BELFAST, Maine — Violinist Ronald Lantz of the Portland String Quartet, and pianist Laura Kargul, director of keyboard studies at the University of Southern Maine School of Music, will give a concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 1, at First Church in Belfast. Admission is free and open to all. The two will perform favorite works including the Brahms “Sonata in G Major, Op. 78,” the violin-piano transcription of Debussy’s “Suite Bergamasque” and the contemporary rag by William Bolcom, “Graceful Ghost.”
“With May Day in mind, Ron and I have selected a program almost entirely from the Romantic era,” said Kargul. “The ancient spring celebrations of love, nature, rebirth and renewal match perfectly with the expressive beauty of nineteenth century romanticism. Brahms wrote his first violin sonata, for example, out of great affection for his beloved friend Clara Schumann. One of his most soulful and intimate works, it was designed to comfort her as her youngest son Felix, Brahms’ godson, was dying. Its highly charged, emotional message is reinforced by liberal use of musical quotations. In fact, it’s called the ‘Rain Sonata’ because Brahms uses one of his own deeply nostalgic songs, ‘Regenlied’ (‘Rain Song’), as the source of thematic material for the
last movement. He also quotes Beethoven’s piano sonata Op. 81a, the ‘Farewell’, in the second movement. With the help of this quoted material, the sonata’s mood progresses from sweetness to sorrow and eventually, to bittersweet resignation.”
“Debussy’s ‘Suite Bergamasque’ is also highly romantic in nature. Although it is among his early works, it anticipates the colors and nuances so characteristic of Debussy’s later impressionist style,” says Lantz. “The middle movement will be recognized instantly by the audience. ‘Clair de Lune’ is surely one of the most iconic pieces in classical music.”
Several rarely performed shorter works will also be featured on the program: the tender and ephemeral “Nocturne” of Lili Boulanger, younger sister of the revered music pedagogue Nadia Boulanger; the ardent, soaring middle movement from Jacques de la Presle’s violin sonata, a little-known jewel steeped in the late French romantic tradition; and in commemoration of this year’s 200th anniversary of the birth of Franz Liszt, a violin-piano version of his exquisitely sensuous art song “Oh! Quand je dors”.
“These smaller works are seldom played, but they are truly gems of the romantic style and richly deserve to be heard. We’re excited about this opportunity to share them with a new audience,” said Lantz.
Twentieth century romanticism is represented on the program by William Bolcom’s ‘Graceful Ghost Rag’, which closes the first half of the concert. “This is a great example of how a popular old form can be used as a vehicle for modern-day romantic lyricism,” said Kargul.
Lantz has taught and performed in over 30 countries as a founding member of the Portland String Quartet. He has also performed with numerous symphony orchestras both as soloist and as principal player, and has served on the faculties of the University of New Hampshire, Bates College, the University of Southern Maine, Bowdoin College and Colby College, where he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree.
Kargul has appeared as a soloist throughout Europe and the United States, and in
Canada and the West Indies. As a collaborative artist she has appeared with ensembles such as the Michigan Chamber Strings, and the Lark, Da Ponte and Portland String Quartets in venues including the Aspen Music Festival and the Chamber Music Festival of Lucca in Italy. She holds a doctorate in piano performance from the University of Michigan.
The pair began to perform together in 2010.