All the elements conspired Tuesday night at Deertrees Theater to make the 40th anniversary concert of the Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival a memorable occasion — perfect weather, a capacity crowd and a program that was both innovative and appealing.

The opening selection, Schubert’s Fantasie in F Minor, D.940, for piano four hands, brought back memories of a happier time, when entertainment (and romance) meant playing duets in the parlor. 

The problem with piano duets is the metronomic rhythm necessary to coordinate the two parts. Miihae Lee and Stephen Manes soon overcame that awkwardness and the result was unfolding of one of the finest of Schubert’s many offerings in that genre.

Another revelation was Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” Suite for 13 Instruments, the first version of the ballet music written for Martha Graham. Most people are familiar with the later orchestral score, but the original is head and shoulders above it in its evocation of atmosphere, clarity and inventiveness. One can almost picture the ballet scenes, but the music is decidedly contemporary, as if Copland were already considering a venture into 12-tone territory.

The suite was played brilliantly throughout, but the woodwind trio of Susan Rotholz, flute, Nicolasa Kuster, bassoon, and Eric Thomas, clarinet, was outstanding.

Rotholz and Thomas also had starring roles after intermission in “Lullaby and Doina (2001) by Osvaldo Golijov, a sort of Schoenberg-meets-klezmer concoction in which strings and woodwinds dance in kaleidoscopic key signatures round a tonal center.

It consists of a set of variations on a Yiddish lullaby the composer wrote for “The Man Who Cried,” in counterpoint with an aria from Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers.”

“The lullaby metamorphoses into a dense and dark doina, a gypsy, slow, rubato genre, featuring the lowest string of the viola. The piece ends in a fast gallop, boasting a theme I stole from my friends of the wild gypsy band Taraf de Haidouks,” Golijov wrote.

The musical cocktail was highly intoxicating.

Max Bruch (1838-1920) was a composer who almost totally neglected musical developments since Brahms, yet was able to compose masterpieces in his own romantically lush idiom. His ravishing Octet for Strings (Op. Posth.), the final work on the program, shows just how much life remains in “dated” forms. The second movement, for example, illustrates what still can be done, after Chopin, Mendelssohn and Beethoven, with a funeral march.

All of the sweeping melodic lines in the work are effective, but Bruch’s attention to the bass is sui generis. Bonnie Thron, cello, and Volkan Orhon, bass, made the most of it.

The final concert of the festival will be on Aug. 14, featuring works of Prokofiev, Khachaturian, Glinka and Shostakovich.


Christopher Hyde’s Classical Beat column appears in the Maine Sunday Telegram. He can be reached at [email protected]


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