Beyond Bach: This year, the festival focuses on others

  • Jun 30, 2007
By Bob Keefer The Register-Guard Published: Thursday, June 28, 2007 The Oregon Bach Festival kicks off on Friday night with Johannes Brahms' "A German Requiem." It's a watershed year for the festival, which began in Eugene in 1969 as a summer choral academy run by University of Oregon music professor Royce Saltzman and German conductor Helmuth Rilling. The two have been the core of the festival for most of four decades. Now, Saltzman will step down from his post as executive director when this year's festival ends on July 15. He will be replaced by former British Broadcasting Corp. programmer John Evans. Meanwhile, the festival, which mixes Bach and non-Bach years, is presenting a non-Bach lineup this time around, from the stately Brahms of opening night to an all-Felix Mendelssohn concert featuring virtuoso violinist Midori. As usual, the festival will be built around a handful of big choral works. Besides the opening night Brahms requiem, the festival will present Franz Joseph Haydn's Mass for Theresa on July 8 and Ludwig van Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis" to close the festival on July 15. On July 12, the festival will present 20th century French composer Arthur Honegger's "King David," which will feature costumes and narrative from Willamette Repertory Theatre. Charismatic pianist and conductor Jeffrey Kahane will make two appearances, playing with Midori and the orchestra on July 3 and in an all-Frederic Chopin recital at Beall Hall on July 5. Toward the pop end of the spectrum, the Five Browns - piano playing siblings from Utah - will play a program of music arranged for up to five pianos on July 13; Peter Schickele brings the tongue-in-cheek composer P.D.Q. Bach to life on Saturday; and Trio Voronezh returns to the festival to play at the new First Baptist Church on July 10. One big change this year for ticket holders: Performance times are a half hour earlier than in past years. Evening performances now begin at 7:30 p.m. and late-afternoon performances begin at 4:30 p.m.