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Gerald Carpenter: Santa Barbara Symphony to Serve Gourmet Orchestral Feast

Concerts on Saturday and Sunday at the Granada will feature violinist Anne Akiko Meyers

The Santa Barbara Symphony will start out the new year with a spectacular brace of concerts featuring virtuoso violinist Anne Akiko Meyers at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in the Granada Theatre.

Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers will whip up a dessert of Vaughan Williams and Ravel with the Santa Barbara Symphony this Saturday and Sunday.
Violinist Anne Akiko Meyers will whip up a dessert of Vaughan Williams and Ravel with the Santa Barbara Symphony this Saturday and Sunday.

The program, conducted by Maestro Nir Kabaretti, will open with Johann Sebastian Bach’s ebullient Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G-Major, BWV 1048, followed by Ernest Bloch’s Concerto Grosso No. 1 for String Orchestra and Piano Obbligato, Franz Josef Haydn’s Symphony No. 83 in G-Minor, Hoboken I/83, “La Poule/“The Hen”, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, Romance for Violin and Orchestra and Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane, Rapsodie de Concert for Violin and Orchestra.

(Note: Meyers, the soloist in the last two selections, will be 8½ months pregnant when she steps onto the Granada stage, so it is in the realm of possibility that one or the other of these concerts will contain more drama than the symphony planned for.)

All musicians worship Bach, each according to their particular involvement, but all music lovers adore the Brandenburg Concertos, perhaps because, in these six irreplaceable masterpieces, the exalted master seems to have, for once, absolutely no pedagogic agenda whatever but aims only to delight and — gasp! — entertain. Favorites among the six are chosen on exclusively personal lines, but most of us, I think, would put the jaunty No.3 very near the top.

In the institution’s earliest years, Bloch (1880-1959) was composer-in-residence at the Music Academy of the West — yet another biographical feature to prevent the pigeon-holing of this remarkable composer, who, as John Thornton wrote in 1959, the year of Bloch’s death, “established no ‘school’ … thoroughly discouraged followers or groups of organized Bloch admirers … detested sycophancy, avoided public attention and wrote nothing to arouse a great furor such as was created by Stravinsky or Ives.”

Discussing the Concerto Grosso, I had hoped to avoid the unevocative and ambiguous term “neo-classical.” Yet, listening again to my two recordings of the work, I must admit that there are certain similarities to Stravinsky works composed in the same period (1920s), when the term was being bandied about rather wantonly. Probably, the similarities stem from the admiration the two men shared for the baroque. Even more pronounced, however, is Bloch’s penchant for Hebrew harmonic structures and Hebrew folk melodies. It is a strong work — haunting, assertive, melodic.

The inimitable Robert Craft (though I have, in fact, been trying to imitate him for most of my adult life) once said of a Mozart piano concerto that it was “another perfect mansion in the Kingdom of Mozart.” It is not for me to establish the perfection of Haydn’s 104 symphonies; it is self evident.

Writing “The Hen” — the name refers to the second subject of the first movement, which reminded someone, perhaps the composer, of clucking — surely involved hard work, but none of it is apparent to the listener, to whom it sounds as difficult as a mountain stream making its way toward the sea.

Except that it is fairly brief (15 minutes), The Lark Ascending is quintessential Williams — exquisite folk melodies woven like gold and silver threads through lush orchestral tapestries. Nobody did it better.

Tickets to these concerts are available from the Granada box office at 1214 State St., which can be reached by phone at 805.899.2222 or online. Students with valid student ID can purchase $10 tickets in advance at the Granada box office.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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