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Arts & Entertainment Presented by Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts


Gerald Carpenter: CAMA Pianist Stephen Hough to Show Another Side of the German ‘Soul’

Pianist Stephen Hough will perform a recital Tuesday night at the Lobero Theatre.
Pianist Stephen Hough will perform a recital Tuesday night at the Lobero Theatre. ()

By Gerald Carpenter, Noozhawk Contributing Writer |

As a part of its "Masterseries," the Community Arts Music Association (CAMA) brings to town the remarkable pianist Stephen Hough for a recital at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St.

Hough is remarkable both for his technical virtuosity, which is breathtaking, and for the coherent brilliance of his programming. He is also a widely commissioned composer, though judging from the list of works he will play at the Lobero, not a vain one.

Tuesday's concert will consist of Arnold Schoenberg's Six Little Piano Pieces, Opus 19 (1911); Richard Strauss' Rêverie (Träumerei), Opus 9, No. 4 (1884); Richard Wagner's Album Leaf in C-Major from the Album der Fürstin Metternich, WWV 94; Anton Bruckner's Erinnerung/Keepsake in Ab-Major, WAB 117 (1868); Johannes Brahms' Seven Fantasias, Opus 116 (1892); and Frédéric Chopin's Four Ballades (1835-43): No. 1 in G-Minor, Opus 23; No 2 in F-Major, Opus 38; No. 3 in Ab-Major, Opus 47; No. 4 in F-Minor, Opus 52.

On paper, this is a heavily Teutonic program — the one non-German, Chopin, may have spent much of his life in France, but his music is most closely related to that of his German contemporaries, Robert Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn. In concert, however, all these pieces — even those of Wagner and Bruckner — evince a distinctly non-Germanic delicacy and grace. Still, they are all serious works, though a strain of sentimentality runs through them. For some of us, nostalgia is a serious matter.

Schoenberg (he dropped the o-umlaut when he came to America) tended to express his radical harmonic principles in miniatures of exquisite poise, and the Opus 19 "little pieces" are definitely a case in point. Even inveterate Schoenberg-haters will find little to reject in these pieces, which are, in any case, almost over before you know it.

Brahms devoted his last two years to songs, chamber music (particularly featuring the clarinet), and above all, to sets of short solo piano works, many of which he called "intermezzi." It is difficult to make a case for the profundity of any particular instrumental score (noisy assertions of Bach fanatics notwithstanding), but the profundity which we fail to find encoded in the score almost always shows up in the profound emotions which we experience listening to it. So it is with these wonderful "Fantasias" of Brahms, which can't help but take on a somber color when we consider the circumstances of their composition — Brahms was dying, and he knew it — but, as always with attempts ot match the art to the life of the artist, there is little demonstrable connection between the end-of-life meditations of Brahms and the music he wrote at the time. For the music lover, of course, these are all priceless gems.

Tickets to this concert are $33 and $43, and they can be purchased at the Lobero box office at 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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