Every once in awhile, one of our musical organizations has the very good idea, instead of importing a “guest artist” to handle the solos in its concerted works, to draw on the virtuosos in its midst. This is the basis for the next concert by the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra — at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Lobero Theatre — that it calls “SBCO’s Own.”
The evening concert — conducted by SBCO’s virtuoso maestro Heiichiro Ohyama (viola) — will feature the first-chair virtuosity of Judith Farmer (bassoon), Michael Grego (clarinet), Jennifer Johnson (oboe), Jenny Kim (horn) and Angela Wiegand (flute).
The program consists of four works: Wolfgang Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in Eb-Major for Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, & Bassoon, K. 297b, Eugene (Yevgeny) Magalif’s Hummingbird for Flute & String Orchestra, Benjamin Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge and Frank Bridge’s An Irish Melody (Londonderry Air) H. 86a.
Wikipedia rather dismissively deems the Mozart Sinfonia to be a “probably spurious arrangement of lost Sinfonia Concertante for Flute, Oboe, Horn, Bassoon, and Orchestra from 1778.” Scholars argue to this day, however, whether the piece is even by Mozart at all, though the writing for the solo instruments is admitted by all to be of the very highest caliber.
To me, the dispute exposes a recurring weakness of musicology. It is a lovely work, and very popular today — if it isn’t by Mozart, then who? And if attaching the name Mozart to it brings more people in to hear it, is that such a sinister thing?
Magalif, born in 1957, was educated in the U.S.S.R. as a classical musician, and wrote many popular songs before emigrating to the United States in 1990. His Hummingbird, written in 2010, is very easy to listen to. If you don’t have a problem with Richard Rodgers or Leroy Anderson, you won’t have a problem with this piece.
Britten wrote his Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge in 1937 on a commission from the Boyd Neel Orchestra. It was his first success on the international music scene, and remains one of his most popular works. As is usually the case with Britten, the work is as accessible as it is because he has somebody else’s melody to work with.
Bridge (1879-1941) was Britten’s main composition teacher, and very interesting composer. The “Irish Melody” that is the basis of this movement — and which doesn’t actually appear until five-eighths of the way through — is usually identified as “Londonderry Air,” though most of us know it as “Danny Boy.” The piece, which was commissioned as a movement in a string quartet assigned each movements to a different composer, is the only movement still played now. It bears a distant structural resemblance to Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Greensleeves, except that it takes much much longer to get to its familiar tune. Bridge’s introduction, however, is fascinating.
Tickets to the concert are $50 to $55, and can be purchased from the Lobero box office at 33 East Canon Perdido St. or 805.963.0761, or online by clicking here.