In looking ahead, Robert Moody finds himself looking back to a moment — a series of moments over the course of several days — that occurred this past spring when mandolin player Chris Thile showed up in Portland for a pair of concerts.

“My thinking about programming got a major boost of energy and perspective with Chris Thile,” Moody said, reflecting on the orchestra’s season ahead. “I really became a huge fan of his, and got to know him very well. We had lengthy conversations about music and live music and live orchestral music, and the fact that no great musician of any ilk cares about labels. That is a Chris Thile quote, and he is exactly right.

“Most musicians aren’t the least bit concerned if you call something classical, folk or jazz. Great music is great music.”

With that tenet firmly in mind, Moody has programmed a season of great music that crosses tempo, style and mood but never strays far from an anchoring principle of musical excellence, no matter the name one gives it or the genre it resides in.

We see evidence of that attitude right off the bat.

The orchestra’s 2010-11 concert season begins a week from today at Merrill Auditorium, when bass player Edgar Meyer joins the PSO for his own bluegrass-inspired Concerto No. 1 and Bottesini’s Concerto No. 2. The program also includes a passionate piece of music in “Don Juan” by Richard Strauss, and Tchaikovsky’s melodic and emotional Symphony No. 4.

The Oct. 3 concert is the first in the Sunday Classical series, and will be repeated Oct. 5 as a kickoff to the Tuesday Classical series.

In microcosm, the opening program represents Moody’s musical sensibilities. He wants his concerts to inspire the audience and musicians, and tries to include music that is both familiar and tested — the canon of the classical repertory — along with pieces that are lesser known but intuitively appealing as unique contemporary compositions.

The Thile concert last spring, which featured an original concerto, was a good example. The Meyer concert is another.

Meyer grew up listening to Bach, Beethoven and Brahms violin concertos on the record player every Sunday morning. Hearing those recordings inspired him to write a concerto for bass.

He humbly wears the crown of the greatest bass player alive. He’s collected major awards and prizes in the pop and classical worlds and collaborated with musicians across all boundaries of music, from Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Bell to Lyle Lovett and The Chieftains.

He’s a frequent guest of symphonies, and is among the most sought-after session musicians in the world.

Meyer grew up in Tennessee, where he was influenced by bluegrass, country and classical music. Like Thile, he believes that music is a common language with different dialects.

“After growing up playing in orchestras, playing in front of orchestras and listening to orchestras, working with an orchestra feels like home base,” Meyer wrote in an e-mail. “Although there is a lack of repertoire involving bass written by the composers that I love the most (Bach, Beethoven and Mozart), classical music is my mother tongue regardless.”

This will be Moody’s first time working with Meyer.

“I cannot wait,” he said. “I am a fellow Southerner, and have a bunch in common with him. I think we share a similar perspective on music programming.

“We celebrate great music, regardless of genre.”


Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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