Out & About: Music festivals coming, going

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It’s a time for arrivals and departures at this midpoint of summer, at least when summer is charted on the arts and entertainment calendar.

On the arrivals board, Portland Chamber Music Festival, one of the Port City’s top summertime happenings for the past 19 years, will crank up the violins, cellos and quite a few other instruments for its 20th season, which comprises four concerts from Aug. 8-17.

Departing from Brunswick, Maine’s biggest, busiest and most diverse music festival will play its annual coda this Friday, wrapping up its penultimate season under the director of co-founder and artistic director Lewis Kaplan.

The The Band Band is a contemporary tribute act based on The Band, a pioneer roots-rock ensemble from Canada. Catch them Saturday in Portland.

Portland Chamber Music Festival

Two decades ago, Maine could boast a number of classical music festivals and concert series, but all of them happened outside the state’s biggest city.

Then in 1994 Maine’s cultural center of gravity shifted dramatically when arts entrepreneur Jenny Elowitch co-founded the Portland Chamber Music Festival. Elowitch, who grew up in Portland, was at the time a violinist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and had toured the world with that august institution.

But she longed to perform in her hometown, and with friend Dena Levine, started PCMF, which was built around a format of four main-stage concerts by internationally acclaimed musicians. I was among the tiny handful in the audience that first year, but I loved what was happening. The idea took off, audiences kept swelling to the point where a much larger venue had to be used. PCMF is now an established part of Maine’s cultural landscape.

This year’s roster of musicians numbers 26, with four who live and work in Maine.

Elowitch’s basic formula has worked well and hasn’t changed much over the years. Programming is built around fully profession performers with a repertoire that is heavy on traditional, time-tested selections, but with a healthy dose of modern music – especially works by living composers.

That’s what’s in store when PCMF rolls out its 20th season, with the first two concerts slated for Aug. 8 and 10. The most salient points of the first two programs occurs on Saturday, with a really interesting admixture of new and old featured.

The new part will be a contemporary work for piano, violin and cello written by Nick DiBerardino, whose credentials include founding maestro of a “laptop orchestra.” His “27 Morningside” was the winner of this year’s PCMF competition for new music. Elowitch said the jury was particularly impressed with DiBerardino’s “original voice and jazzy musical language.”

In contrast, the biggest item on Saturday’s program will be one of classical music’s longtime favorite works: Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” Normally performed by a small string orchestra, PCMF’s version will be for chamber ensemble.

“This is our first performance of ‘The Four Seasons,’” Elowitch said. “Our violin soloist, Frank Huang, last played the piece with the Houston Symphony where he is concertmaster. For our concert, the accompaniment will be played by a string quartet, double bass and harpsichord, so it will certainly be much more intimate. I’m excited about approaching the piece like a piece of chamber music, so that the audience can hear lots of detailed interaction and communication between the soloist and the ensemble.”

Portland Chamber Music Festival has scheduled four 8 p.m. concerts at the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus on Aug. 8, 10, 15 and 17. The very comfortable venue is the Abromson Community Education Center at 88 Bedford St. For more info, call 800-320-0257 or visit pcmf.org.

Bowdoin International Music Festival

Maine’s most prestigious music festival wraps up its annual six-week run this Friday with a program exclusively comprising masterpieces that have been pleasing audiences since they were first written.

Two-thirds of the Bowdoin International Music Festival’s finale concert comes from the two earliest and most famous B’s: Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3 and Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet in G Major (No. 2, Op. 18). Cellist Meta Weiss will be featured in the former, while the Shanghai Quartet, a BIMF resident ensemble, will perform the latter.

The evening will close with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Souvenir de Florence,” a lushly Romantic musical reminiscence of the composer’s Italian sojourn.

The concert is slated for 7:30 p.m. Aug. 2 at Brunswick High School. Call 725-3895 or visit bowdoinfestival.org.

Earlier this year, the festival’s founding artistic director, Lewis Kaplan, announced that he will be stepping down at the conclusion of his 50th anniversary season, which will be 2014. He recently said the committee to select his replacement has narrowed the search to a handful of “truly outstanding candidates,” with an announcement coming sometime this fall.

Expect next year’s 50th to be a blowout celebration of Kaplan’s incredible legacy, with the artistic director-designate taking charge for the 2015 season. For 2015 and beyond, Kaplan will continue to live in Brunswick during the summer and will continue to be active with the festival.

“But my 24/7 involvement will be over,” he said.

The The Band Band

Roots rock is one of the pillars of Portland’s One Longfellow Square, and The Band was one of the original pillars of the genre, back in the 1960s and 1970s. The two come together this Saturday via a tribute act.

Four of the five members of The Band hailed from Canada, taking the curiously generic moniker from the fact that they started as a backup band, first for Ronnie Hawkins and then with Bob Dylan.

The Band also recorded 10 albums under its own name, mostly songs written by members. My three favorites are “The Weight,” “Up On Cripple Creek” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” The Band has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone magazine gave them the No. 50 ranking in its “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.”

Following a resignation and a death of a member, The Band disbanded in 1999, but the ensemble’s two decades of glory are fondly and effectively recalled by a contemporary tribute act that calls itself The The Band Band, five guys who look and sound like the originals. All are longtime veteran performers who have “banded” together on this project because they love the music.

The fivesome will be performing Aug. 3 at 8 p.m. at One Longfellow Square, corner of State and Congress in Portland. Call 761-1757.

Sidebar Elements

Portland Chamber Music Festival has been a mainstay of Maine life for two decades. It opens its 20th season Aug. 8.