Out & About: World premieres by 2 Maine composers
World premieres of works by two Maine composers will be featured as three of Maine’s classical music organizations wrap up their 2012-2013 seasons with concerts this weekend, while another presents a special spring event on May 23.
Oratorio Chorale exits with concerts on Saturday and Sunday. The program features the world premiere of a new work for guitar and voices by Bowdoin College music professor Vineet Shende. This weekend also marks Peter Frewen’s final concerts as the Chorale’s music director.
The DaPonte String Quartet, Maine’s busiest classical music ensemble, will play its season-ending program four times between May 16 and May 19. The title is “Long Ago and Far Away,” and the foursome’s selections come from centuries apart in three overseas countries.
Midcoast Symphony Orchestra finishes its four-concert season with a pair of outings on Saturday and Sunday. Violin virtuoso Eva Gruesser will be the guest soloist.
Portland Chamber Music Festival, best-known as a summer event, has a special springtime concert of ultramodern music coming up on May 23, including the premiere of a new work by a University of Maine professor.
A world premier of a new work by a Maine composer will be featured on this weekend’s concerts by the Oratorio Chorale. Based in the Mid-Coast, the Chorale numbers about three dozen auditioned voices under professional direction and has been performing since 1974. Since 1986 the Chorale has been led by Peter Frewen.
The new work is by Vineet Shende, a professor of music – teaching guitar, electronic music, composition and music history – at Bowdoin College. Scored for guitar and voices, it is titled “Pravasa: Travels of the Guitar.” It outlines the journey and history of the guitar and its ancestors with each movement representing a chapter in that long progression.
This weekend’s program also features composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s “Romancero Gitano,” a setting for chorus and guitar of seven poems by Federico Garcia Lorca. Castelnuovo-Tedesco was one of the 20th century’s most prolific composers for guitar. Guest artist will be guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan.
Derek Herzer, the Chorale’s accompanist, will also perform two solo piano pieces.
This concert is presented in two venues: May 18 at 7:30 p.m. at Studzinski Recital Hall, Bowdoin College in Brunswick, and May 19 at 3 p.m. at Falmouth Congregational Church, 267 Falmouth Road. Call 798-7985.
DaPonte String Quartet
The DaPonte String Quartet got started in 1991 at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and a couple of months later began a series of summer concerts in Mid-Coast Maine. Since 1996 the nationally recognized foursome relocated permanently to Midcoast and they’ve been one of our state’s top chamber music ensembles ever since.
Playing an aggressive year-round schedule with each program repeated in multiple venues, the DaPontes are unquestionably Maine’s busiest ensemble. This weekend they wrap up their 2012-2013 fall-winter-spring schedule with four performances of a program titled “Long Ago and Far Away.”
As implied by the title, pieces on the program cover a lot of ground, temporally and geographically. The 18th century is represented by Franz Joseph Haydn, an Austrian musician who is generally regarded as the father of the string quartet format. The 19th century is represented by Edvard Grieg’s one and only string quartet.
Zhou Long is a contemporary Chinese composer. His “Song of the Ch’in” dates from 1982, and represents the DSQ’s ongoing commitment to modern music. The ch’in is a traditional Chinese seven-string instrument, and Long’s work requires a very sophisticated and virtuosic performance by a Western string quartet in order to mimic its sounds.
The concert plays in four venues: May 16 at 7:30 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Thomaston, May 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Theater in downtown Damariscotta, May 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Portland Public Library and May 19 at 3 p.m. at the Mid-Coast Presbyterian Church, 84 Main St. in Topsham. Call 529-4555.
Midcoast Symphony Orchestra
Based in Topsham, the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra finishes its 2012-2013 season this weekend with concerts in Lewiston and its hometown.
Maestro Rohan Smith’s all-European program includes the overture to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s comic opera “Cosi Fan Tutti,” Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 and Cesar Franck’s Symphony in G Minor.
The guest artist in the Prokofiev concerto will be Eva Gruesser, an internationally recognized violin virtuoso. Born in Germany and married to Smith, Gruesser has concertized and recorded in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Regionally she has performed often in Maine and New Hampshire. Nationally she is primarily known as the concertmaster of the New York-based American Composers Orchestra.
The concert will be played twice this weekend: May 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Franco-American Heritage Center (the former St. Mary’s Church) in Lewiston and 2:30 p.m. at the Orion Performing Arts Center (at Mt. Ararat Middle School) in Topsham. Call 371-2028.
Portland Chamber Music Festival
For the past 19 years the Portland Chamber Music Festival has been a summertime affair, usually performing five concerts over a two-weekend span at the end of August. The festival, directed by violinist Jenny Elowitch, has also performed a number of one-off events in winter and spring.
On May 23, PCMF will present a program of ultramodern pieces by a trio of contemporary composers at one of downtown Portland’s hippest music rooms.
The program spotlights 20th- and 21st-century works for string quartet. Two of the composers are identified with New York’s “Downtown Music” milieu. Steve Reich’s “Different Trains” is scored for two string quartets, one performing live and the other pre-recorded and manipulated on tape. John Zorn’s “Cat O’ Nine Tails” comprises about 50 very short movements – some as short as a couple of seconds – that are thematically and rhythmically linked.
Elowitch, who is known for championing modern music by living composers, told me that Zorn has been on her personal radar screen for some years, but that the upcoming concert will be the first time one of his works has been played on her festival.
Another piece of special interest will be the world premiere of Beth Wiemann’s “Minor Blasts, Some Flurries.” Wiemann is a professor of music at the University of Maine’s Orono campus.
Founded in 1994, PCMF is the Port City’s premier summer music event and has gained national recognition for the excellence of its performers and the variety and depth of its programming. It has won two grants from the Aaron Copland Fund to advance the cause of contemporary music.
Catch this concert at 8 p.m. May 23 at SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland. Call 828-5600.