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Festival finishes on record note

  • Jul 20, 2011
[caption id="attachment_5673" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Helmuth Rilling backstage in Silva Hall, moments before conducting Beethoven's 9th in the final OBF 2011 concert. Photo: Jon Meyers"][/caption] Updated July 13, 2011 As Beethoven's Ninth Symphony roared to a close on Sunday July 10, the Oregon Bach Festival could look back on a season in which it reached artistic heights, debuted new projects, and set new box office records for ticket sales, total attendance, and geographic reach. Gate receipts for the University of Oregon program totaled more than $541,000, the third box office record in four years, up 3.7% from 2010, and an increase of more than $100,000 since 2009. Seven sold-out concerts, the continuation of partnerships with Portland Baroque Orchestra and Eugene’s Art and the Vineyard, and an expanded presence in Portland propelled the Festival to a new total attendance mark of 44,148, a 40% growth in reach over the last five years. Sales from its burgeoning, five-event OBF Mini-Fest in Portland grew by 36% and accounted for 15% of the Festival’s ticket revenue. Long a destination for cultural travelers, the Festival attracted audience members from 40 states—its largest number yet—and from eleven countries including China, Australia, Venezuela, Korea, Denmark, England, Canada, Germany, Scotland, Russia, and Lebanon. John Evans, OBF’s executive director and president, attributed the results to a fresh, reinvigorated approach to programming and a stellar lineup of international artists. “This year’s Festival represented a new departure for the OBF,” he said, “with a richer and more diverse program and more guest stars than ever before. We’re delighted that audiences, old and new, embraced what the OBF now has to offer. We were rewarded by a record-breaking season all round.” “I continue to marvel at the Festival’s ability to present timeless music in innovative ways,” said University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere. “The Oregon Bach Festival is truly of gem of the university, the community and the state.” The Festival’s founder and artistic director, Helmuth Rilling, led performances of the Brahms Requiem, the Beethoven Ninth, and four Bach cantatas within the Discovery Series of lecture-concerts. [caption id="attachment_5804" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Jeffrey Kahane in rehearsals for opening night"][/caption] Superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma launched the Festival with a sold-out opening night performance of Osvaldo Golijov’s concerto Azul, conducted by Jeffrey Kahane. Ensuing concerts featured Marin Alsop, Monica Huggett and the Portland Baroque Orchestra, Miguel Harth-Bedoya and his Caminos del Inka ensemble, Maria Guinand and the Schola Cantorum de Venezuela, vocal soloists Tamara Wilson, Rod Gilfry, and Robin Johannsen, pianist Shai Wosner, cellist Alban Gerhardt, and rising-star conductor Matthew Halls. A cluster of major concerts reflected the Festival’s banner theme In Praise of Women:
  • Alsop premiered a dramatically imagined concert version of Honegger’s Joan of Arc at the Stake involving three choirs, a hundred-piece orchestra, and actors from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Directed by James Robinson of Opera Theatre of St. Louis, the new production is slated for future performances with the Baltimore symphony, in Carnegie Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and at London’s Barbican.
  • Violinist Huggett directed her Portland Baroque Orchestra in an NEA-supported tour of Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas in Portland, Bend, Ashland, and Eugene.
  • The principal choral conductor within Venezuela’s El Sistema public music education program, Guinand directed her Schola Cantorum de Venezuela choir in Eugene and Portland concerts and delivered the Festival’s annual Hinkle Distinguished Lecture on the topic of “Music as a Force of Social Change.”
  • Acclaimed director of the UK’s Retrospect Ensemble, now earning accolades as an opera and symphonic conductor in Europe and the US, Halls celebrated St. Cecilia in a choral-orchestral program with works by Purcell, Britten, and Handel.
  • Jamie Bernstein hosted We Are Women, a cabaret of her father’s Broadway songs.
Chamber music concerts and smaller-scale venues featured interconnected themes and performers. Gerhardt performed all of the Bach and Britten cello suites over three nights. Wosner appeared with an ensemble of soloists in a Brahms soiree and in solo recital of works by Handel, Brahms and Beethoven. While most Festival high points were onstage, one took place online. Unveiled at the OBF’s gala Patron Celebration, the Digital Bach Project [http://digitalbach.com] incorporates video, text, audio, and flash animation in a fully interactive experience of Bach’s Mass in B Minor. Envisioned and funded by philanthropist Hal Hinkle, the website also serves as the gateway to the Rilling Discovery Lectures, a full three hours of high-definition video, capturing Helmuth Rilling’s four-part performance lecture of the Mass in B Minor, filmed during the 2010 OBF. “This is a new dimension for audiences and artists, to have, within a few mouse clicks, an unprecedented depth of performance footage and scholarly insight,” said Evans. “It will become an international resource for students of Bach and the Mass in B Minor.” Evans also announced the concerts to be conducted by Helmuth Rilling at the 2012 Festival. The maestro will conduct Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony, Violin Concerto, and Die Erste Walpurgisnacht in Portland and Eugene to open the Festival; Bach motets and concertos in the 500-seat Beall Concert Hall; and a season-concluding St. Matthew Passion with soloist Thomas Quasthoff, who will also lead a vocal master class and sing a jazz recital. OBF 2012 dates are June 29-July 15; full programs and artists will be announced in mid-October. Read All