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Gerald Carpenter: CAMA Rings the Bell at The Granada

Tuesday concert features violin superstar and host of classic sonatas

The Community Arts Music Association (CAMA) will present a recital by violin superstar Joshua Bell, with Sam Haywood at the keyboard, at 8 p.m. Tuesday on stage at The Granada.

Joshua Bell has been hailed as 'the greatest American violinist active today.'
Joshua Bell has been hailed as “the greatest American violinist active today.” (Timothy White photo)

Bell and Haywood are scheduled to play Johannes Brahms’ “Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano in A-Major, Opus 100;” Franz Schubert’s “Fantasy in C-Major, Opus 159 (D. 934);” Edvard Grieg’s “Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano in G-Major, Opus 13;” and the ever-popular “additional works to be announced from the stage.”

Of Grieg’s first violin-piano sonata, the Norwegian composer Gerhard Schjelderup wrote “it is the work of a youth who has seen only the sunny side of life;” of the sonata Bell and Hayward will play, written just two years later, Schjelderup, who wrote biographies of Grieg and of Wagner, said “it is the gift to the world of a man who has also shivered in the cold mists of night.”

Hmmm. Something tells me that Schjelderup’s biographies were under-researched and over-imagined. But these fanciful characterizations of both sonatas point to the difficulties that today’s music lover often has in hearing Grieg’s actual compositions through the screen of his elfin reputation. Pictures of the composer are nearly always those taken in advanced age, with a snow-white mane and moustache sprouting in every direction, suggesting if not illustrating his tiny stature (4’10”) and his connection to Norwegian folklore. Because he wrote the incidental music for his fellow Norwegian Henrik Ibsen’s poetic drama, Peer Gynt, and because that great score has left such a powerful impression upon our imaginations, and because the ludicrous film biography of Grieg, the Song of Norway, treated his life as if it were a boreal Sound of Music, we can scarcely think of him — let alone hear his music — without picturing trolls and elves, or robust youngsters in dirndls romping hand in hand across mountain meadows.

Before hearing this sonata, it might behoove us to remember that, as the same Ibsen who wrote Peer Gynt and Brand and later wrote Hedda Gabler, An Enemy of the People and When We Dead Awaken, so did Grieg spend relatively little of his career in “The Hall of the Mountain King” — also that in the early decades of the 20th century, the great chamber music of Grieg was a staple of the concert programs of the greatest artists of the age (Rachmaninov, Kreisler, et alia) and that they played his technically challenging works without a hint of condescension. Then they all but vanished. Only in the last couple of decades are these splendid pieces beginning to earn their way back into concert halls, and about time.

Tickets to the concert are available from The Granada box office, 1214 State St. Click here to order tickets online, or call 805.899.2222.

— 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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