Cinderella Sweeping Up

by Gerald Carpenter

Lotte_Lehmann.jpgTHE SUN SETS ON THE
: The Music Academy of the West’s 2006 Summer Festival
has now joined the foundation of the City of Rome, the Battle of
Hastings, and the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in
Shakespeare’s “dark backward and abysm of time.” It is over. The
studios and concert halls are silent, the last note of Prokofiev’s
Symphony No. 5 has provoked the last outburst of thunderous
applause, and the burning summer romances have dissolved in tears
of farewell and promises to keep in touch via cell phones and the
Internet. Plans for next year are already being made.

If Lotte Lehmann, Otto Klemperer, Efrem Zimbalist, Maurice
Abravanel, Ernest Bloch, Darius Milhaud, Arnold Schönberg, Gregor
Piatigorsky, or any of the other musical luminaries who made their
contributions — material and/or spiritual — to the Music Academy in
its formative years were able to revisit this section of Earth this
summer, would they recognize it? Would they approve? I think they
would most certainly recognize it, although they would be impressed
by the exponential increase in the scale of the summer event. And
given the quality and number of the musical performances, added to
the influence of the articulate and accomplished faculty, they
could only approve. “What’s not to like?” is a legitimate question,
under the circumstances.

If they felt any disappointment, it would probably stem from the
fact that the vibrant baby of 1947 never grew into a year-round
music school to rival Juilliard, Curtis, Eastman Rochester, or New
England Conservatory, for that was the original plan. (However,
just up the road at UCSB, the music department has evolved into
just such a world-class music school, whose schedule is almost
exactly complementary to that of the Academy.) Instead, it has
become a mere semantic scruple to distinguish between the Music
Academy, as an academy, and the annual Summer Festival.

If, moreover, these Academy household saints were to remark that
the students would benefit from exposure to composers of the rank
of Bloch, Schönberg, or Milhaud, one would certainly be justified
in countering with the question, “Such as whom?” (This is not to
disparage a fine composer like Richard Lavenda, who dropped by July
4 for the performance of his engaging Chiaroscuro; but he is not
yet, in terms of reputation, on par with those I mentioned
earlier — nor, as far as I know, did he interact with the students
in any significant way.)

At my first Summer Festival, in 1985, just about everything was
managed in-house. A single music director, Lawrence Leighton Smith,
conducted all the Festival Orchestra concerts (including Concerto
Night and the Opera) and the faculty — led then as now by Jerome
Lowenthal, Zvi Zeitlin, and Donald McInnes — came, taught, and
played for the whole eight weeks. There was usually a
composer-in-residence: I remember particularly the residency of
Edward Applebaum. (It was a few years before I got completely up to
speed on the Music Academy, and if I am mistaken in my memories of
how it was, I welcome correction.) Now, each Festival Orchestra
performance is conducted by a different person — always a man, so
far — and the number of “visiting artists” seems to have increased.
Little else has changed, however, except the students, who were
wonderful to begin with, and seem to keep getting better all the

The two musicians who impressed me the most this year were
violinist Kathleen Winkler and the man who conducted the newly
formed Academy Chamber Orchestra, Julian Wachner. Winkler has been
a star for years, of course, but something in me just started
tingling the first time I heard her this year, and every time after
that. As for Wachner, he showed the enthusiasm and the interest of
a really great teacher, and he conducted brilliantly as well.

Thanks to President NancyBell Coe, Chairman John Burgee, the
entire faculty of the Academy, and to the irreplaceable students
for another outstanding festival. Thanks, also, to the usual
suspects on the Academy staff, and Susan Hodges, for making things
so easy for me.


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