OBF artistic director Matthew Halls made his California debut in January, conducting two concerts with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO). At the “impressive” performance in Royce Hall on the UCLA campus, Halls conducted a beautifully crafted program that included Mozart’s ballet music from the opera Idomeneo, Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante, featuring OBF favorites Allan Vogel and Ken Mundy, a mesmerizing reading of Musica Celestis by Aaron Jay Kernis, and a fresh and vibrant Beethoven One that brought a capacity audience to its feet.
“The program was led by guest conductor Matthew Halls, a handsome fellow who was incredibly familiar with the pieces in the program,” wrote David Garcia in his LACO blog. “How familiar was he? He led the entire concert without referring to a single score. There wasn’t even a music stand on his platform. Homeboy knows his classical music! Now, that’s impressive!”
On July 14, 2013, more than two thousand OBF patrons and musicians gathered in the Hult Center lobby to present outgoing artistic director Helmuth Rilling with a champagne toast and a final gift: a beautiful handbound score of James MacMillan’s Alleluia, which was written for Rilling and premiered at the July 6 Passing of the Baton concert.
The volume, which included a CD of the July 6 performance, was designed and produced by Eugene artisan Sandy Tilcock of lone goose press, in collaboration with artists Susan Price and Marilyn Reaves, and presented to Rilling by OBF President and General Director John Evans.
Tilcock bound the score in such a way that the pages could be spread continuously, as a conductor would read a score. The main lettering is printed in a gold ink dusted with a gold pigment to harmonize with the gold strands woven into the dark green cover fabric.
For the glasswork inlaid in its cover, Price crafted a pattern from clippings removed from a friend’s golden gingko tree near Eugene. The gingko symbolizes longevity, resilience, hope and peace.
“I could think of nothing more befitting to incorporate given the passion, enlightenment and healing your music brings to our world,” said Price.
Prior to presentation of the bound score, state representative Phil Barnhart honored Rilling with a resolution from the State of Oregon, proclaiming the conductor’s contributions to the cultural life of the state.
Later in the evening, UO President Michael Gottfredsen presented Rilling with his third honor from the University of Oregon, its Presidential Medal. Rilling became the first person in the history of the university to have been honored with all three of its highest awards, having previously received the UO’s Distinguished Service Award in 1985 and an Honorary Doctorate in 1991.
The honors capped a year in which Rilling celebrated his 80th birthday and received Chorus America’s Distinguished Service Award and the Eugene’s Arts and Letters Award.
Hear one of the world’s most enduring and beloved musical traditions on Monday, November 4 when the Oregon Bach Festival presents the Vienna Boys Choir at 7:30 pm in Beall Concert Hall, sponsored by SELCO Community Credit Union.This concert is sold out.
Begun in 1498, when Emperor Maximilian I included a choir of six boys among his Vienna palace musicians, the choir has survived and thrived over the centuries. Such musicians as Mozart, Salieri, and Anton Bruckner have worked with the choir, and composers Jacobus Gallus and Franz Schubert were themselves choristers. Brothers Joseph and Michael Haydn, members of the choir of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, frequently sang with the imperial boys’ choir.
Its quality, synonymous with excellence, has never wavered. “Their sound was ethereal and true,” The New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini wrote in 2005, the last year the choir came to Eugene. In 2012, Texas critic Graham Dixon praised the “perfect boys voices” and “the sheer joy and vibrant fun that exuded from the stage.”
These days the repertoire has been updated to match the times, but the core program reflects the choir’s origins: hymns, motets, lieder, and the choir’s own arrangements of quintessentially Viennese music, waltzes, and polkas by Lehar, Lanner, and Strauss.
Eugene audiences can also expect pop and contemporary tunes, and a fair mix of world music. Since the 1920s, the choir has collected music from different cultures, with the goal of introducing the boys to as many different styles as possible. Its recent “Silk Road” project features songs from Uzbekistan and China, a qawwali from Pakistan, a ghazal from Iran and field hollers from Tajikistan, all sung in the original languages.
At home in Vienna, the choir runs its own school for 250 youngsters, who receive a thorough musical and general education. From this student body, which includes girls, the most talented boys are chosen for the prestigious touring choir, conducted in Eugene by Manolo Cagnin.
Ranging from Monteverdi to Verdi, Bach to Rachmaninoff, and Mozart to Milhaud, the Oregon Bach Festival’s first season under the directorship of Matthew Halls will be as diverse and widespread as the conductor’s own musical passions.
The 45th running of the University of Oregon’s cultural gem takes place June 26-July 13 in Eugene, Portland, and other Oregon cities.
Among the highlights announced today (August 22) are the world premiere of Halls’ own reconstruction of Bach’s lost St. Mark Passion, completed in collaboration with Zurich-based scholar and organist Dominik Sackmann.
In contrast to Bach’s St. Matthew and St. John Passions, pillars of the choral repertoire, the St. Mark is known only through its existing text and a handful of mentions in contemporary accounts, with no trace of the actual orchestral or choral parts. Building on the belief that Bach borrowed from his existing works to create the arias and choral movements (a common practice of the day), Halls will also write entirely new sung recitatives, based on his extensive knowledge of Bach’s form and style.
Halls, who succeeded Helmuth Rilling as artistic director July 15, launches his inaugural season with Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers.
The St. Mark and Monteverdi concerts will be presented both in Eugene and in Portland as part of the Festival’s BachFest PDX series.
In Eugene, Halls will conduct the Rachmaninoff Vespers and, in the Festival finale, the Verdi Requiem.
The scope of music, from the period-performance settings of the Bach and Monteverdi to the large scale stagings of Verdi and Rachmaninoff, reflects Halls’ wide-ranging interests, and exemplifies the breadth of programming he envisions for the Festival’s future.
“There’s never been a time when I haven’t been dipping into all sorts of interesting and diverse pockets of repertoire—both in the concert hall and on the opera stage,” Halls explained. “That fascination with variety, that diversity of music-making is what keeps me excited and fulfilled as a musician.”
That diversity is reflected in other 2014 OBF highlights, which will include:
“This sheer range of concerts in Matthew’s inaugural season, reflects his deep knowledge of Bach and the baroque, right up to the masterworks of the past two centuries,” said John Evans, OBF President and Executive Director. “I’m confident that our audiences in Eugene and Portland, and, indeed, throughout the state of Oregon, will be enthralled by the diversity of repertoire and the fresh approach to concert-giving that Matthew will bring to the OBF in the years to come.”
In mid-November, when Halls is in Eugene for a residency at the UO School of Music and Dance, the Festival will announce new education initiatives and its full 2014 concert schedule—expected to be the biggest in its 45-year history.
Tickets go on sale in February 2014.
This July, Helmuth Rilling retired as the Oregon Bach Festival’s Artistic Director. He has dedicated 44 summers of his life to creating something precious and lasting here in Oregon: an internationally acclaimed musical and educational enterprise described as “without equal.”
Now it is time to thank him—for the music, for the memories, and for creating a marvelous institution that instills love and appreciation for classical music in new generations of talented musicians.
We invite you to join in creating an enduring tribute to this remarkable man who propelled the Oregon Bach Festival to international prominence in the world of classical music.
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