Chamber Music Festival Shows “The Beethoven Effect”

Featured event is “Prophecies of Fire,” which will be performed in the round with 36 percussion instruments.

Sandbox Percussion (Noah Stern Weber)

Chamber Music Northwest’s annual summer festival is themed The Beethoven Effect, but organizers say it’s not just for classical die-hards. The 54th annual summer festival runs this year from June 27 to July 28.

Artistic directors Gloria Chien and Soovin Kim put together a far-ranging festival—60 events over five weeks—that’s both a celebration of Ludwig van Beethoven’s genius and an exploration of how he has inspired composers throughout history, including today.

One of the festival highlights will be the world premiere of Prophecies of Fire by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams, created in tandem with Sandbox Percussion. Prophecies of Fire will be performed in the round on the floor of Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium. Sandbox, a New York City-based quartet, will play a whopping 36 percussion instruments during the performance, at different locations throughout the auditorium. The premiere is 8 pm Wednesday, July 10, with a free, open rehearsal that morning at 11 am.

“For people who are ‘chamber music curious,’ this is going to be a different experience than what they think chamber music is,” CMNW spokeswoman Nicole Lane says.

Prophecies of Fire occurs in the third week of the festival, which is themed “fire.” (Other themes: sound, virtuosity, piano and Beethoven’s impact on music today.) Along with Adams’ work, fire week will also see a world premiere by Joan Tower called To Sing or Dance for violin and percussion. CMNW calls Tower “America’s greatest living woman composer.”

“This is the rock and roll week of the festival,” Kim said in the festival announcement.

There will be main stage concerts all over the Portland area: at Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium, downtown at The Old Church and Portland State University, and in Beaverton at the Patricia Reser Center for the Arts. The Wednesday evening contemporary series NEW@NIGHT has happy hours beforehand and question-and-answer sessions with a composer afterward.

A full schedule and tickets are available online here. Keep an eye out for the free community concerts throughout the festival in Milwaukie, Newberg and Vancouver, too.

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