Hello, Young Lovers

by Gerald Carpenter

FOR INTRODUCTORY PURPOSES: We are now nearing the end of the first week of the Music Academy of the West’s 2006 Summer Festival. There have been plenty of master classes, but aside from the Piano Fest last Saturday at Abravanel Hall, and the Canadian Brass concert last night at First Presbyterian Church, there have been few public events of scale. That will change moderately this Saturday, and decisively next Tuesday.

At 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 24, in Abravanel Hall on the academy campus, there will be a Children’s Concert by the Academy Festival Orchestra, conducted by Miguel Harth-Bedoya and narrated by Rod Lathim. Tickets are $10; for those 18 and under, the show is free of charge. There are two works on the program: Camille Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals and Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Tickets will be available on the day of the concert only.

This seems, to me anyway, like a fairly new event on the academy’s summer schedule. I think it is a great idea, and the program is well chosen, for the most part. The first work is an informal masterpiece of a high order; it is music that can be heard with pleasure by anyone from age 6 to age 106, and it is one of a mere handful of surefire introductions to classical music in the repertory. The other work is just about the only work by its composer — except for his ballet, The Prince of the Pagodas, and his somber tribute to his parents, Sinfonia da Requiem — that I can listen to without falling either asleep or into a fit of frustrated rage. But, then, the Young Person’s Guide is not really Britten’s music, but only his arrangement of Purcell’s music. At the end, what the children carry away is the noble Rondeau from Purcell’s incidental music for Abdelazer, or the Moor’s Revenge, not Britten’s admittedly clever distribution of it among the various instruments.

Still, Carnival of the Animals — those spooky fish! That tragic swan! — worked for me when I was a kid, and I am sure it still does.

At 8 p.m. next Tuesday, June 27, in the Lobero Theatre, comes the first of those magical faculty chamber music concerts known as Tuesdays at Eight. The maestros have finally shaken free of the Brahms straightjacket they strapped themselves in for the past few years, and this summer’s programs have undergone “a sea-change into something rich and strange” — with a little Mozart, here and there.

The first concert does indeed begin with Mozart’s Violin Sonata in B-flat Major, K. 454, performed by violinist Kathleen Winkler and pianist Warren Jones. Then we’ll hear Jean Françaix’s Mozart New-look — a small fantasy upon the “Serenade” from Don Giovanni for double bass and wind instruments — with Nico Abondolo, double bass; Timothy Day, flute; Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida, oboe; Richie Hawley, clarinet; Bernhard Scully, horn; Dennis Michel, bassoon; and select young artists. The Françaix is followed by Daron Hagen’s Jot!, performed by Hawley, clarinet; Edward Atkatz, percussion; and Jonathan Feldman, piano. Music by Dmitri Shostakovich brings the evening to a close: first violinist Jeff Thayer and pianist Anne Epperson perform selections from the Twenty-four Preludes, Opus 34, and then the haunting Piano Trio in E Minor, Opus 67, played by Kathleen Winkler, violin; Alan Stepansky, cello; and Jones, piano.

Daron Hagen has an interesting background. Born in Wisconsin, he studied composition with Ned Rorem at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, with David Diamond at the Juilliard School, and privately with Leonard Bernstein. After Juilliard, he lived abroad briefly, first at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France, and then at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio, Italy. His opera Shining Brow (1991) made his reputation, and he has since been very prolific.

For tickets and other information about Music Academy events, call 969‑8787.

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