(So far, so good, but I am obliged to caution you that the city parking lot nearest the Lobero, Lot No. 9 behind the theater, will be closed the day of the concert. You’ll need to make alternate arrangements, which will probably include starting a few minutes earlier than usual. City lots at Canon Perdido and Chapala, at Anacapa above Carrillo, at Ortega and Anacapa, and at Haley and Anacapa will be open.)
Two works are on the program: the Concerto No. 27 in Bb-Major for Piano and Orchestra, K. 595 by Wolfgang Mozart, with the brilliant young pianist Alessio Bax as soloist; and Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in C Major, D. 944, known as “the Great C,” both on account of its majestic proportions and to distinguish it from the much shorter No. 6 in the same key. Maestro Heiichiro Ohyama will conduct.
Hyperbole is a malady that often afflicts the writers of liner notes, and musicologist David Johnson is stricken almost fatally in his notes to the Casadesus/Szell recording of K. 595 on Columbia.
“It is the greatest of the piano concertos,” he asserted, flatly, “the one we could least afford to do without.”
Well, this may be the Mozart piano concerto that Johnson would take to a desert island, but if I were packing for such a sojourn, I would have a terrible time choosing just one recording each of Nos. 9-27, inclusive. Nor do I think there is anything particularly valedictorian about this concerto, though it is his last.
It was written nearly 11 months before he died, and he had no reason to suspect that he had so little time left. (Unlike Gustav Mahler, who was always saying goodbye, Mozart was not of a morbid turn of mind — albeit he had no illusions about the transitory nature of human existence.) Indeed, it would be difficult to find any movement of Mozart that is happier and more full of sweet life than the charming rondo that concludes this work. No, as beautiful and miraculous as this concerto is, we must hear it as, in Robert Craft’s words, “just another perfect mansion in the Kingdom of Mozart.”
Keeping straight the numbers of Schubert’s symphonies is often as tricky as, for different reasons, keeping straight those of Felix Mendelssohn and Antonin Dvorak. Schubert left, completed or not, a total of 10 symphonies, as well as several orphan fragments — what Brian Newbould has termed “symphonic miscarriages.” Of the 10 , the first six bear the number that reflects the order of their composition. After that, it becomes murky.
I have two or three recordings of the “Great C” that identify it as “No. 7,” but all the rest call it “No. 9.” Until I found it so-dubbed on the Chamber Orchestra’s website, I never have seen it called “No. 8.” The chamber’s number may simply be a typo, but if it is intentional, I wouldn’t mind seeing it justified. After all, the assignment of “No. 8” to Schubert’s famous “Unfinished Symphony” is time-honored, and why sow pointless confusion?
That said, if you think it inappropriate for such a big work to be performed by a “chamber” orchestra, think again. After hearing Ohyama and his wonderful crew perform it, you are likely to find all performances with larger forces to be pompous and overdressed. Rendered by a modest-sized ensemble, this ravishing work becomes — a neat trick — both more romantic and more classical. There is, in any case, nothing quite like it in the repertory. It was the only symphony Schubert managed to finished in the last 10 years of his pitifully short life (when he reached Mozart’s age, Schubert had been dead four years). As with the “Unfinished,” he never heard it performed, though it didn’t have to wait so long. The first performance of “No. 8” did not take place until 1865 (Schubert died in 1828). “No. 9” was first performed in 1839, in Leipzig; the conductor was — who else? — Mendelssohn.
Tickets to Tuesday’s concert are $47 ($44 plus $3 facility fee) or $42 ($39 plus $3 facility fee) and are available at the Lobero box office. Click here to purchase tickets online or call 805.963.0761.
— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at email@example.com.