The Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra (SBCO) closed its 2016/17 season with an all-Schumann program and acclaimed soloist Alessio Bax on piano. The slate featured Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 in C Major, famous for its scherzo composed of rapid-fire violin refrains and a slight baroque influence, performed with excellence under the precise direction of Maestro Heiichiro Ohyama. The evening’s most noteworthy selection, Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, ostentatious with sweeping melodies, magnificently showcased Bax’s skills as a pianist. The composition appears challenging in that it requires near constant movement from the soloist, and the various melodies themselves are irrefutably emotionally demanding; the piece is evocative of today’s most gripping film scores.
The scaled-back size of the orchestra and the Lobero Theatre’s intimate setting greatly enhanced the sound of the piano, putting the audience at the center of the melodic circulation. It’s rare to see a talent as virtuosic as Bax approach a piece of unparalleled complexity with obvious enjoyment. As the SBCO prepares for a postponed 2017/18 season, we as an audience can recognize the merit of the group and anticipate more high-quality chamber music in the future.