Pixel Tracker

Friday, January 18 , 2019, 4:21 am | Fair 52º


Gerald Carpenter: Santa Barbara Symphony Braves Scotland for New Year

The Santa Barbara Symphony will start off the new year with a concert aptly called “Mozart & Mendelssohn” — though, to be inclusively accurate, if unalliterative, it should be called “Mozart & Mendelssohn & Takemitsu.” Doesn’t have the same punch, I guess — unless, like me, you’re a Takemitsu fan.

This watercolor of Felix Mendelssohn by James Warren Childe dates from 1829, the year the composer began his 'Scottish' symphony.
This watercolor of Felix Mendelssohn by James Warren Childe dates from 1829, the year the composer began his “Scottish” symphony.

The concert will play at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in The Granada Theatre, will be conducted by maestro Nir Kabaretti, and will feature the guest artistry of the benign wizard Glenn Dicterow on violin and the heavenly Cynthia Phelps on viola.

The program includes three works: How Slow the Wind by Toru Takemitsu (1930-96), the Sinfonia Concertante in Eb-Major for Violin and Viola, K. 364 by Wolfgang Mozart (with Phelps and Dicterow as soloists) and the Symphony No. 3 in A-Minor, Opus 56, “Scottish” by Felix Mendelssohn.

This is not so far-flung a program as you might think. How Slow the Wind was commissioned by the Hope Scott Trust for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and premiered in Glasgow on Nov. 6, 1991. It may be a coincidence that this work starts a concert that ends with this Mendelssohn symphony, but I doubt it. In addition to an interesting complement of winds and strings, there are two percussionists playing, between them, vibraphone, glockenspiel, antique cymbals, tubular bells bells, two cow bells and something that might be a celesta. The result is not cacophony, but an eerie spatial tranquility — ultra-modern, to be sure, but a far cry from the “shock-the-bourgeois-patron” of so many of his contemporaries.

In terms of emotional power, grandeur of design and complexity of musical ideas, the Mozart Sinfonia is worth all his violin concertos put together. It’s Köchel number (364) and year of composition (1779) suggest affinities with the Concerto in Eb-Major for Two Pianos and Orchestra, K. 365 and, indeed, the affinities abound, not least of all the key and the number of soloists.

However, the Sinfonia is by far the stronger, profounder work. Not even in the piano concertos do we find a soloist making a stronger or more assertive entrance than that of the first movement. It is like a grand and dignified bird gliding in for a landing.

Celts and Jews seem always drawn to each other. The progeny of such a cross, biological or cultural, frequently display the highest degree of what is called “hybrid vigor.” Mendelssohn was first drawn to Celtic lands as a result of reading the poems of “Ossian,” which all of Europe fell in love with, believing them translations from the works of an ancient Celtic bard. Most modern scholars, however, now believe the poems are the work of the alleged “translator,” the “enterprising Scot” (Kenneth Clark), James Macpherson.

Whoever wrote them, the poems were important influences on the development of the Romantic Movement — they were Napoleon’s favorite reading, inspired works by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Klopstock, and, besides Mendelssohn, were set to music by Franz Schubert and Niels Gade — as well as the Gaelic Revival.

The “Scotch” Symphony is not a “greater” symphony than Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony, except in terms of scale, but it has an epic sweep and power that the composer rarely matched. 

Tickets to the symphony range from $35 to $100. Click here to purchase tickets online, or call The Granada box office at 805.899.2222.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.