Out & About: 2 string quartets, plus 2 silent films

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Unconventional musical programming is the common theme that links this week’s picks of the performing arts tix.

Ron Lantz, violinist with the Portland String Quartet, and Laura Kargul, top faculty pianist with the University of Southern Maine School of Music, will team up for the first time in Gorham on Saturday. Then the full PSQ has an intriguing program on Sunday.

On Nov. 4, the traveling Kronos Quartet visits the Port City under the aegis of Portland Ovations.

Two classic movies from the silent film era will be shown with music in Portland this weekend. “Speedy,” a 1929 comedy, accompanied by Tom Trenney on the “mighty” Kotzschmar organ plays on Friday. On Halloween Sunday the film is “Nosferatu,” a German vampire movie, accompanied by Les Sorciers Perdus.

Lantz-Kargul duo

Two noteworthy collaborations highlight this weekend’s music calendar in Maine, and both involve members of the Portland String Quartet.

On October 30, Ron Lantz, the quartet’s second violinist, will team up with pianist Laura Kargul, a Freeport resident and head of the keyboard studies program at the University of Southern Maine School of Music.

Kargul was the guest artist on a Portland String Quartet concert last season. “Three Romances,” a trio of short duets for violin and piano by Robert Schumann, was included on the program to honor the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

Lantz was selected to play with Kargul, and the pair enjoyed the collaboration from the outset. “From the first time we got together for rehearsal there was an instant understanding,” says Lantz.

“We’re keyed in on each other’s thinking, and we see things the same way instantly,” he adds. “I don’t know when in my life I’ve felt so comfortable with a pianist.”

The feeling was mutual. “We have a really good rapport,” says Kargul. “We tend to think the same way about musical issues.”

The success of that concert led to plans for a complete evening of violin-piano duets that’s slated for Saturday in Gorham. The program focuses on the 19th century, with a reprise of “Three Romances” plus a sonata by Johannes Brahms and a transcription of Claude Debussy’s “Suite Bergamasque,” which includes the famous “Clair de Lune.” One work by Jean-Marie Leclair, a prominent French Baroque composer, is also on the program.

Catch this intriguing concert at 8 p.m. Oct. 30 at Corthell Hall on the University of Southern Maine’s Gorham campus. Call the music box office at 780-5555.

Portland String Quartet

The second intriguing collaboration is slated for Oct. 31 on the program of the Portland String Quartet’s first concert of the 2010-2011 subscription season. The pairing is violist Julia Adams and guest clarinetist Charles Neidich; they will play a duet by Rebecca Clarke, a British-American composer from the middle of the 20th century who is emerging from decades of obscurity.

The biggest work on the program is Johannes Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet, one of the composer’s supreme achievements and one of the most celebrated pieces in the repertoire.

Adams will team up with Neidich to present one of the least-known pieces in the music literature. Clarke’s Prelude, Allegro, Pastorale for B-flat Clarinet and Viola was written in 1941 at the height of the composer’s creativity, but she and her works fell into near-total obscurity during the decades after World War II.

Clarke (1886-1979) was a professional violist and composer who was born in England but spent much of her creative life in New York; she is enjoying a posthumous revival thanks to a Massachusetts musicologist and professor of women’s studies. Liane Curtis, who teaches at Brandeis University in suburban Boston, is the founder and prime mover behind the Rebecca Clarke Society, a non-profit that is devoted to studying and publicizing the composer’s words and works.

Curtis will appear with the quartet this Sunday, joining program annotator Will Hertz at the pre-concert lecture and speaking briefly about Clarke before her piece is played.

Adams notes that the Clarke piece adds several elements to the concert: a 20th-century work, a woman composer and a splendid – if uncommon – combination of instruments.

“The viola and clarinet have for years been considered a very compatible combination of instruments in terms of register and sonority,” Adams says. “I think the audience will feel that way when they hear this piece.”

Adams also voices enthusiasm for Clarke’s style and content. “In this work Clarke’s music represents neo-Classicism, so you’ll hear the kind of rapport and exchange between two instruments that’s been seen in duets through the centuries,” she adds. “It’s wonderful writing and very creative writing.”

Catch the Portland String Quartet at 2 p.m. Oct. 31 at Woodford’s Congregational Church, 202 Woodford St. in Portland. Call the LARK Society at 761-1522.

Kronos Quartet

More unconventional programming is featured on Nov. 4, when the Kronos Quartet visits Merrill Auditorium, a guest of Portland Ovations.

For over three decades, Kronos has explored and expanded the range and context of the string quartet. Their breadth and creativity has sparked collaborations with many of the world’s top composers and eclectic performers.

Kronos’ repertoire embraces 20th-century masters such as Bela Bartok and Dmitri Shostakovich; contemporary composers like Terry Riley and Franghiz Ali-Zadeh; jazz legends Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk; and artists from even farther afield like Jimi Hendrix and Asha Bhosle.

The program for the November 4th concert will feature music from Ethiopia, India and Palestine as well as other culturally rich and exotic lands.

Catch the Kronos Quartet at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 4 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Silent movies

Two silent movies with musical accompaniment will be screened this weekend. First up is Friday, when Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ present “Speedy,” a 1928 comedy starring Harold Lloyd. The actor was a contemporary of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. Accompanist will be Tom Trenney, known to Portland audiences for his imaginative playing, quick wit and rallying the audience to cheer for the heroes and boo and hiss the villains.

“Speedy” is playing at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

“Nosferatu” is a 1922 German Expressionist vampire film. Subtitled “A Symphony of Terror, “Nosferatu” is basically an unauthorized knock-off of the Dracula story, filmed by a producer who couldn’t obtain the rights to the famous Bram Stoker novel.

“Nosferatu” will be accompanied by a contemporary group, Les Sorciers Perdus, at One Longfellow Square (corner of Congress and State) in Portland at 7 p.m. on Halloween. Call 761-1757.

Sidebar Elements

Rebecca Clarke was a British violist and composer of the 20th century. Her duet for viola and clarinet will be featured this Sunday as the Portland String Quartet opens its 2010-2011 season.