New beginnings

Classical music comes alive this fall
By EMILY PARKHURST  |  September 10, 2008

Mason Bates, a/k/a Masonic.
Step into any classical music rehearsal space right now and you can almost taste the excitement. With refreshed fingers, musicians take to the practice rooms, where their tans are already beginning to fade away and their calluses have begun their reluctant return.

The upcoming PORTLAND CHAMBER ORCHESTRA concert, first at the Studzinski Recital Hall on the Bowdoin College campus, then at the Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, and finally at the University of Southern Maine’s Abromson Community Education Center in Portland is an appropriate kick-off to a diverse fall season. The concert, conducted by Robert Lehmann, will include the famous Vivaldi Four Seasons as well as the work’s “twin” in the Southern Hemisphere, The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires by tango composer Astor Piazzolla.

“We’ll be alternating between composers as we work through the seasons,” says Lehmann. “We’ll be starting with the Vivaldi Spring and ending with the Piazzolla Spring.” This is likely to fend off the depressing thought of ending with Vivaldi’s Winter, something that could send an audience of Mainers into early hibernation.

The PORTLAND STRING QUARTET’s season opener on October 5 will be an exciting program of Mendelssohn, Ernest Bloch, and a piano quintet by Amy Beach. Generally considered the first female composer to achieve a large degree of success in the male-dominated field of composition, Beach was also an accomplished pianist. She toured America and Europe in the early part of the 20th century before settling in New York City to teach the next generation of women composers.

On the same day as the PSQ, pianist PAUL DYKSTRA will head up a piano trio of excellent musicians at the Aliento Chamber Concert Series at the Christ Episcopal Church in Exeter, New Hampshire. The group will perform an all-Brahms program of some of the composer’s most incredible works. The Clarinet Sonata in E-flat Op. 120 and the Clarinet Trio Op. 114 demand a high degree of musicality from their performers.

“Brahms, at the end of his life (with his last will in order and not expecting to live much longer) was so inspired by the clarinetist Richard Muhlfeld in 1894 that he composed his brilliant Sonatas for Clarinet and Piano and the Trio with him in mind, and for our benefit!” wrote Dykstra in an e-mail.

The official start of the PORTLAND SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA’s new season under the baton of music director Robert Moody is on October 7 with the Dvorak Carnival Overture — a fitting opening for such an exciting event, though it is the MASON BATESLiquid Interface that really draws the attention. Bates, also an electronica DJ from San Francisco performing under the name Masonic, will perform at SPACE Gallery two days before his work is performed with the PSO. Such unlikely bedfellows make for an event not to be missed. Of course, also on the program is the Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition, which, under any other circumstances would be the worthy feature of the performance, but in this case the exciting and exploratory work sits second fiddle.

To round out October, pianist ANASTASIA ANTONACOS will return with the BAYSIDE TRIO to perform at the Saco River Grange Hall with mezzo-soprano Solange Meridian. The flute, cello, piano, mezzo quartet will perform the Chansons Modecasses, three songs by Maurice Ravel as well as living composer Tigran Mansurian’s Madrigals. Then the trio will go on the perform the Crumb Voice of the Whale, an esoteric and spooky work that requires live performance to appreciate due to the dramatic lighting, blackface masks for the performers, and other visual cues written by the composer. The trio will also play an arrangement of Astor Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, taking this fall’s classical music season truly full circle.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at

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