Curtis Symphony Orchestra | Photo: Courtesy

While it may seem a slight detour from the typical agenda for CAMA’s “International Series” of touring orchestras from far and near, next Thursday’s (May 18) Granada Theatre appearance by the Curtis Symphony Orchestra is actually deeply rooted and influential in the classical music cosmos. The Curtis Institute of Music, in Philadelphia, is one of the world’s premiere music schools, with an illustrious alumni list — Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber, Lang Lang, Yuja Wang, and Peter Serkin — on the long and starry roster.
The Granada date is part of the orchestra’s first West Coast tour, being led by the esteemed Osmo Vänskä (who will also lead the Music Academy Orchestra on July 1) and with pianist Yefim Bronfman as soloist. The orchestra is bringing an enticing program to town, with old-schoolers Schumann and Rimsky-Korsakov balanced out with a premiere piece commissioned for the tour, Da Wei’s Awakening Lion.

Bach in the Spotlight and the Bones

When the sublime German violinist Augustin Hadelich played the Lobero, solo, recently, it was not the first or last time we will have been graced by his presence in town. But it was the best so far, and certainly one of the most powerful and moving classical events of the year — if not the apogee. Hadelich has been heard here in recital with a pianist and as an orchestra soloist — under the auspices of CAMA, which also posted his Lobero triumph. The Music Academy has also swept him into their world, and he will be heading there for a recital (July 11) as a makeup gig for last year’s COVID cancellation.

Augustin Hadelich | Photo: David Bazemore

What he pulled off at the Lobero, with only his wits, depth, impeccable technique, and his 1744 Guarneri instrument on stage, was nothing short of breathtaking. It was a Bach-centric and Bach-framed program, with the mettle-testing scores of Bach’s demanding Partitas for unaccompanied violin opening and closing the evening — No. 3 in E and the ever-popular No. 2 in D minor, respectively.

Between those Bach-ian poles came the Bach-referential Sonata for unaccompanied violin Opus 27, No. 2 by Eugène Ysaÿe — the virtuosic showpiece dispenser — and the fascinating contemporary turn of African American composer Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s 1979 Blue/s Forms. Here, the violinist managed a brilliant feat of stylistic code-switching, with subtle blues nuances fit to order. The evening ended with that majestic classic of solo violin repertoire, the sprawling “Chaconne” closing Bach’s Partita in D minor, with its visit to the gentle pasture of D major toward the end. Technically and expressively, the violinist got it just right. The critic wept.

Country Bowl Report, in Progress

At least in the early stage of this year’s Santa Barbara Bowl season, the country music muse is having a banquet laid out before her. The trend started out with a something-kicking double header of Charley Crockett and Tyler Childers, and continues next week with Brett Young (May 19) and superstar/superman telecaster master Brad Paisley (May 21).

And last Saturday night, friendly veteran-in-training Billy Currington showed a packed house how it’s done, according to the gospel of Currington. After a strong blast of an opening set by the Eli Young Band, Currington — topped by a long mane of hair rather than a cowboy hat — led his crackerjack band through a range of hits and deep cuts from the past 20 years on the charts. Included in the set were his Willie Nelson collaboration, “Hard to be a Hippie”; “Do I Make You Wanna”; and — speaking of gospel — his devilishly/angelically anthemic “People Are Crazy,” with its fiendishly catchy refrain “God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy.”

After the show, which ended teasingly with the wind-down song “Closing Time,” spontaneous outbursts of the “God is great…” hook percolated in the bathrooms and public spaces. There were a lot of true believers in the house.

Guitar Wizardry, and Vein-Deep Musicality

Transatlantic Guitar Trio | Photo: Josef Woodard

I swung — operative word — by the Transatlantic Guitar Trio gig at SOhO on Sunday, the penultimate show of the “S.B. Acoustic” series, and was mighty glad I did. All due respects to the superfine guitarists, British finger-style player Richard Smith and German Django-phonic wizard Joscho Stephan, it was the blind Nashville guitarist (and more) Rory Hoffman who stole the show, to these ears. A left-hander playing guitar on his lap, with extra bass filling up the low end and unendingly tasteful and hot solos throughout, Hoffman embodied the model of a player-vocalist-whistler-obscure instrumentalist with musicality truly pumping in his veins and DNA.

When a solo spot was handed to him toward the end of the night, on Willie Nelson’s “The Night Life Ain’t No Good Life,” the results of his singing and harmonizing with guitar solos while playing baselines blew the roof off my noggin. And my heart.


Coco Montoya | Photo: Courtesy

For its next trick, the ever-rewarding and resourceful Santa Barbara Blues Society has landed famed blues legend Coco Montoya, playing at the Carrillo Rec Center on Saturday, May 13. At the Lobero, check out Tierney Sutton on Friday, Rodney Crowell on Tuesday, and Mighty Poplar on Wednesday. At SOhO, catch Mike Campbell & the Dirty Knobs, with Alvin Youngblood Hart on Sunday.

Camerata Pacifica closes its season at Hahn Hall on Friday, May 12, with a program of Bach and Pergolesi, featuring male soprano Samuel Mariño.

Following on the heels of the grand concert by the Santa Barbara Choral Society last weekend, the Santa Barbara Master Chorale brings choral music culture back to the First Presbyterian Church, performing John Rutter’s Requiem and other works this Friday night and Saturday afternoon.


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