Acclaimed pianist Matan Porat will provide live musical improvisations to silent films at the Chamber Music Northwest Summer Festival.

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Matan Porat has performed classical and original compositions in some of the most beautiful concert halls on the planet. The word “virtuoso” is present in almost all press articles on the Israeli pianist. However, of all the unworthy songs, it is “Happy Birthday” which revealed a new path towards the Porat formed by Juilliard around 2008.

It was a tradition at Vermont’s Marlboro Music Festival (“one of the best chamber music festivals in America,” says Porat) to musically celebrate any visiting artist with a birthday falling during the seven weeks of the event. The 2008 harvest was heavy for Cancers and Lions, and Porat ended up improvising nearly a dozen interpretations of “Happy Birthday” in varying styles. These lunchtime performances prompted festival director Richard Goode to ask Porat to improvise a live score of Fritz Lang’s silent masterpiece. Metropolis.

“It was very shocking to me because I had never thought of doing something like this, but I immediately jumped at the chance,” says Porat, who lives in Berlin. “Metropolis is not the easiest start. In all cases, [it] was very revolutionary for me.

This experience kicked off 13 years of Porat inventing sheet music for silent films live, on the fly and around the world, including this month as part of the 51st annual summer festival of Chamber Music Northwest. On July 12 at the Gresham Arts Plaza, Porat will accompany his favorite Buster Keaton film, Sherlock Jr., plus the 20-minute short film The gambling house (his first go-around with this title). The following night, in front of Franz Hall at the University of Portland, Porat marks Keaton The general, which he has already accompanied live, somewhere in the order of 15 times. Both events are free and open to the public.

Unlike Lang’s thematic weight, Buster Keaton’s 1920s comedies are a welcome challenge to Porat’s skill, as he’s essentially a sonic collaborator in Keaton’s daring and inimitable gags, selling and punctuating the jokes as he goes. as they strike. Although separated by a century, one master of timing deserves another.

“Innovation [Keaton] made in history and the filming is so ingenious that I have to stay at that level all the time, ”says Porat. “Otherwise, it’s a bit wrong. “

It helps to think that Porat’s improvisation alongside the films is more gradual than random. He composed leitmotifs for certain characters which help to initiate and found the scores live. For example, his opening theme of The general will reliably match the arriving locomotive with a frenetic, propulsive motion. But after that, he really doesn’t know. Like Keaton’s iconic gag in this film, Porat poses a musical track simultaneously with a moving train.

Porat says he enjoys the audience’s interaction at these screenings, and the two open-air festival shows – complete with inflatable movie screens and green space seats – will certainly be a different scene from the tawny concert halls. . In fact, the events nicely hark back to the less formal and widely accessible feel of Keaton’s films in the early 20th century. But instead of a local organist playing with a waistcoat and bowler hat, Oregonians get “one of the most talented classical musicians in the world,” CMNW artistic directors Gloria Chien and Soovin Kim say.

“[Porat] is really funny and has an amazing sense of humor, and it all comes through in his music and his acting, ”Chien and Kim said via email. “It’s a different kind of brain… kind of learned ability with it.” We wanted to bring him here to do all of these things for our first summer festival as artistic directors.

Porat will also create an original composition, commissioned by Chamber Music Northwest, with the Dover Quartet on July 15 and 16 at the Kaul Auditorium at Reed College. It will be the window of festival-goers on Porat, the composer at the center of the stage. His improvisation therefore serves as a bridge between writing and performance, but Porat is happy to do it without (literally) the spotlight during film screenings.

“I’m basically, in a way, a tool to make the film work,” says Porat. “I don’t need to be recognized during the movie because that would distract from what’s most interesting, the movie, of course.”

SEE : Buster Keaton Movie Nights with Matan Porat take place at Gresham Arts Plaza, 401 NE 2nd St., and University of Portland Franz Patio, 5000 N Willamette Blvd. 8:30 p.m. on July 12 and 13. Free. Chamber Music Northwest Summer Festival, cmnw.org, runs until July 25. $ 20 to $ 325.


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