Cameron Carpenter | Credit: Courtesy

This superb and spirited concert by the Santa Barbara Symphony was undoubtedly one of the season’s highlights. Cameron Carpenter played an exhilarating solo Prelude and Fugue in E-flat Major by J. S. Bach to set the tone of the evening, which was one of daring musical adventure. Next up was a composition by the Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk not listed in the program. Conductor Nir Kabaretti added this beautiful piece for strings to the program in honor of a couple present in the audience who had recently fled the war in Ukraine by way of Budapest. Their daughter, Miroslava Kisilevitch, would play the piano part in the magnificent Symphony No. 3 in C minor of Camille Saint-Saëns during the concert’s second part. The entire audience joined in a sustained round of applause for the Skoryk composition, and the heroic family reunited.

The two pieces that followed — Saint-Saëns’s “Organ Symphony” and the Concerto for Organ, Timpani, and Strings in C minor by Francis Poulenc — gave those present all the more reason to applaud. The Poulenc is a marvelous mélange of 20th-century musical elements. It exploits the range and chameleon-like qualities of the organ to the fullest extent. Carpenter dazzled in the sequences that call for the organ to emulate the bite and crunch of an entire brass section. 

The “Organ Symphony” provided an even more thrilling ride to the outer limits of orchestral possibility. From the notoriously massive C Major chord from the organ to the last cymbal crash of the finale, the orchestra had the full attention of everyone in the room. This concert was a “boom” for the ages. 

This edition of ON Culture was originally emailed to subscribers on June 7, 2024. To receive Leslie Dinaberg’s arts newsletter in your inbox on Fridays, sign up at


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