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Gerald Carpenter: Chamber Orchestra Plays Moderno Ma Non Troppo

Heiichiro Ohyama takes the baton to lead all-orchestral performance Tuesday at the Lobero Theatre

The Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of maestro Heiichiro Ohyama, will play and all-orchestral concert at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Lobero Theatre.

Actress Beatrice Stella Tanner, better known as Mrs. Patrick Campbell, commissioned Fauré’s incidental music.
Actress Beatrice Stella Tanner, better known as Mrs. Patrick Campbell, commissioned Fauré’s incidental music.

The orchestra will perform the four-movement Suite from Gabriel Fauré’s incidental music for Maurice Maeterlinck’s “Pelléas et Mélisande, Opus 80;” Arnold Schoenberg’s “Three Pieces for Chamber Orchestra” (1910); Maurice Ravel’s “Ma Mère l’Oye/ Mother Goose” (1908, 1912); Igor Stravinsky’s “Octet for Winds” (1923); and Darius Milhaud’s ballet, “La création du monde, Opus 81” (1923).

The program misses by two years being contained entirely within the 20th century (“Pelléas et Mélisande” was composed in 1898, although the Suite was premiered in 1901). Since, for once, there was no guest soloist to take into consideration, I think we might be safe in assuming that this concert represents at least the parameters of the music director’s taste among the classics of the period. For some reason, I am not entirely surprised that the French predominate. Even the Stravinsky Octet was written in Paris, in 1923, when the composer had been functioning for years as a part of French musical life. It is to Ohyama’s credit that he has included something by Schoenberg, but, then, he has long shown a willingness to schedule the Second Viennese School and clearly admires not just Schoenberg but Alban Berg and Anton Webern, as well. (Those who loathe Schoenberg may console themselves with the thought that they will only have to plug their ears for one minute and 56 seconds — the cumulative duration of the “Three Pieces.”)

From its first performance in 1893, Maeterlinck’s misty impressionistic tragedy “Pelléas et Mélisande” conquered the imagination of Europe to a degree that seems scarcely believable today. In any case, adultery and death were very popular topics for opera and drama in those days, especially when set in the time of legend: Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde, Pelléas and Mélisande, that sort of thing.

Maeterlinck’s play, however, had the distinction of inspiring at least four musical masterpieces: sets of incidental music by Fauré and Sibelius, the opera by Debussy, and Schoenberg’s symphoic poem. For the London premiere of the play, the famous actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell (Beatrice Stella Tanner) tried to get Debussy to write the music, but he was already deep into his opera, so she commissioned Fauré to do it. He finished in a month.

Milhaud first heard jazz in Harlem, in 1922. The following year, he finished his ballet, “La création du monde,” based on African folklore, in which the jazz influence is obvious. In 1961, the great American composer and jazz musician, John Lewis, returned the compliment by composing and recording the delicious ballet, “Original Sin” (Atlantic 1370), in which the influence of “La création du monde” is obvious.

Tickets to this concert are $44 and $39 and are available at the Lobero Theatre Box Office, 33 E. Canon Perdido. Click here to order tickets online, or call 805.963.0761.

— 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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