Contemporary music will be the centerpiece of the 14th annual Portland Chamber Music Festival. It will also be in a new venue, moving from the University of New England’s “Westbrook” campus (which is really in Portland) to the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus — specifically, Hannaford Hall in the Abromson center.
|Portland Chamber Music Festival | at the Abromson Center, USM, Portland | 8 pm August 16, 18, 23 & 25; noon August 19 | $20, free for people 21 & under; August 19 show is free for all | 800.320.0257|
The move will double the seating capacity, bring the music closer to downtown, and have convenient parking. The festival was slated to debut at the Abromson Center back in March (see “Making Small Bigger,” by Ben Meiklejohn, March 2), but that show was canceled because of bad weather.
Each show will begin with a “pre-concert talk,” starting at 7 pm, moderated by a contemporary composer — also a Festival first. “We’re very devoted to the new music,” says executive director Jennifer Elowitch. To that end, three Maine premieres — by composers R. Murray Schafer, Peter Child, and Brian Fennelly — grace the programs.
Maine composer Elliot Schwartz opens the Festival with a discussion on August 16. The concert includes Maurice Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, arranged for piano — a piece in five movements, each based on a Mother Goose fairy tale, including “Sleeping Beauty,” “Tom Thumb,” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
Also in that festival opener will be Igor Stravinsky’s neo-classical L’Histoire du Soldat (The Soldier’s Tale), based on a folk tale, a piece for seven instruments and narrators. London actor Walter van Dyk will be featured in his first-ever narration of all three voices. PCMF has wanted to perform this piece for a while, and even sees its inclusion as a continuation of the new-music theme. “Stravinsky is the grandfather of new music,” says Elowitch.
Maine composer William Matthews talks on August 18, followed by performances of Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, and Maine’s premiere of String Quartet No. 5 “Rosalind” (1989) by Schafer, Canada’s pre-eminent and arguably most popular modern composer, known for his environmental music-theater works.
For those low on cash, or with musically-aspiring children, a free family concert at noon August 19 features children from the Standish-based New England Suzuki Institute alongside PCMF resident artists. “It’s our first time featuring kids,” says Elowitch. This helps “inspire other children because they’re seeing kids perform, not adults in a formal setting.”
Composer Child talks on August 23, preceding performances of works by J. S. Bach, Antonin Dvorak, and the Maine premiere of his own Pantomime: Seven Lyric Scenes for Oboe Quartet (2007), a piece co-commissioned by PCMF and Winsor Music, a chamber music organization founded by oboist Peggy Pearson (who will also perform).
“Co-commissioning is a way for small groups with little money to join together and commission a work,” says Elowitch. Pantomime was premiered in March by Winsor Music in Massachusetts.