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


Gerald Carpenter: LA Phil to Play Brahms, Andrew Norman as Part of CAMA Concert

Directed by Gustavo Dudamel, Sunday performance features Emanuel Ax’s masterful piano skills

Pianist Emanuel Ax will bring his Brahms Project to The Granada Theatre on Sunday afternoon as part of the Community Arts Music Association’s presentation of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Pianist Emanuel Ax will bring his Brahms Project to The Granada Theatre on Sunday afternoon as part of the Community Arts Music Association’s presentation of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  (Lisa-Marie Mazzucco photo)

By Gerald Carpenter, Noozhawk Contributing Writer |

The Community Arts Music Association (CAMA) will fulfill its founding mission Sunday by presenting a concert by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by their unpredictably coiffed music director, Gustavo Dudamel, and featuring the awe-inspiring pianistic mastery of Emanuel Ax. The concert starts at 4 p.m. at The Granada Theatre.

The orchestra’s program will include Johannes Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture, Opus 80 (1880); Andrew Norman’s “Release” for Piano and Orchestra (2014); and Brahms’ Concerto No. 2 in Bb-Major for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 83 (1881).

Brahms did not attend a university or conservatory — when his contemporaries were setting out for campus, he was earning his living playing piano in a brothel — but he was very pleased when the University of Breslau awarded him an honorary doctorate, and he wrote this delightful overture to show his appreciation (although the work is slyly satirical of student life). Thereafter, too, he was “Dr. Brahms” to the public, which, in 19th century Germany, was close to a patent of nobility.

Norman (b. 1979) was born in the Midwest, raised in California, and holds degrees from USC and Yale. Among his teachers were Donald Crockett, Stephen Hartke and Martin Bresnick. In 2006, he was awarded the Rome Prize, and in 2009 the Berlin Prize. Release was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic for Ax’s Brahms Project, and it was given its world premiere by these same forces May 1.

Norman describes his work as “a 20-minute fantasy for piano and orchestra. At the behest of Emanuel Ax, it is an exploration of two melodic ideas, F-A-E (frei aber einsam [free but lonely]) and F-A-F (frei aber froh [free but happy]) that were significant to Johannes Brahms. It is also a rumination on the Brahmsian dualities of freedom and solitude, spontaneity and control, and sentiment and structure.”

The Brahms Concerto No. 2 is, of course, the Stonehenge of romantic piano concertos, but it avoids being ponderous because it is also a cornucopia of gorgeous tunes.

Single tickets for the LA Philharmonic are $38-$103. Click here to purchase tickets online, or visit The Granada box office, 1214 State St., or call 805.899.2222.

— 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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