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Gerald Carpenter: UCSB Arts & Lectures to Present Unclassifiable Classic

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein and singer, pianist and composer Gabriel Kahane will perform together Wednesday in Hahn Hall

Some concerts resist neat classification and can’t be comfortably dropped into bins labeled “classical” or “popular,” “folk” or “jazz,” “world music” or “easy listening.”

Cellist Alisa Weilerstein
Cellist Alisa Weilerstein

Of course, classical artists have, at least since the 1950s, made frequent forays into the world of popular music in attempts to expand their audiences — Eileen Farrell singing blues, Kiri Te Kanawa singing Broadway show tunes, Yo-Yo Ma playing Ennio Morricone — and jazz greats like Benny Goodman or John Lewis have stepped rather effortlessly into classical venues and covered themselves in glory.

But almost always these trans-genre performances have not attempted to mix genres within a single event, and those few who have made the attempt have rarely succeeded.

An exception will take the stage in Hahn Hall of the Music Academy of the West, 1070 Fairway Road in Santa Barbara, at 8 p.m. Wednesday when UCSB Arts & Lectures sponsors the Santa Barbara debuts of cellist Alisa Weilerstein and singer, pianist and composer Gabriel Kahane.

Weilerstein, still in her 20s, is already hailed as “Yo-Yo Ma’s heiress apparent as sovereign of the American cello,” while Kahane, son of the brilliant pianist Jeffrey Kahane, has cut a triumphant swath through “the indie, classical and theater worlds while effortlessly blurring the lines between them.”

Though billed as a “duo recital offer(ing) an unprecedented dialogue between cello and piano,” the two artists will, in fact, collaborate on only one piece — the last, of the announced program, Kahane’s new composition Little Sleep’s Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight, a cello sonata/song cycle setting of Galway Kinnell’s poem of the same name, from his magnum opus The Book of Nightmares.

For the rest, Weilerstein will perform two of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello (No. 3 in C-Major; No. 5 in C-Minor), between which baritone Kahane will sing a selection of his songs, accompanying himself on the piano, banjo, electric guitar and loops.

I can’t imagine, really, how it will all fit together, but I would be willing to bet that it does so beautifully.

Tickets to Weilerstein and Kahane are $30 for the general public and $18 for UCSB students, and can be obtained by calling UCSB Arts & Lectures at 805.893.3535. Click here to order online.

— 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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