Sunday, August 19 , 2018, 11:05 pm | Fair 68º

 
 
 
 

Santa Barbara Music Club Throws an Elegant Party for Mendelssohn

Faulkner Gallery performance offers an intimate sample of timeless classics.

For its “Mendelssohn 200th Birthday Celebration Concert,” at 3 p.m. Saturday, the Santa Barbara Music Club has devised a program that, deliberately or unconsciously, has captured the central fact of this rare genius: like Joseph Haydn before him, Felix Mendelssohn’s unvarying goal was to please his listeners — and, like Haydn, he reached that goal with every single composition. To be sure, also like Haydn, the concert, in the Santa Barbara Central Library’s Faulkner Gallery, is free.

Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1808-1847), genius and gentleman.
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1808-1847), genius and gentleman.
Members of the Music Club will perform selections from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (pianists Betty Oberacker and Steven Schneider will play the composer’s original transcription for piano four-hands, made for himself and his sister, Fanny); selected Mendelssohn songs (sung by Andre Shillo, baritone, accompanied by Betty Oberacker, piano); and the Trio No. 1 in d minor, Opus 44 (played by Philip Ficsor, violin, Geoffrey Rutkowski, cello, and Betty Oberacker, piano).

The Felix Mendelssohn Story doesn’t have much in common with the traditional narrative of a romantic artist. He was born rich, into a large, intensely loving family. He made friends easily and kept them for the rest of his life. He worshiped his father, a sensible banker, and adored his mother, the kind and sympathetic hostess of the most brilliant salon in Berlin. His was not a life of struggle, of triumph over adversity. He never had to rebel against injustice or oppression. Even his Jewish heritage, which one might suppose would have presented considerable obstacles in anti-Semitic Europe, did not impede him because his father, like Benjamin Disraeli’s, quarreled with his rabbi and had his children baptized as Lutherans. Also, in Protestant Berlin, there were more opportunities for even unconverted Jews than if he had been born in a Catholic city like Vienna — where, as late as 1997, Gustav Mahler had to convert to Catholicism to be eligible for the job of state opera director.

Mendelssohn’s genius was recognized almost as soon as he first sat down at a piano. Each composition was accepted — nay, embraced — as soon as performed. His early death, at 38, was not, like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s, due to prolonged penury or lack of generous patrons. He was simply a workaholic who weakened himself with chronic overwork until the first big bug that got hold of him carried him off. The real wonder of his music is that it did not, like so many other composers who dominated their own times (Georg Philipp Telemann, for instance, or Jean-Baptiste Lully), fall into permanent obscurity at his death. Mendelssohn’s music pleases today as much or more as it did when he was alive. It thrives today because it, like the isle in The Tempest is “full of sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.” Or, as the great Robert Craft says:

“Mendelssohn has been underrated, even patronized, owing to his neo-classicism, the classicist in the romantic being stronger in him than in any of his contemporaries. But precisely that reason allows, if it does not account, for the continuing elegance and freshness of the new spirit that, still in (Ludwig van) Beethoven’s lifetime, burst into the world full-grown in the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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 through Stripe below, 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
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

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.

  • 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.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >