The Art of Music

by Gerald Carpenter

BROAD JUMP: Although I intend to talk mostly about the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra in this column, there are two events at City College this weekend that are of some interest. First, there is its Electronic Music Concert on Friday, May 12, at 7 p.m. in Garvin Theatre, on the SBCC West Campus. We are cordially invited to “hear the latest trends in music and electronic composition as students present a concert of original music and images, the product of the state-of-the-art electronic music and sound recording classes — directed by James Mooy.” Then, on Saturday at 7 p.m., SBCC presents its Spring Choral Concert in the First United Methodist Church (305 E. Anapamu St.). This year, the over-arching theme is On Broadway, with choruses from such musicals as The Music Man, Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, South Pacific, and Fiddler on the Roof. For tickets to either of these concerts, call the Garvin box office at 965-5935.

STAPLES, CENTER: The Chamber Orchestra will wrap up its 2005-2006 “Mostly Mozart” season with an all-Mozart concert at 8 p.m. next Tuesday, May 16, in the Lobero Theatre. There are three works by Mozart on the program: Serenade No. 6 in D Major, K. 239 (“Serenata notturna”); Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major, K. 218; and Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551 (“Jupiter”). Maestro Heiichiro Ohyama will conduct.

The soloist in the violin concerto will be Sheryl Staples, who was concertmaster of the Chamber Orchestra until 1995, when she left to become associate concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra and to teach at the Cleveland Institute of Music. In 1998, not letting any grass grow under her feet, Staples moved on to New York, becoming principal associate concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic. In addition, she continued to teach — at the Manhattan School of Music (she is currently on leave) and now at the Juilliard. That is quite a spectacular ascent, I must say, but having heard her play many times, it doesn’t surprise or puzzle me. It will be wonderful having her back in Santa Barbara, if only for the evening.

Once the idea of a “Mostly Mozart” season occurred to the Chamber Orchestra, it must have seemed both natural and inevitable. Considering that the composer’s 250th birthday fell in the middle of the season, the year’s concerts practically programmed themselves. On top of which, Ohyama’s readings of Mozart scores are — however idiosyncratic — always compelling, exhilarating, and insightful.

This year’s performances — not just of Mozart, but of Beethoven, Brahms, and Rossini — were all to be cherished and remembered. The soloists — pianists André-Michel Schub and James Dick, violinists Cho-Liang Lin and Staples, hornist Bradley Kintscher, and the wonderful singers of Quire of Voyces — all gave us the standard of perfection in unimprovable art.

Indeed, the only person with whom I end the season being slightly less impressed is Mozart himself. The only musical form of which I find Mozart to be the supreme and unchallenged master is opera. No one wrote better piano concertos, but Beethoven wrote five that are, in a very different way, just as great as Mozart’s 27. In other forms, Mozart wrote lots of beautiful music that puts him very near the top, but never on it. As a symphonist, he was very much a junior partner to Haydn and Beethoven; ditto as a composer of string quartets and other chamber combinations. (Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, of course, is sublime — I don’t want to be too dogmatic about this — and we might have heard a sublime performance of it, had the SBCO Chamber Players’ concerts not been canceled.)

Anyway, it was a nice idea, but I for one will be glad of a little more variety in the Chamber Orchestra’s next season. For tickets to Tuesday’s concert, call the Lobero at 963-0761.

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