Diverse repertoire marks start of Halls era

  • Aug 22, 2013

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:

Gabriela Montero. Photo: Colin Bell
  • Soulful Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero, known for her classical virtuosity and jazz-spirited improvisations. She performs in solo recital and in collaboration with the Eugene Ballet Company, in both Portland and Eugene.
  • The Eugene Ballet Company, offering three perspectives on “Creation,” interpreting music by Darius Milhaud, J.F. Rebel, and Montero’s improvisations on J.S. Bach.
  • Organist Paul Jacobs, returning to both Eugene and Portland after wildly acclaimed concerts at the 2013 OBF.
  • Portland Baroque Orchestra, touring an “anniversaries” concert of music by C.P.E. Bach and Jean-Phillipe Rameau.
  • OBF Director Emeritus Helmuth Rilling, leading the Festival orchestra and chorus in a Hult Center performance of the Mozart Requiem.

“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.

Photo: Jon Christopher Meyers

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