Out & About: Music fills the springtime air

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Music fills southern Maine’s air as we savor the first full week of spring:

Anastasia Antonacos, a Portland pianist and professor at the University of Southern Maine School of Music, will give a Spotlight Series recital on Friday in Gorham.

The Mid-Coast-based DaPonte String Quartet, one of Maine’s busiest classical ensembles, will give three concerts this weekend: Friday in Newcastle, Saturday in Falmouth and Sunday in Brunswick.

The Portland String Quartet, a fixture of Maine’s cultural scene for more than four decades, plays on Sunday.

Portland Symphony Orchestra, the anchor institution of Maine’s cultural scene, plays next Tuesday. For those who are busily getting their boats out of winter hibernation, the title is appropriate: “Seasons and the Sea.”

Classical not your bag? Boston-based guitarist Ronnie Earl, a two-time winner at the W.C. Handy Blues Music Awards, will play at One Longfellow Square on Saturday.

Anastasia Antonacos

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Hungarian piano virtuoso, pedagogue and composer Franz Liszt, an artist who revolutionized the piano’s role in music and the performer’s role in presentation and interpretation.

This Friday, a University of Southern Maine School of Music professor and piano virtuoso, Anastasia Antonacos, will give an entire evening devoted to various facets of Liszt. It is part of the school’s ongoing Spotlight Series.

Antonacos has a special affinity for the celebrated Hungarian musical genius, and she has moved audiences with her Liszt performances both in Europe and this country. Antonacos says, as a teacher, she is inspired by Liszt’s dedication to pedagogy: “Many pianists today can trace their ‘pedagogical’ lineage back to him. For these reasons, I feel a strong connection to Liszt.”

She adds, “Interpreting Liszt comes easily to me, and I have had much success communicating my understanding of his music in concerts.”

Antonacos plans to repeat this program at an international conference of pianists in Serbia in June.

A native Mainer, Antonacos won first place at the International Young Artist Music Competition in Bulgaria, and holds prizes from the Capdepera International Piano Competition in Mallorca and the Indianapolis Matinee Musicale Competition. She attended the Holland Music Sessions, the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival and the Wilhelm Kempff Beethoven Course in Italy. 

Antonacos has made solo appearances with the Midcoast Symphony Orchestra, the Portland Symphony and the Bangor Symphony.

Catch this concert at 8 p.m. April 1 at Corthell Hall on the USM Gorham campus. Call 780-5555.

DaPonte String Quartet

Springtime finds the DaPonte String Quartet busy as bees (as always) and three B’s will be featured this weekend when the DaPonte String Quartet plays concerts in Newcastle, Portland and Brunswick.

The foursome – violinists Dino Liva and Lydia Forbes, violist Kirsten Monke and cellist Myles Jordan – will tackle string one quartet by Alexander Borodin plus two by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Borodin was a mid-19th century composer who was known for his lush and picturesque Romantic music and nationalistic spirit. The main theme of the third movement of his String Quartet No. 2 is famous for its subsequent recycling in the celebrated Broadway musical “Kismet,” where it appears as the melody of the song “And This Is My Beloved.”

The second and third pieces on the DaPontes’ program will be a pair of closely related late string quartets by Beethoven. Originally written as one work, they were later separated.

The concert will be presented three times this weekend: April 1 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Church in Newcastle, April 2 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Mary’s Church in Falmouth and April 3 at 3 p.m. at the United Methodist Church in Brunswick. Call 529-4555.

Portland String Quartet

The Portland String Quartet has been playing together – with its original members – since 1969, the longest-tenured classical foursome by that definition in the world. And they’re still going strong together: violinists Stephen Kecskemethy and Ron Lantz plus violist Julia Adams and cellist Paul Ross.

For Sunday afternoon’s concert, the third in the 2010-2011 subscription series, the PSQ will play three well-known pieces by popular composers of the Classical and Romantic periods.

Ludwig van Beethoven’s first string quartet will open the concert, followed by one known as “The Hunt,” written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The afternoon will wrap up with Johannes Brahms’ String Quartet No. 2.

The previously announced world premiere of a work by Gil Shohat, has been postponed until next season.

The concert takes place at 2 p.m. April 3 at Woodford’s Congregational Church, 202 Woodford St. in Portland. Call the LARK Society at 761-1522.

Ronnie Earl and The Broadcasters

Ronnie Earl teaches blues guitar at the Berklee School of Music in Boston, but he’s best known for his dynamic live performances and 30-plus recordings. Among his lifetime achievements are two honors from the W.C. Handy Blues Music Awards, both for Guitarist of the Year.

For many years associated with Roomful of Blues, Earl has been fronting his own band, The Broadcasters, for more than two decades. Earl and his band will visit One Longfellow Square in Portland this Saturday.

Expect to hear a number of selections from “Hope Radio,” a recent CD from Ronnie Earl and The Broadcasters. The album has 11 songs that showcase Earl at his best, backed by longtime members of The Broadcasters: Dave Limina on keyboards, Jim Mouradian on bass and Lorne Entress on drums. Guests include Michael “Mudcat” Ward on bass and piano and Nick Adams on second guitar.

Ronnie Earl and The Broadcasters appear at 8 p.m. April 2 at One Longfellow Square (corner of Congress and State) in Portland. Call 761-1757.

Portland Symphony Orchestra

If spring is putting you in a nautical mood, you might check out Portland Symphony Orchestra’s April 5 concert. It’s titled “Seasons and the Sea,” and maestro Robert Moody’s program includes two well-known works with seafaring themes.

The first is German Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn’s “Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage,” written in anticipation of a journey across the English Channel. The concert concludes with Claude Debussy’s “La Mer” (“The Sea”), an impressionistic portrayal of various states of water and weather.

The middle two pieces on the program are by 20th century composers, Astor Piazzola and Christopher Brubeck.

Guest artist – featured in the two middle works – will be violinist Corine Brouwer, the concertmaster of the Winston-Salem Symphony. Moody is also the music director of that orchestra.

Catch “Seasons and the Sea” at 7:30 p.m. April 5 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Sidebar Elements

Ronnie Earl, a Boston-based blues guitarist for the past three decades, will visit One Longfellow Square in Portland on April 2.