The connection between students and their mentors in the classical music world is the stuff of legend. While stereotypes of “high-strung” instructors abound in the popular media, in reality these caricatures are mostly far from the truth. Santa Barbara happens to be blessed with more than its fair share of wonderfully empathic, deeply supportive musicians who devote themselves to the nurturing of young talent. On Saturday, February 27, Mary Beth Woodruff — the founder, artistic director, and conductor of Santa Barbara Strings, and one of the most exemplary such musical mentors in our area — will celebrate another year of developing talented young musicians with the annual Artistry of Strings benefit concert and silent auction at the Music Academy of the West’s Hahn Hall. At 7 p.m., Woodruff will perform in a quartet that includes Jane Chung (violin), Basil Vendryes (viola), and Andrew Smith (cello), presenting a program of works by Beethoven, Haydn, Kodály, and Puccini. The concert is part of a weekend of activities, many of which involve the students of Santa Barbara Strings, who will rehearse as an orchestra alongside the guest artists and who will enjoy master classes, as well. Tickets for the event are available at santabarbarastrings.org.
The program is full of wonderful and exciting music from both the core of the string quartet repertoire and some of its more intriguing byways. The Beethoven and the Haydn works unsurprisingly fall in the former category, and those by Puccini and Kodáy in the latter. Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 16 in F Major, Op. 135 is the great composer’s valedictory work, but despite its origins in a time when the artist was suffering both physically, from his own advancing illness, and emotionally, from the recent suicide attempt of his nephew Karl, the piece is light in tone and concise in form and structure. Haydn’s String Quartet in C Major, Op. 74, No. 1 runs along a similar musical path, brightened by the composer’s exemplary sense of balance in its orchestration. Puccini’s elegy Crisantemi is a single gorgeous movement that has been more commonly heard in an arrangement for string orchestra. Here we get a chance to appreciate the individual petals of this musical blossom.