PSQ Solstice program 2023

Portland String Quartet in Collaboration with Mechanics’ Hall 


Portland String Quartet: Dean Stein, violin; Callie Brennan , violin; 

Brianna Fischler, viola; Kelly Knox, cello


The Art of the Fugue is Bach’s final work and it remained unfinished upon his  death in 1750. The performance tonight is faithful to the original score, which includes all the 3  and 4-part fugues, and culminates with the forthright statement of his name in music: B-flat A  C H (B natural). Historians, musicologists and performers all agree that this “signature” is a  proclamation of the triumphant human spirit.  

The Portland String Quartet has made this work a hallmark of our career and  legacy, having performed it from our first year together and recorded it for Arabesque Records  in 1985. Ovation reported: “The performance by the Portland String Quartet is intense and  conscientious … No fault can be found regarding the clarity with which the polyphonic strands  emerge.” 

We offer tonight’s performance in gratitude for the City of Portland and the  greater Portland and Maine community welcoming us in 1969 as principal players of the PSO  and providing a home from which we continue to celebrate the artistry and beauty of the State  of Maine around the world.  


The Art of the Fugue, by Johann Sebastian Bach 

Contrapunctus I – VII 

– Short Intermission – 

Contrapunctus VIII – XI 

– Short Intermission – 

Contrapunctus XII – XIV 


Johann Sebastian Bach’s life-long interest in fugue writing culminated in a series of nineteen fugues and canons based on the same subject and presented in an extraordinary variety of styles. The result is an unparalleled demonstration of technical mastery and inexhaustible musical inventiveness. 

The Art of the Fugue, however, has been subject to neglect as a performance work because for years the notion was held that this great masterpiece of compositional craftsmanship was solely a theoretical work to be studied. This notion is, in part, accounted for by the fact that Bach wrote the score with no indication of instruments for its performance. Numerous scholars have arrived at the unwarranted conclusion, therefore, that he did not intend the work to be performed. There are still those who adhere to the view that an “abstract” score should remain a silent score, but the music of the Art of the Fugue can no longer be denied. 

(Notes from first PSQ performance, 1970) 

Paul Vermel, Music Director, Portland Symphony Orchestra 


The final notes written by Bach 


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Mechanics’ Hall was founded in 1815 by the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association to support Maine’s creative community: blacksmiths, coopers, artists, innovators, and creators. Between 1857 and 1859, they built Mechanics’ Hall in Portland – a communal gathering space with a lending library at its center. Today, our organization celebrates that rich history through literary arts programs, music, performance, and more while working to restore our landmark building as a rich cultural resource. 

Mechanics’ Hall is committed to the innovative vision of our founders: to make knowledge, ideas, and arts accessible. We engage our community through cultural events, educational programs, and affordable instruction. We are stewards of a landmark building that houses the 8th oldest membership library in the country and a grand ballroom. We continue to guide the historic preservation of the Hall as a place to gather, celebrate, and learn. To further support our landmark building and innovative programming you can give to our Annual Appeal or sign up for a yearly membership starting at only $50 

Visit here to learn more about our upcoming events.