Here are some of Portland’s classical music highlights for March and April (also see performing arts highlights):
“When Michael Meets Julia”
Feb. 28-March 1
Third Angle, Alberta Rose Theater, 3000 N.E. Alberta St.
A band, a festival, an organization and a continuing revolution, New York’s Bang on a Can has, for a quarter-century, reinvigorated classical music with the pulsating rhythms of rock, minimalism and other contemporary sounds.
For about the same stretch, Third Angle has showcased some of the most original and accessible music being composed in the classical tradition, so this pairing of Oregon’s finest new music ensemble with the striking music of (and appearances by) two of BOAC’s (married) cofounders, Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon, is the season’s happiest combination.
“Back in the USSR”
March 2 (Resonance Ensemble, Agnes Flanagan Chapel, Lewis & Clark College, 0615 S.W. Palatine Hill Road) and March 3 (Yale Union [YU], 800 S.E. 10th Ave.)
One of the city’s finest collections of singers drawn from other top choirs sings seldom-heard sounds, long imprisoned in the Soviet era’s artistic gulag, by Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Arvo Pδrt and other Eastern European composers.
March Music Moderne
The annual citywide celebration of contemporary music reveals that, despite the musty programming of too many of Portland’s classical institutions, the 20th and 21st centuries have produced a cornucopia of compelling sounds. All 32 concerts, many free or low-cost, are worth checking out; top picks include the preview party potpourri (March 7), Free Marz String Trio (March 8), Arnica Quartet (March 15), Beta Collide (March 16), Third Angle (March 21) and City of Tomorrow Wind Quintet and Northwest New Music (March 23).
Lincoln Hall, Portland State University, 1620 SW Park Ave.
The Friends of Chamber Music bring this acclaimed young foursome to perform what may be the 20th century’s single most monumental chamber music cycle, Dmitri Shostakovich’s 15 string quartets.
Portland Opera, Newmark Theater, 1111 S.W. Broadway
Instead of the usual recycled warhorses, this is a rare chance to catch one of the Baroque era’s finest operas, which should be even more glorious in the intimately scaled Newmark. This work is by George Frederic Handel, who’s better known today for his “Messiah.”
“A First Time for Everything”
Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra, First United Methodist Church, 1838 S.W. Jefferson St.
You’ve heard “Rhapsody in Blue” — but with marimba instead of piano? University of Oregon percussion prof Pius Cheung wields the mallets in Gershwin’s Jazz Age classic, and the orchestra also plays Dvorak’s popular Symphony No. 8 and more.
Portland Baroque Orchestra
March 22-23 (First Baptist Church, 909 S.W. 11th Ave.) and March 24 (Kaul Auditorium, 3203 S.E. Woodstock Blvd.)
One of the nation’s finest early music orchestras brings renowned Italian conductor Rinaldo Alessandrini to direct performances of Handel’s magnificent “Water Music” — fit for a king — and stirring dance tunes from Rameau’s Baroque opera “The Descendants of Boreas.”
“To Hungary and Beyond”
45th Parallel, 3 Leg Torso, Alberta Rose Theater, 3000 N.E. Alberta St.
The umbrella organization that presents chamber music performed by some of the city’s top orchestral players (45th Parallel) joins forces with the city’s most beloved and uncategorizable world chamber ensemble (3 Leg Torso).
Kaul Auditorium, Reed College, 3203 S.E. Woodstock Blvd.
Friends of Chamber Music bring back the superb Bay Area-based choir to sing music by Renaissance and American composers, and more.
Jon Kimura Parker
Lincoln Hall, Portland State University, 1620 S.W. Park Ave.
A Portland favorite, the renowned pianist returns courtesy of Friends of Chamber Music for performances with the Tokyo Quartet and a solo recital of all Russian music — including his arrangement of Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.”
Renaissance Easter in Spain and Portugal
Cappella Romana, St. Mary’s Cathedral, 1739 N.W. Couch St.
Usually busy in Byzantine music, the Northwest’s finest choir sings Renaissance music by Iberian composers, including the magnificent Tomas Luis de Victoria.
Oregon Symphony, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway
After a blazing performance of the “The Rite of Spring” last season, the orchestra performs another of Igor Stravinsky’s great 20th century ballets, the slyly splendiferous “Petroushka.” The program also includes Walter Piston’s American classic, “The Incredible Flutist,” and, abetted by the SoCal fretboard foursome, another 20th century classic often overshadowed by the composer’s more famous work: Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo’s sunny “Andalusian Concerto.”
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway
The season’s top orchestral concert features a pair of thrilling 20th century American classics — Aaron Copland’s Symphony No. 3 (featuring his famous “Fanfare for the Common Man”) and Leonard Bernstein’s dazzling “Serenade” (a violin concerto in all but name) — plus a Roaring ’20s wild card by the official bad boy of music: American composer George Antheil’s swinging “Jazz Symphony.”
Wieden + Kennedy Building, 224 N.W. 13th Ave.
The chamber orchestra of the nation’s oldest youth orchestra, Portland Youth Philharmonic, plays a 20th-century American classic, David Diamond’s “Rounds,” Beethoven’s penultimate symphony and a dazzling piano concerto by PYP alum and rising young New York composer/violist Kenji Bunch, “Supermaximum!”
“Passion and Resurrection”
Oregon Repertory Singers, First United Methodist Church, 1838 S.W. Jefferson St.
The renowned choir sings music by Bach, the acclaimed young Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds and more.