MUSIC MAN: Yaacov Bergman leads the Portland Chamber Orchestra. IMAGE: Duncan Neilson
When Portland Chamber Orchestra music director Yaacov Bergman was planning the company's Sept. 10-11 Frédéric Chopin celebration, a fan who admired the company's commitment to innovation called with an offer to commission a new piece by Katerina Kramarchuk, a 20-year-old Hillsboro native who'd graduated from the esteemed Manhattan School of Music and been accepted for graduate study this fall at Philadelphia's elite Curtis Institute. "As we spoke on the telephone," Bergman recalls, "it clicked to me, 'Oh wow, what an opportunity!' It goes hand in hand with our mission to establish educational outreach to aspiring artists."
Bergman asked that the new small ensemble composition be based on Chopin's music, to fit his plan for a concert to celebrate the great Polish-French composer's 200th birthday. Unlike most of the gazillion other brain-dead tributes in the ossified, dwindling classical music world, PCO's Chopiniade presents the world premiere of new, homegrown music relevant to our time and place.
"We try to balance our programming between new and old," Bergman explains. "PCO is really the realization of a dream to not just play Beethovens and Mozarts but also to do things that are connected to our time. It takes some guts and imagination and to be slightly nuts. If we won't work with living artists, then who will?"
The concert will also appeal to potential audience members more attracted to other muses, and particularly the generations accustomed to visual stimulation: The Portland Festival Ballet will perform original choreography by artistic director John Magnus, former artistic director at New York's Joffrey Ballet School, who's creating a pre-professional training program in Portland.
"That happened by sheer accident," Bergman says, "a match between us and people who know we're trying to bring collaborative elements into our program. Much of [Chopin's] music is based on dance to begin with, so we came up with the idea of bringing dance into the program. That's the center of our mission: to bring the arts together to create fusion and synergy. It's probably one of the formulae to secure classical music's future."
It's the kind of happy "accident" that happens often to artistic visionaries who are already open to imaginative programming ideas. As the most creative institution in Oregon classical music, PCO attracts collaborators and music lovers who cherish the classics—but also seek the thrill of the new and unexpected.
SEE IT: Portland Chamber Orchestra performs Chopiniade at the Venetian Theatre, 253 E Main St., Hillsboro, 693-3953. 7:30 pm Friday, Sept. 10. $25, seniors $20, students $15, children $5.
Sept. 9: Rufus Wainwright, Oregon Symphony
In this TBA Festival kickoff, singer-composer Wainwright joins the orchestra for music by Berlioz, songs from his pop albums and his opera Prima Donna. Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SE Broadway, orsymphony.org. 7 pm. $20-$120.
Oct. 22: Fear No Music
Works by contemporary composers, including Oregon composers Robert Kyr and Paul Safar. First Christian Church, 1314 SW Park Ave. 8 pm Friday. Ticket price TBA.
Nov. 11-12: Third Angle
The new-music ensemble plays music by two of the greatest living composers: the legendary George Crumb ("Black Angels," the passionate Vietnam War-era piece that inspired the formation of the Kronos Quartet), and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon composer Tan Dun's "Ghost Opera," with pipa virtuoso Min Xiao-Fen. Lincoln Recital Hall, Portland State University, 1620 SW Park Ave., Room 75, thirdangle.org. 7:30 pm Thursday-Friday. Ticket price TBA.