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Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 12:05 am | Fair 49º


Vienna Philharmonic Makes First Visit to Santa Barbara

UCSB Arts & Lectures and CAMA combine to host famed orchestra Tuesday at The Granada

UCSB Arts & Lectures, in association with the Community Arts Music Association (CAMA), is bringing the celebrated Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra to town for its first Santa Barbara concert at 8 p.m. Tuesday at The Granada.

Guest conductor Semyon Bychkov will lead the exalted Vienna Philharmonic at The Granada.
Guest conductor Semyon Bychkov will lead the exalted Vienna Philharmonic at The Granada. (Sheila Rock photo)

The orchestra, led by guest conductor Semyon Bychkov (the ensemble has had no regular conductor since 1933), will play three works: the “Symphony No. 2 in Bb-Major, D. 125,” by Franz Schubert; the “Prelude and Liebestod” (Love-Death) from the music drama Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner; and the “Suite” from the mime-play The Miraculous Mandarin, Opus 19, by Béla Bartók.

On Tuesday, there will also be, co-presented with the UCSB Music Department, master classes with members of Vienna Philharmonic and UCSB students: at 10:30 a.m., a horn masterclass with professor Thomas Joebstl; at 12:30 p.m., a clarinet master class with Mathhias Schorn; and at 3 p.m., a flute master class with professor Wolfgang Schulz. All master classes will take place in Geiringer Hall (UCSB Music Building).

“Great” is a subjective judgement, no matter how many authorities agree unanimously, and “greatest” increases the subjectivity into the realm of arrogant presumption, but I think it is reasonable to say that there is no better symphony orchestra currently performing anywhere on earth than the Vienna Philharmonic. Founded in 1842, it is by no means the oldest such organization, but the antiquity of an orchestra is a meaningless measure of its worth. No matter how beautiful it sounded a hundred years ago, the musicians who made it so are all dead.

The reasons for the Vienna Philharmonic’s unsurpassed excellence are several. For one thing, it was founded as a completely independent entity, and all decisions affecting the orchestral are made by a democratic vote of all its members. For another, all their musicians are chosen from the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, and must prove themselves after a minimum of three years playing with the opera or ballet before they can apply for membership in the philharmonic. (A Juilliard Ph.D. in performance, and a letter of recommendation from the ghost of Richard Strauss will get to an invitation to try out, on your own dime, for the opera orchestra.) Having no permanent music director to rule them from above, each musician is responsible for maintaining the standard of performance of the orchestra as a whole, and, as you may imagine — as you will hear — the standards are very high indeed.

The Schubert symphony, composed when he was 17, has charm, brilliant energy and an exquisite minuet. The Wagner has ..., oh, you know. The Bartók, from right after World War I, was perhaps included on the program to demonstrate that the band doesn’t always have to sound like whipped cream on velvet, but can raise a spiky ruckus with the best of them.

Admission to the master classes is free. The range for concert tickets to the general public begins at $53 but those so inclined can pay as much as $153; UCSB students can get in for $28. For tickets or more information, call Arts & Lectures at 805.893.3535, the Granada at 805.899.2222, or click here to purchase tickets 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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