Last Time Around

CELEBRATIONS: The March program of
Camerata Pacifica will be performed in Santa
Barbara at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. this Friday, March 17, in Victoria
Hall. It will consist of three works: the Nonet in E-flat Major,
Opus 139, by Josef Rheinberger; Between Tides, for
Violin, Cello, and Piano, by Toru Takemitsu; and
Jake Heggie’s song cycle, Winter Roses. The
featured musicians will be, in various combinations, Angela
, mezzo-soprano; Sarah
, violin; Donald McInnes,
viola; Emil Miland, cello; Tim
, bass; Adrian Spence, flute;
John Steinmetz, bassoon; Steve
, horn; and Vicki Ray, piano.

On the face of it, just looking at dates, this is a program
heavily weighted toward the modern, not to say contemporary.
Takemitsu’s piece was composed in 1993, and Winter Roses, as most
South Coast music lovers must surely know, was given its world
premiere by the great Frederica von Stade and the
Camerata in Marjorie Luke Theatre on October 9, 2004. It is hard to
get more up to the minute than that.

Yet, Rheinberger — from Lichtenstein, where the last reigning
Hapsburg governs his 10-square-mile principality — died in 1901,
and his sweet music is unlikely to disturb even the most
intransigent reactionary. Takemitsu’s music is weird, certainly,
but neither offensive nor aggressive. And Heggie’s songs, which are
settings of poems by von Stade, make for a deeply moving musical
experience in a medium that cajoles rather than challenges. For
tickets and other information, call 884-8410.

This Saturday (March 18) at 3 p.m., the Santa Barbara
Music Club
will offer one of its delightful matinee
concerts of chamber music in the Faulkner Gallery of the downtown
Public Library. On the program are Sergei
’s Sonata in C Major for Cello and Piano, Opus
119, Aaron Jay Kernis’s Air for
Cello and Piano, and Carl Reinecke’s Trio in
B-flat Major, Opus 274. As always, admission is free.

At last, Gisèle Ben-Dor will be back among us,
conducting the Santa Barbara Symphony that she has
brought to such a high level of accomplishment. It has been fun
hearing all those talented candidates conduct her band (by the time
this is published, we will know the name of her successor), but it
is with joy that we hail her return for a three-program
“Gisèlebration” that will round off her tenure as music director
and bring the season to a glorious close.

Ben-Dor will conduct the first of the three programs this
Saturday (8 p.m.) and Sunday (3 p.m.), March 18-19, in the
Arlington. The three works on the program are: Jean
’s haunting and mysterious tone poem, The Swan of
Tuonela; Erno˝ von Dohnányi’s charming,
concerto-like Variations on a Nursery Song, Opus 25 (with pianist
Robert Thies); and Antonin
’s paradigmatic Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, “From the
New World.”

This is a romantic program, and I think a rather nationalistic
one. Sibelius was a fiercely patriotic Finn, and The Swan of
Tuonela — written around the same time as Finlandia — was inspired
by an episode in the Finnish national epic, The Kalevala. Tuonela
is the Finnish underworld or Hades, which is surrounded by a river
of black water on which a swan glides and sings.

Dvořák’s “New World” Symphony is, of course, the foundation of a
uniquely American school of symphonic writing, even though the
spirit and sound world of the work are thoroughly Czech. Dvořák did
capture something about the space of America, the way it goes on
and on. Just before the premiere, he said, “… the future of music
in this country must be founded upon what are called the Negro
melodies. … These beautiful and varied themes are the product of
the soil. They are the folk songs of America, and your composers
must turn to them. All the great musicians have borrowed from the
songs of the common people.”

For tickets to these concerts, call 963-4408.


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