Oregon Bach Festival 2015

Johann Sebastian Bach

Last night I attended an Oregon Bach Festival (OBF) concert at the Hult Center. The OBF is a University of Oregon event that celebrates the works of composer Johann Sebastian Bach.

This year the festival runs from June 25th through July 12th with a fantastic variety of summer concerts and guest artists, including non-Bach-related programs. The OBF focuses on a choral-orchestral repertoire and educational activities such as a conducting master class with participants from all over world and a Youth Choral Academy.

Anton Bruckner

The concert last night was spectacular!  It featured the music of three composers – Anton Bruckner, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Johannes Brahms. The Bach and Bruckner pieces featured several guest soloists, Strangeland Family Youth Choral Academy, and the Berwick Chorus of the OBF. Matthew Halls was brilliant conducting the orchestra. Each piece of dynamic music was performed beautifully!

Johannes Brahms

e OBF began in 1970 led by German conductor Helmuth Rilling and Royce Saltzman, former president of the American Choral Directors Association. Initially, it was an informal series of classes and concerts at the University of Oregon. The concerts expanded to include full-scale choral-orchestral performances.

Matthew Halls
Matthew Halls OBF Artistic Director

In 2007, the festival included concerts throughout Oregon, including Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and Bend’s Tower Theatre. OBF collaborates with other regional arts organizations, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Portland Baroque Orchestra, and Eugene Ballet. The festival is a joyous event and an amazing venue for a small city like Eugene.

Berwick Chorus
Berwick Chorus of the OBF

In 2014 British conductor and keyboardist Matthew Halls succeeded Helmuth Rilling as OBF’s Artistic Director. Halls has made “significant conducting debuts with the Houston Symphony, Bach Collegium Stuttgart, Washington D.C. National Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Berlin Radio Symphony, and Frankfurt Radio Symphony, as well as founding and leading the pioneering Retrospect Ensemble”. Halls has an impressive career and these are but a few of his engagements in North America, Canada, and worldwide.

Halls is known for “probing, vibrant interpretations of music of all periods”. In his mid 30s, Halls is one of the most brilliant and interesting conductors I have ever observed. His passion and talent is visible and it’s such a joy to watch him conduct.

Strangeland Family Youth Choral Academy
Strangeland Family Youth Choral Academy

The OBF is donor-supported with activities primarily at Eugene’s Hult Center for the Performing Arts and at the University of Oregon’s School of Music & Dance, Beall Hall. This June the OBF launched a new historically informed performances (HIP) orchestral academy led by Matthew Halls and guest director Masaaki Suzuki (founder/director of the Bach Collegium Japan). The three-week orchestral program is open to students and young professionals between the ages of 21 to 35.

Masaaki Suzuki

Next week I’ll attend another dramatic OBF concert featuring a suite from Igor Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, Mozart’s Symphony No. 25, and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass. Masaaki Suzuki conducts the symphony and it’s sure to be another thrilling performance!

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