Among the manifold expressions of Santa Barbara’s cultural heritage, the Community Arts Music Association (CAMA) stands among the most historic. This Friday, March 6, the organization will celebrate 100 years of extraordinary music making by hosting the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel for a special centennial celebration concert.
The concert takes place 100 years to the day from the L.A. Phil’s first Santa Barbara concert on March 6, 1920. Both CAMA and the L.A. Phil have been celebrating centennials this year, and the concert at The Granada Theatre on Friday represents an extraordinary achievement, not only in terms of longevity but also in ambition, as both organizations have reached new heights of prestige and achievement in the 21st century. The Los Angeles Philharmonic can lay claim to being the most admired and adventurous symphony orchestra in the world right now, and CAMA is unquestionably among the world’s top classical music presenting organizations. Together, they represent a standard of excellence that would be the envy of many a wealthy European or Asian capital.
The story of both organizations begins with the same man, William Andrews Clark Jr. The youngest surviving son of copper baron W. A. Clark Sr., Clark graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in law and a connoisseur’s appreciation for rare books and the fine arts. His passion for music led him to found the Los Angeles Philharmonic in October 1919. Just four months later, in March 1920, the newly constituted L.A. Phil played a sold-out concert in Santa Barbara at the Potter Theatre; 1,100 people came to hear maestro Walter Henry Rothwell lead 90 musicians in works by Schubert, Wagner, and Liszt, among others. The tradition of hosting major orchestral concerts in Santa Barbara was born, never to die and indeed more robust at age 100 than ever.
Friday’s concert begins at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a gala reception hosted by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. The program includes just two pieces, both of them extraordinary. The Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, “From the New World,” Op. 95 of Antonín Dvořák, which will conclude the concert, is one of the most beloved and frequently played works in the orchestral repertoire. The opener, Charles Ives’s Symphony No. 2, while still celebrated, is considerably less familiar. It will be a treat to hear how Dudamel approaches this idiosyncratic blend of Americana and late Romanticism.
Neglected for the most part during the composer’s lifetime, the Ives Symphony No. 2 had to wait four decades for its premiere with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of a great Ivesian, Leonard Bernstein. Dudamel will no doubt bring his own inimitable mojo to this underrated American classic. Ecstatic reviews of this L.A. Phil Ives/Dvořák symphony cycle are already coming in from the likes of the L.A. Times’ Mark Swed, who wrote that Dudamel’s reading of the Symphony No. 2 of Ives is “in its every gesture, vibrantly, rapturously, outrageously American.”
How fitting that we should be given the opportunity to celebrate the centennial of this defining feature of our city’s musical culture to the strains of such an interesting and inimitable work.
4•1•1 | CAMA presents the L.A. Philharmonic Friday, March 6, 7 p.m., at The Granada Theatre (1214 State St.). Call (805) 899-2222 or see granadasb.org.