For this reason or that — mainly, I suspect, the one-hour format of its free concerts — the Santa Barbara Music Club generally avoids longer works in order to pack as much variety into each program. For its next Matinée Concert, however, it has scheduled not one but two full-length works by Beethoven.
At 3 p.m. Saturday in the downtown library’s Faulkner Gallery, club members will perform Beethoven’s Quartet in E-Flat Major for Piano and Strings, Opus 16 (with Elaine Schott on violin, Sandy Homb on viola, Sally Greenebaum on cello and John Sonquist on piano), followed by a selection of Negro Spirituals sung by soprano Dauri Kennedy, with Val Underwood on piano. It will conclude with Beethoven’s miraculous Piano Sonata in A-Flat Major, Opus 110 — the “Tempest” — performed by Christopher Davis.
Those of you familiar with the Beethoven catalogue will be surprised to see a Beethoven piano quartet with a regular Opus number, because there aren’t any.
There are three amazingly delightful quartets he wrote when he was 14, which show up as WoO 36, Nos. 1-3 (“WoO” = “Werke ohne Opuszahl” or “Works without opus number”), but Opus 16 is a Quintet for Piano and Winds. Of course, it is this quintet we will hear, transcribed for piano and strings by the composer (no one is exactly sure when). It has that nimble charm that only early Beethoven possesses.
The “Tempest” Sonata is not program music, exactly, though Beethoven was inspired, he said, by the Shakespeare play of the same name. The final movement is the composer at his most compelling — and his most mysterious.
I have long felt that Beethoven’s enduring popularity is not based on his thundering or his invincible solemnity; it is the image of the mysterious solitary wanderer that draws us to him — we glimpse it in “Für Elise” and in the high trilling in the “Emperor” Concerto, the ecstatic yearning in the first movement of the “Pastoral” Symphony — but in this sonata, we get to spend more time with him. We don’t get to know him, because that is not possible, but we want to know him more than ever.
Tickets to the concert are priceless — because it’s free, like most Music Club events. For more information on the club, click here or call 805.683.0811.
— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.