Joshua Bell headlines Festival opener

  • Jan 22, 2012
Superstar violinist Joshua Bell will be featured when the 2012 Oregon Bach Festival opens Friday, June 29 in Eugene and June 30 in Portland with three masterworks by Felix Mendelssohn. Helmuth Rilling, in his 42nd and penultimate year as artistic director, conducts both concerts. Bell’s OBF debut was announced at the January 22 annual meeting of the Friends of the Festival. The Festival also announced a return of Juilliard-trained, piano-playing siblings The 5 Browns, headlining a July 12 musical tribute to Hollywood in Eugene’s Silva Concert Hall. Bell and the Browns join a lineup that already includes harpsichordist/conductor Matthew Halls, keyboardist Angela Hewitt, the Portland Baroque Orchestra, organist John Scott, and pop orchestra Pink Martini. Based at the University of Oregon in Eugene with a four-concert series in Portland, the OBF expands to five other Oregon cities and thirty ticketed concerts in 2012—the broadest reach in its history. A recipient of the Avery Fisher Prize and the newly named Music Director of The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Bell will perform Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, the composer’s most celebrated contribution to orchestral music. Bell takes Mendelssohn one daring step further by performing his own cadenza—the work’s climactic extended solo. The Italian Symphony and the rousing choral spectacle Die Erste Walpurgisnacht complete the program. [caption id="attachment_6728" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Helmuth Rilling conducts Mendelssohn, Bach motets, and the St. Matthew Passion. Photo: Michael Latz"][/caption] Mendelssohn has long been credited with jump-starting a 19th century Bach revival. The work that sparked that revival, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, is firmly at the heart of this year’s Festival. Rilling will conduct the Passion as the grand finale in Eugene, and also lead four lecture-concerts that fully explore the monumental work. The St. Matthew lecture concerts will be filmed in high definition as a 2013 installment on the OBF’s innovative DigitalBach.com website, produced in association with the Hinkle Charitable Foundation. Rilling will also lead a Beall Hall concert of Bach motets and concerti, featuring harpsichordist Boris Kleiner. More than two hundred years after the St. Matthew Passion, British composer Michael Tippett translated its structure and emotional impact into the modern classic A Child of Our Time. Compelled by events preceding the Nazi Kristallnacht attacks, Tippett focused his work on the story of a young man’s attempt to seek justice. Tippett integrated American spirituals in place of the Passion’s chorales, furthering the work’s symbolic, universal, and deeply humanistic effect. [caption id="attachment_6727" align="alignright" width="99" caption="Matthew Halls conducts A Child of our Time and performs a Bach harpsichord recital. Photo: Eric Richmond"][/caption] British conductor Matthew Halls, who succeeds Rilling as the Festival’s artistic director after the 2013 season, will conduct A Child of our Time, opening the concert with Bach’s celebratory Lutheran Mass in G Major. An acclaimed keyboardist as a soloist and with his own London-based Retrospect Ensemble, Halls will also Bach keyboard concerti on harpsichord in a Beall Hall concert. Bach’s Goldberg Variations weave through the fabric of the Festival in concerts and events that mark the major birth and death anniversaries of Glenn Gould, the enigmatic genius closely associated with the work.
  • Portland Baroque Orchestra tours a string orchestra arrangement of the variations to Astoria, Lincoln City, Corvallis, and Eugene.
  • The acclaimed pianist Hewitt performs the set on piano July 14 in Beall Hall.
  • OBF Cinema will present two prize-winning films about Gould in Eugene’s Bijou Art Cinema.
  • The Variations will be the topic of the Hinkle Distinguished Seminar.
  • Halls’s recording on harpsichord of the Variations will be the audio track for the second major interactive component added to the Digital Bach website.
Beyond the major threads, the 2012 OBF schedule includes
  • [caption id="attachment_6726" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Thomas Lauderdale and Storm Large of Pink Martini."][/caption] The return of Pink Martini Sunday, July 1, following the conclusion of Eugene’s Olympic Track and Field Trials, the Festival’s first production in the outdoor Cuthbert Amphitheatre. Rock chanteuse Storm Large guest stars with the popular Portland-based orchestra.
  • Recitals of Bach’s Clavier-Übung III (Organ Mass) in Eugene and Portland by John Scott, music director at Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York, and previously music director at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
  • A salon-style chamber music concert of music by Debussy, celebrating the 150th anniversary of his birth.
  • The 15th anniversary concert of the Stangeland Family Youth Choral Academy, conducted by Anton Armstrong and featuring alumni singers and new works.
  • A night of tango in Portland, Bend, Ashland, and Eugene led by harmonica virtuoso Joe Powers.
The OBF Gold Ticket, a season pass to Eugene concerts, goes on sale February 13, while tickets for the full schedule go on sale Bach’s birthday, March 21.