by Gerald Carpenter
AMERICA, AMERICA: First, to create some closure, the following two student recitals fall within the purview of this week’s column. This might be the last of them, or perhaps not: Mitsuru Kubo, viola, in a bachelor of music senior recital on Thursday, May 25, at 8 p.m. in Karl Geiringer Hall. Kubo will play works by Felix Mendelssohn, Paul Hindemith, William Walton, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Ramon Fermin, guitar, in a bachelor of music junior recital on Friday, May 26, at 8 p.m. in Karl Geiringer Hall. Fermin will perform pieces by F. Moreno Torroba, Domenico Scarlatti, Dionysio Aguado, Lennox Berkeley, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and Steve Reich.
Like all such student performances, these two are free of charge and open to the public. Geiringer Hall is in the UCSB Music Building.
Apparently, the end of the season is the time for American music. Last weekend, we had Quire of Voyces giving us the American treatment, and now — this Saturday and Sunday, May 27-28 — it’s the Santa Barbara Master Chorale’s turn under the direction of Phillip McLendon. The group will perform a concert titled Americana and features American composers and songs, including Randall Thompson’s Frostiana — settings of poems by Robert Frost — as well as selections from William Billings, Irving Berlin, Robert Applebaum, and John David Earnest. The program will be performed at 8 p.m. on Saturday and at 3 p.m. on Sunday in the Unitarian Society Sanctuary. For tickets and other information, call 967-8287, or visit www.sbmasterchorale.org. Randall Thompson (1899-1984) graduated from Harvard in the class of 1920. While an undergraduate, he tried out for the famous Glee Club, but was turned down. Since Thompson was destined to become one of the greatest choral composers this country has produced, this early rejection seems almost perverse. Thompson himself used to joke that his subsequent career as a vocal composer was undertaken in the spirit of revenge for this rebuff. “My life,” he said, “has been an attempt to strike back.”
Thompson also wrote three symphonies (his second one is very fine), two string quartets, and several other instrumental pieces, but his preoccupation with the human voice dominated his creative output.
He was, moreover, a dedicated and influential teacher. He began in 1927, at Wellesley College teaching harmony and counterpoint and leading the choir. He later moved on to Berkeley, the Curtis Institute of Music, the University of Virginia, and Princeton before returning to Harvard in 1948, where he chaired the music department from 1952 to 1957, and became the first Walter Bigelow Rosen professor of music.
In 1958, Thompson was commissioned to write a work commemorating the 200th anniversary of the incorporation of the town of Amherst, Massachusetts. The result was Frostiana: Seven Country Songs, a setting of poems by his friend, Robert Frost. The poems include some of Frost’s most famous and best-loved lyrics: “The Road Not Taken,” “The Pasture,” “Come In,” “The Telephone,” “A Girl’s Garden,” “Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening,” and “Choose Something Like a Star.” Thompson himself conducted the premiere (October 18, 1959). Frost was in the audience, and at the conclusion of the performance he lunged to his feet and yelled, “Sing that again!”
The Santa Barbara Youth Symphony, conducted by Andrew Radford, will present its Spring Concert at 7 p.m. this Sunday, May 28, in the Lobero Theatre. The program will feature works by Jean-Baptiste Accolay — presumably his one-movement student Concerto in A Minor — Wolfgang Mozart, Camille Saint-Saëns, and the great American impressionist, Charles Tomlinson Griffes (perhaps his celebrated Poem for Flute and Orchestra?). The main orchestral work of the evening will be Antonín Dvorák’s tone poem, The Golden Spinning Wheel. For tickets, call 963-0761.