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Gerald Carpenter: Santa Barbara Music Club Plays for Free at Library

Hal Isbitz to provide rich performance of ragtime favorites

The Santa Barbara Music Club continues its 2010-2011 season with a free morning concert at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the Santa Barbara Central Library’s Faulkner Gallery, 40 E. Anapamu St.

Carl Friedrich Abel with his dog and his viola da gamba painted by Gainsborough.
Carl Friedrich Abel with his dog and his viola da gamba painted by Gainsborough.

The program will consist of “Three Piano Rags” (“Victoria Rag,” “Queen Anne’s Lace - A Sentimental Rag,” “Tulsey Town Rag”), composed and performed by Hal Isbitz (b. 1931); the “Sonata No. 2 in d-minor, wko 208,” by Carl Friedrich Abel (1723-1787), played by Andrew Saunders, viola da gamba; and mezzo-soprano Katelyn Neumann, with pianist Farley Neumann, will sing songs and arias by Marietta Brambilla (“L’Allegro”), Johannes Brahms (“Auf dem Kirchhofe/In the Churchyard”), Ralph Vaughan Williams (“Silent Noon”) and Georges Bizet (“Pres des ramparts de Seville” from Carmen).

Santa Barbara resident Hal Isbitz is a name to conjure with in contemporary ragtime circles. According to the West Coast Ragtime Festival Web site, Isbitz “is a retired computer programmer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. He is a classically trained musician. He started writing ragtime in the mid-‘70s and to date has written over 70 rags and related pieces. Hal’s music is routinely performed at ragtime festivals around the world. Several of his compositions have been recorded by the top ragtime stars.”

Abel’s father played the viola da gamba in Johann Sebastian Bach’s orchestra at Köthen, where Friedrich was born in 1723. Bach got him his first job, in Dresden. He went to England in 1759, and when his boyhood friend, Johann Christian Bach, joined him there in 1762, they established the Bach-Abel concerts, which were the first subscription concerts in England, and which saw the English premieres of many works by Franz Joseph Haydn.

The viola da gamba is a stringed instrument similar to the modern cello, but, possessing frets and other distinctive features, sounds quite a bit different. The French composer Marin Marais — subject of the film All the Mornings of the World — was probably the greatest exponent of the instrument. Abel also played the cello.

Brambilla (1807-1875) was a famous opera singer. She was the eldest of five sisters — all distinguished singers — and made her debut in London in 1827, in Semiramide. She had a great voice, great technique and great beauty, so her mediocre acting talent in no way hampered her career on the operatic stage. A cardnial once said of her: “She has the finest eyes, the sweetest voice and the best disposition in the world. If she is discovered to possess any other merits, the safety of the Catholic Church will require her excommunication.”

Click here for more information on the Santa Barbara Music Club.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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