Friday, June 22 , 2018, 10:13 pm | Fog/Mist 60º


Pianist Margaret Mills to Tickle UCSB Audience with Star Treatment

Faculty composer Joel Feigin singled out for special performance

The UCSB Music Department is bringing the superb pianist, Margaret Mills, to Santa Barbara for a solo recital at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Karl Geiringer Hall (Music Room 1250). Mills will play a fascinating program that includes two works by a world-class local composer and a work each from four women composers. Mills will also offer a free lecture, “Meditations and Overtones — New Piano Music of the 20-21st Century,” at 2 p.m. Tuesday in Geiringer Hall.

Pianist Margaret Mills will play a unique concert at UCSB.
Pianist Margaret Mills will play a unique concert at UCSB.

Mills has performed throughout the United States and Europe, as well as in China. Click here for more information.

UCSB faculty composer Joel Feigin gets a much-deserved star treatment in Mills’ program. She will play his “Variations on Empty Space” from 2008 (the California premiere of a piece commissioned by Mills), and “Meditations from Dogen.” The program continues with Ruth Schonthal’s “Sonata Breve” (1972), Amy Beach’s “Five Improvisations for Piano, Opus 148” (1944), Betty Wishart’s “Sonata” (1973), and concludes with Gloria Coates’ “Sonata No. 1: Tones in Overtones” (1972).

Feigin came to my attention 10 years ago, when he had just come to UCSB, and a visiting orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of the Kremlin, came to Campbell Hall and played one of his pieces, the “Mosaic in Two Panels.” The first music of his I heard, I knew he was the real thing — not just some hack writing in the acceptable mode of the time, but a man of good tunes and great understanding, both of how music is made and what it is for.

Of “Variations on Empty Space,” Feigin says it “was written in memory of my mother, pianist Mollie Kanowitz Feigin. It portrays her life and death, her love and her anguish, against a background of empty space.” The “Four Meditations from Dogen,” he says, “is a concert piece based on music that I originally composed for a video by my Zen teacher at the time, John Daido Loori Roshi, based on the Mountains and Rivers Sutra of the great 13th century master Dogen Zenji.”

Of the ladies, probably the only one who is widely known, alas, is the one who has been dead for 65 years: Beach (1867-1944). She was not only the first successful American female composer of large-scale art music, but also the only one whose works made their way into the regular concert repertoire, and stayed there, even after she was no longer around to play them (she was a sought-after pianist). Coates was born in Wisconsin in 1938, but she moved to Munich, in Bavaria, in 1969 and has lived there ever since. Her music is carefully, even strictly, constructed, yet manages to free up the imagination and emotions of the listener. Schonthal (1924-2006) was born in Hamburg, Germany, and educated at the Yale Conservatory. She wrote for television and commercials, played the piano in various bars and clubs, and taught privately in New York. Wishart (b. 1947) has degrees in piano performance from Queens University and the University of North Carolina. In addition to concert music, she has written sacred and pedagogical music.

Admission to the recital is $15 general, $7 students, with tickets sold at the door only. Click here for more information or call 805.893.7001.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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