Pianist Laura Kargul
Violinist Ronald Lantz
Woodfords Congregational Church
by Christopher Hyde
“if music be the food of love,” a larger than ordinary crowd at Woodfords Congregational Church on Sunday was treated to a feast. Violinist Ronald Lantz and pianist Laura Kargul collaborated on their popular Valentines Day concert, entitled “From North to South,” beginning with Sibelius and Greig and winding up in Argentina with Astor Piazzolla.
The event this year was presented by the Lark Society for Chamber Music and the University of Southern Maine School of Music.
The trip got off to a slow start with the Sibelius Nocturne Op. 51, No. 3. This composer, whom I admire greatly, is not at his best in smaller forms, and the Nocturne, while pleasant enough, also showed signs of short rehearsal time.
Norwegian composer Christian Sinding is best known for his piano piece “The Rustle of Spring.” His Adagio, from the Suite in A Minor, is equally melodic and Romantic in tone, but not tuneful enough to go home whistling.
Things warmed up considerably in the Sonata No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 45 by Sinding’s mentor, Edvard Grieg. Its three movements kept getting better and better as Greig threw off classical restraints and reverted to Norwegian themes. The finale is a tour de force of dance and folksong, and received a standing ovation before intermission.
Germany and France were represented by Christophe Willibald Gluck, with the popular Mélodie from “Orfeo ed Euridice” and “Joseph Canteloube, with “Le Soir.”. If you have not yet heard the latter’s “Songs of the Auvergne,” you are in for a treat. “Le Soir” is equally beautiful. It is full of longing and ends on a high note by the violin that seems to go on forever.
Then into the Caribbean, with two Jamaican folk songs, set and embellished by Peter Ashbourne (b. 1950).
The finale included two pieces by Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), who single-handedly turned the Argentine tango into a classical art form. One of his secrets is in the black hole at the center of each work. One is enjoying a pleasant, highly rhythmical dance, albeit with some odd harmonies and key changes, when, all of a sudden, it becomes almost frighteningly dark and ferocious. Recovery is attempted, but the dance never seems the same. The first, “Milonga en re,” showed its teeth, the second, “Soledad,” arranged by Kargul and Lantz, not so much.
The entire program was a welcome respite from the February cold, especially considering the humorous descriptions of the pieces and their origins by the two musicians.
Christopher Hyde is a writer and musician who lives in Pownal, He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.