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Out & About: Top picks: Laura Kargul and 'Sleepy Hollow'

Lifestyle

Out & About: Top picks: Laura Kargul and 'Sleepy Hollow'

The fall season’s artistic offerings continue in full force this week with a variety of happenings. My personal pick of this weekend’s events is the annual October appearance of classical pianist Laura Kargul, a longtime professor at the University of Southern Maine School of Music. She’s appearing this Friday in Gorham in the Spotlight Series, which features the school’s faculty.

Portland Ballet will reprise one of its original terpsichorean creations on Saturday with two performances of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” at a new venue, the Westbrook Performing Arts Center.

Denny Breau, a 10-time honoree of the Maine Country Music Association and the youngest inductee of the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame, will perform Saturday in an archetypal country venue: the Saco River Grange Hall in Bar Mills.

Laura Kargul

Among my personal favorite events of the fall season is the almost-annual concert given by pianist Laura Kargul in the Spotlight Series of the University of Southern Maine School of Music. She’s the top piano prof at the school, plus she’s passionate about performing the Romantic repertoire, a sub-genre of classical music that flourished in the 1800s.

Her personal favorite is Franz Liszt, Hungarian-born virtuoso performer and composer who was a musical rock star of his age in the capitals of 19th-century Europe. He’s also the archetype of the 19th-century hero: Most of his voluminous output was written for his own performances and he is credited with making the solo recital an important feature of the cultural landscape.

Technically speaking, his style is characterized by bold harmonic experimentation and the use of recurring musical motives that thematically pervade his compositions.

On Oct. 22, the musical world will celebrate the 200th anniversary of Liszt’s birth with concerts and other performances. Here in southern Maine, the big celebration will be Kargul’s all-Liszt concert this Friday.

Kargul will perform solo piano selections including the stunning, poetic masterpiece “Blessing of God in Solitude” and the virtuosic tour de force, the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12.

Kargul will also present several of Liszt’s piano transcriptions of works by other composers including the monumental “Liebestod” of Richard Wagner, Robert Schumann’s “Widmung” and the dazzling opera paraphrase of “Lucia di Lammermoor” by Gaetano Donizetti.

A resident of Freeport, Kargul has appeared as a soloist, chamber musician, adjudicator, lecturer and master class technician throughout Europe and the U.S. plus Canada and the West Indies. Her solo performances have been greeted with critical acclaim in venues such as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Diligentia Theater in Den Haag, the Schleswig-Holstein and Nordhessen music festivals in Germany, Evian Music Festival in France and the Lesvos Arts Festival in Greece.

Known especially for her performances of Liszt, she is one of very few artists ever invited to perform a full recital on the composer’s own Bechstein piano at the Liszt-Haus in Weimar, Germany. She has also released a solo CD of his transcriptions, “Liszt and Ravel: Transcriptions for Piano.”

Kargul has been the director of the keyboard program at USM since 1989. Audience members will be enlightened and entertained by her comments from the stage.

Catch this wonderful concert at 8 p.m. Oct. 14 at Corthell Hall on the University of Southern Maine’s Gorham campus. Call the music box office at 780-5555.

‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’

Halloween is quickly approaching, so a headless horseman seems like a natural way to anticipate the occasion. But a headless ballet dancer? Well, perhaps you should check out “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” an original terpsichorean creation of Portland Ballet which will be performed twice on Saturday in Westbrook.

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” premiered in the 2010 season and features original choreography by Nell Shipman and original music by Kirt Mosier, written on special commission. A live orchestra, conducted by Robert Lehmann, will accompany both performances of this classic ballet.

The ballet is based on the famous tale of the same name, published by American author Washington Irving in 1820. The story takes place in a town in New York called Sleepy Hollow. Ichabod Crane is a very nervous and superstitious schoolteacher. He is in love with the beautiful Katrina Van Tassel. But so is a romantic rival: Brom Bones. Katrina apparently loves Ichabod, but she also seems attracted to Brom Bones. It’s a classic romantic triangle, and something has to give.

What happens is totally surprising. One evening after a party at the Van Tassels’ home, Ichabod is pursued by the Headless Horseman, the ghost of a soldier who had his head shot off in a long-ago battle and now haunts the area. Ichabod disappears and Katrina marries Brom Bones. Was Brom Bones really the Headless Horseman who chased off his rival? Or did Ichabod’s overly vivid imagination simply run amok? You decide.

The part of Ichabod Crane will be reprised by dancer Derek Clifford. The part of Brom Bones and the Headless Horseman will be danced by Joseph Jefferies. Jen Jones will portray Katrina Van Tassel. There’s a supporting cast of about two dozen.

Portland Ballet presents “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” at the new Westbrook Performing Arts Center (at the middle school at 471 Stroudwater St.) twice on Oct. 15, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Denny Breau

The Saco River Grange Hall, former center of agriculture and old-time rural culture in Bar Mills, is one of Maine’s homiest arts centers. So it’s doubly appropriate that Saturday’s featured performer is one of the Pine Tree State’s favorite musicians.

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Denny Breau has been honored by the Maine Country Music Association 10 times: Songwriter of the Year, Entertainer of the Year and eight times as Instrumentalist of the Year. He’s also the youngest inductee of the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame.

Breau’s rhythmically flawless and dazzlingly clear style allows him to do amazing things with a six-string guitar. At first he’ll draw an audience into his musical world with a finely arranged melody, and then slides effortlessly into scorching finger work that sets ears aflame. Lighting-fast guitar lines are balanced with guitar work with a quiet intimacy that wraps tenderly around carefully crafted songs.

Breau mixes genres with ease: folk, Delta blues, country and jazz. Plus he’s an engaging storyteller. For Saturday’s concert he’ll be accompanied by a flutist and bass guitarist.

Catch Denny Breau at the Saco River Grange Hall (29 Salmon Falls Road in the Bar Mills village of Buxton) at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15. Call 929-6472.