Maine pianist will play with Midcoast Symphony

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LEWISTON — The Midcoast Symphony Orchestra will perform its fourth and final concert of its 20th anniversary season under Music Director Rohan Smith on Saturday and Sunday, May 15-16.

Maine pianist Anastasia Antonacos will perform Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor. The orchestra will also perform a number of selections by Johann Strauss, both father and son, and a number of waltzes.

A member of the artist faculty at the University of Southern Maine, Antonacos has performed worldwide as a solo recitalist and chamber musician. Closer to home, she has made solo appearances with the Portland and Bangor symphony orchestras. She has collaborated with violinist Joseph Silverstein and with members of the Vermeer, Cassatt and DaPonte quartets.

Antonacos holds doctoral and master’s degrees in piano performance from Indiana University. She has been a chamber music coach at Bay Chamber Concerts’ Next Generation program for many years, and she regularly serves as a master class teacher and adjudicator. She also teaches at Bates College.

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Brahms wrote the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor when he was in his 20s, between 1854 and 1859. It is truly a young man’s work — expansive, emotionally extreme and difficult to play. Its opening orchestral gesture ranks with the great over-the-top Romantic moments; and, at the same time, the music connects with the greater classical tradition.

The remainder of the concert is devoted to the music of Strauss the elder (1804-1849) and Strauss the younger (1825-1899). Strauss is a name synonymous with the waltz. In fact, Strauss the younger is often referred to as the Waltz King. The Strausses did not invent either the choreography or the music for this dance, but they brought it to unprecedented popularity. Strauss the younger, in particular, elaborated and developed the form.

In today’s ballroom dancing culture, the waltz counts as a fairly staid and “classic” dance, but its introduction at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries was something of a sensation, because it set couples in an unusually tight front-to-front embrace. In addition, the Viennese version involved a lot of spinning and twirling.

The orchestra will play the well-known “Blue Danube” and “Acceleration” waltzes, along with the “Unter Donner Und Blitz (Thunder and Lightening) Polka,” among other pieces written by father and son. The ensemble will also perform the overture to “Die Fledermaus,” one of the most successful light operas written by the younger Strauss. It is a merry story involving many disguises, parties and opportunities for the characters to sing set pieces, some of which find their way into the overture.

Go and do

WHAT: Midcoast Symphony Orchestra concerts

WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 15, at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 16, at the Orion Performing Arts Center in Topsham

TICKETS: $15; 18 and younger admitted free. Available at Gulf of Maine Books, Brunswick; Magnolia, Bath; and the concert hall prior to the performance. Also available by calling 846-5378 and online at www.midcoastsymphony.org/

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