The Art of Music

by Gerald Carpenter

BROAD JUMP: Although I intend to talk mostly
about the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra in this column, there are
two events at City College this weekend that are of some interest.
First, there is its Electronic Music Concert on Friday, May 12, at
7 p.m. in Garvin Theatre, on the SBCC West Campus. We are cordially
invited to “hear the latest trends in music and electronic
composition as students present a concert of original music and
images, the product of the state-of-the-art electronic music and
sound recording classes — directed by James Mooy.”
Then, on Saturday at 7 p.m., SBCC presents its Spring Choral
Concert in the First United Methodist Church (305 E. Anapamu St.).
This year, the over-arching theme is On Broadway, with choruses
from such musicals as The Music Man, Oklahoma, The Sound of Music,
South Pacific, and Fiddler on the Roof. For tickets to either of
these concerts, call the Garvin box office at 965-5935.

STAPLES, CENTER: The Chamber Orchestra will
wrap up its 2005-2006 “Mostly Mozart” season with an all-Mozart
concert at 8 p.m. next Tuesday, May 16, in the Lobero Theatre.
There are three works by Mozart on the program:
Serenade No. 6 in D Major, K. 239 (“Serenata notturna”); Violin
Concerto No. 4 in D Major, K. 218; and Symphony No. 41 in C Major,
K. 551 (“Jupiter”). Maestro Heiichiro Ohyama will
conduct.

The soloist in the violin concerto will be Sheryl
Staples
, who was concertmaster of the Chamber Orchestra
until 1995, when she left to become associate concertmaster of the
Cleveland Orchestra and to teach at the Cleveland Institute of
Music. In 1998, not letting any grass grow under her feet, Staples
moved on to New York, becoming principal associate concertmaster of
the New York Philharmonic. In addition, she continued to teach — at
the Manhattan School of Music (she is currently on leave) and now
at the Juilliard. That is quite a spectacular ascent, I must say,
but having heard her play many times, it doesn’t surprise or puzzle
me. It will be wonderful having her back in Santa Barbara, if only
for the evening.

Once the idea of a “Mostly Mozart” season occurred to the
Chamber Orchestra, it must have seemed both natural and inevitable.
Considering that the composer’s 250th birthday fell in the middle
of the season, the year’s concerts practically programmed
themselves. On top of which, Ohyama’s readings of Mozart scores
are — however idiosyncratic — always compelling, exhilarating, and
insightful.

This year’s performances — not just of Mozart, but of Beethoven,
Brahms, and Rossini — were all to be cherished and remembered. The
soloists — pianists André-Michel Schub and
James Dick, violinists Cho-Liang
Lin
and Staples, hornist Bradley
Kintscher
, and the wonderful singers of Quire of
Voyces
 — all gave us the standard of perfection in
unimprovable art.

Indeed, the only person with whom I end the season being
slightly less impressed is Mozart himself. The only musical form of
which I find Mozart to be the supreme and unchallenged master is
opera. No one wrote better piano concertos, but Beethoven wrote
five that are, in a very different way, just as great as Mozart’s
27. In other forms, Mozart wrote lots of beautiful music that puts
him very near the top, but never on it. As a symphonist, he was
very much a junior partner to Haydn and Beethoven; ditto as a
composer of string quartets and other chamber combinations.
(Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, of course, is sublime — I don’t want to
be too dogmatic about this — and we might have heard a sublime
performance of it, had the SBCO Chamber Players’ concerts not been
canceled.)

Anyway, it was a nice idea, but I for one will be glad of a
little more variety in the Chamber Orchestra’s next season. For
tickets to Tuesday’s concert, call the Lobero at 963-0761.

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