Howard Shore’s opera The Fly, directed by David Cronenberg at the Los Angeles Opera. —AS $20 & up. Keller Auditorium, 222 SW Clay St. 503-241-1802. portlandopera.org

 

Shanghai Quartet 

Dec 3 & 4 One of the world’s foremost chamber ensembles, the Shanghai Quartet is famous for its mix of Eastern and Western music, classical and contemporary. The New York Times is especially taken with the fab four, declaring: “If there is a string quartet currently in circulation that produces a more beautiful sound than the Shanghai Quartet, the name doesn’t immediately come to mind.” For its Portland performances, the quartet will perform material by composers ranging from Beethoven to Dvo?ák to the quartet’s own Yi-Wen Jiang.—JM $27 & up. Lincoln Performance Hall, 1620 SW Park Ave. 503-224-9842. focm.org