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Ahhhh, Bach . . . "Sound and Vision"

  • May 11, 2011

A Slightly Askew View of the Oregon Bach Festival.

SOUND + VISION This week we focus our attention on Joan of Arc and the manifestations of her life and death in both high - and slightly lower - culture. It's part of OBF's "In Praise of Women" celebration honoring the many contributions women have brought to art and continue to bring to our everyday lives, from renowned musicians and conductors to historical figures and inspirational muses. Did we mention apple pie? Because we really do appreciate the apple pie. Which reminds us, you didn't forget Mother's Day, did you?

We thought not.

SOUNDS GOOD This season, Marin Alsop returns to Eugene to conduct the OBF Orchestra and Chorus, along with several vocal soloists, in a performance of Arthur Honegger's "Joan of Arc at the Stake," the first performance of this "dramatic cantata" before Alsop takes it to Carnegie Hall and other esteemed venues. And just think, you can say you saw it here first! So who was this Honegger guy? An anonymous poster on The Wiki describes the principal elements of his musical style as "Bachian counterpoint, driving rhythms, melodic amplitude, highly coloristic harmonies, an impressionistic use of orchestral sonorities, and a concern for formal architecture." But don't let that keep you away. The performance is certain to be considerably more emotional and inspiring than that description, whose author should definitely not pursue a career writing commercial jingles for popular children's breakfast cereals. "Cuckoo for CocoaPuffs" may lack a Bachian counterpoint, but it really nails the CocoaPuffy experience. Feel free to ask Alsop herself for a more down-to-earth description of Honegger's composition during  her "Let's Talk" Q&A on June 29. Don't be shy. After all, she's the narrator of "Marin Alsop's Clueless About Classical Music!" podcasts, which are dedicated to "erasing classical music's elitist stigma." Like maybe for instance, "a concern for formal architecture." Who knew? PICTURE THAT This is not the first time Alsop has brought Joan's story to life in Eugene. In 2001 she led the Eugene Symphony and Chorus in a performance of Richard Einhorn's "Voices of Light" score during a screening of Carl Dreyer's 1928 silent masterpiece, "The Passion of Joan of Arc." Einhorn wrote the score specifically for the film, which features a heart-wrenching performance by Maria Falconetti that many consider to be one of the finest in the history of film. Judge for yourself. Einhorn produced the "Bach Cello Suites" with Yo-Yo Ma, which won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Performance, and, curiously, he also composed scores for a number of D-grade slasher movies, including "Don't Go in the House," "Eyes of a Stranger" and "Blood Rage." Stick with the Dreyer film. Joan's story has inspired a wide range of cultural tchotchkes, including an edition of "Animated Hero Classics," a popular television series (Pop Quiz alert!) and a full-blown Hollywood spectacle directed by Victor Fleming ("The Wizard of Oz," "Gone with the Wind") starring Swedish bombshell Ingrid Bergman, whose performance was nominated for an Oscar despite the lingering accent. By the way, Bergman next starred in Alfred Hitchcock's "Under Capricorn," which co-star Joseph Cotton described as "Under Corny Crap," while Falconetti never appeared in  another film. POP QUIZ 1. What popular TV series was loosely inspired by Joan of Arc? A. "Bewitched ( 1964 – 1972) B. "I Married Joan" (1952 – 1955) C. "Joan of Arcadia" (2003 – 2005) D. "Jersey Shore" (Interminable) 2. In the aforementioned series, in what form did "God" speak to Joan? A. George Burns B. Marion Lorne C. A mime D. "Snooki" Polizzi Come back next week for the answers to this quiz, along with a slightly askew look at "In Praise of St. Cecilia" (July 7, Silva Concert Hall). Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians, so it should be an inspiration. Until then, here are the three degrees of separation between sublime cellist Yo-Yo Ma (June 23, Silva Concert Hall) and the mighty Led Zeppelin we quizzed you about last week: 1. Yo Yo Ma has collaborated with bluegrass singer and fiddler Alison Krauss. 2. Krauss recoded a Grammy Award winning album, "Raising Sand," with Robert Plant. 3. And Robert Plant, of course, was the lead singer of Led Zeppelin. Read All