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Gerald Carpenter: Faculty Chamber Orchestra Taking the Lobero Stage for ‘Tuesdays @ 8’

The next "Tuesdays @ 8" chamber music concert by the Music Academy of the West faculty — at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Lobero Theatre — will be something of a departure, to say the least.

James Gaffigan
James Gaffigan

Two of the three works on the program will be performed by an all-star chamber orchestra consisting of Timothy Day on flute, Cynthia Koledo DeAlemeida on oboe, Richie Hawley on clarinet, Benjamin Kamins on bassoon, Julie Landsman on horn, Michael Werner and a Percussion Fellow on percussion, Natasha Kislenko and Margaret McDonald on pianos, Glenn Dicterow and Kathleen Winkler on violins, Richard O'Neill on viola, Alan Stepansky on cello and Nico Abondolo on double bass — all under the inspired baton of guest conductor James Gaffigan.

In between these works, we will hear (and see) the amazing virtuoso pianist Stephen Hough perform his own Piano Sonata No. 2 "Notturna luminoso".

The chamber orchestra program presents itself as an homage to an early Music Academy composer-in residence, Arnold Schoenberg — without, I note, actually performing one of Schoenberg's own compositions (which I adore, but acknowledge to be a minority taste). First, the orchestra will play Claude Debussy's Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune in an arrangement for 11 instruments, made under Schoenberg's supervision in 1921 by Dr. Benno Sachs, who was then corresponding secretary of the Viennese Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen (the Society for Private Music Performances), founded in 1918 by Schoenberg, and for which the arrangement was prepared.

After Hough's striking sonata, this ensemble will be joined by soprano Liana Guberman for a performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 4 in G-Major, 1901 in an arrangement begun by Erwin Stein and completed by Klaus Simon, which was also prepared for the Verein concerts.

It was Stein's idea to do a whole season of Verein concerts "that would present large-scale works re-scored for a small ensemble consisting of a few wind instruments, a string quintet, piano and a harmonium." Both of Tuesday evening's transcriptions come from this projected season.

Schoenberg had turned the running of the Verein activities over to Stein in 1920, but he was fully supportive of the idea of transcriptions, having (impressively) transcribed the Brahms First Piano Quartet into a full-scale symphony. He had also taken "The Wood Dove's Song," from Gurre Lieder, and set it for mezzo and chamber ensemble, making it into a masterpiece comparable to Barber's Knoxville, Summer of 1915.

This program is thus very much in the spirit of Schoenberg, even though his notes are absent. Mahler was a mentor and friend, and Schoenberg had dedicated The Theory of Harmony to him, so his presence in this context is self-explanatory. Debussy's presence, on the other hand, begs a question or two. On the face of it, the two composers are antithetical, the languid Parisian versus the intensely disciplined Viennese. Yet, Schoenberg's admiration for Debussy is well-documented; and he thought some of the Frenchman's innovations essential to the creation of modern music.

Both the Debussy and the Mahler have a surprising effect in their chamber arrangements — they seem at the same time much more solidly built and completely transparent. We listen to them from within the music. It is more than an education to hear them this way. It is magical.

Tickets to this concert are $42 and can be purchased from the Music Academy ticket office at 805.969.8787, or online by clicking here. They can also be purchased at the Lobero box office at 33 E. Canon Perdido St., by calling 805.963.0761 or online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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