The Born Identity

by Gerald Carpenter

THE ACADEMY KNOWS BEST: Today, Thursday, July 13, is Community Welcome Day at the Music Academy of the West’s Miraflores campus. All the events are free. (For a complete Music Academy schedule, check your program booklet, call the box office at 969-8787, or visit their well-designed Web site at

Also on Thursday, the Academy young artists will play a free Community Concert (2 p.m.) at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, a free Chamber Music Sampler (7:30 p.m.) in Lehmann Hall at Miraflores, as well as one of its spectacular Picnic Concerts the next night, Friday, July 14, at 7:30 p.m., in Abravanel Hall (not free).

Select Academy vocal students will perform Opera Scenes at 2 p.m. this Saturday, July 15, in Abravanel Hall, under the stage direction of Lotfi Mansouri and the musical direction of Warren Jones. (The scenes will be repeated at 7:30 p.m. next Monday, July 17.)

At 8 p.m. that same evening, in the Lobero Theatre, Michael Stern will conduct the Academy Festival Orchestra in a performance of two very different works: Wolfgang Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major, K. 218, with David Halen as violin soloist, and Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp Minor.

The 4th movement “Adagietto” of Mahler’s Symphony was probably the most widely admired piece of the composer’s work during his lifetime and for several decades after his death — until Leonard Bernstein began the Mahler revival with performances and recordings in honor of the 100-year anniversary of his birth, in 1960. The movement was frequently excerpted and performed without the proper frame of the other four movements. The “Adagietto” reached its apotheosis in 1971, when Luchino Visconti used it as the main music for his film of the Thomas Mann novella, Death in Venice, written 1911, the year Mahler died.

Visconti turned the writer Von Aschenbach into a composer, and invented a new character, Alfred, who was clearly based on Schoenberg — the composer’s uncompromising musical conscience. He had no doubt read Mann’s letter to the artist Wolfgang Born, who had done nine prints for an illustrated version of the novella in 1922. Mann was astonished that the artist had made Von Aschenbach look just like Mahler, when Mann, in fact, “not only gave him the great musician’s Christian name, but also in describing his appearance conferred Mahler’s mask upon him. I felt sure that given so loose and hidden a connection there could be no question of recognition by readers.” He had told no one, yet Born had intuited it. Visconti, in a further sly twist, made up his Von Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde) to look not like Mahler but Thomas Mann himself.

For the past two weeks the Academy faculty have been mentoring young local musicians in the MERIT program, and this Sunday, July 16, the MERIT student ensembles offer a free Community Concert (2 p.m.) in Lehmann Hall.

The next Tuesdays at Eight concert, July 18, in the Lobero, will begin with the duet “Bei Mannern Welche Liebefühlen” from Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, sung by young vocal artists, with the magic piano of Anne Epperson backing them up, followed by Ludwig Beethoven’s Seven Variations on the same tune played by Epperson and cellist Alan Stepansky. After that, Epperson, Stepansky, and violinist Kathleen Winkler — who is certainly on a roll this season — will leave Mozart behind and plunge into the murky, romantic glories of Robert Schumann’s Piano Trio No. 2 in F Major, Opus 80. The evening will conclude with violinist Jeff Thayer and pianist Jonathan Feldman performing Leos Janácˇek’s Violin Sonata; flautist Timothy Day, oboist David Weiss, clarinetist Fred Ormond, bassoonist Benjamin Kamins, hornist David Jolley, and pianist Feldman will also perform the delightful hit by the quintessential one-hit wonder, Ludwig Thuille, his Sextet for Piano and Winds in B-flat Major, Opus 6.

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