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UCSB Arts & Lectures Plans a Classical April

Violinist Gil Shaham and conductor-less string ensemble Sejong lead off with Sunday performance

As our luck would have it, UCSB Arts & Lectures has scheduled three significant classical music events in April — and that’s no foolin’. Click here for tickets and other information, or call 805.893.3535.

The exquisite pianist Yuja Wang will play a rather Russian recital at Campbell Hall.
The exquisite pianist Yuja Wang will play a rather Russian recital at Campbell Hall.

First up, acclaimed violinist Gil Shaham and the conductor-less string ensemble, Sejong, will offer a celebratory concert in UCSB’s Campbell Hall at 7 p.m. Sunday. Shaham is well-known to, and a great favorite of, Santa Barbara audiences. Sejong, founded in 1995, gathers 14 individually distinguished solo and chamber musicians from eight different nations, under the artistic direction, if not the baton, of Hyo Kang, a faculty member of both the Juilliard School and Yale University.

This year, the same 200 years have elapsed since the death of Franz Josef Haydn (1732-1809) and the birth of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), and this concert’s program honors that fact. Shaham and Sejong will play the “Concerto No. 1 in C Major for Violin and Strings” and the “Concerto No. 2 in G Major for Violin and Strings” by Haydn, as well as the completely amazing “Octet for Strings in E-flat Major, Opus 20,” by Mendelssohn, written when he was a wee slip of a lad of 16.

The concertos are lovely: pure Haydn, yet with a hint of Vivaldi in the slow movements. The “Octet” is one of those miraculous artifacts — like the “Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — that the youthful Mendelssohn captured from the spontaneous eruption of sublime music that had poured out of him forever.

Tickets are $45 to the general public; $15 for UCSB students.

Speaking of youthful achievement, the next A&L concert features piano prodigy Yuja Wang, who offers a recital at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Hahn Hall at the Music Academy of the West.

Yang, who is now 22, has been knocking audiences out since she was 8. Her program will consist of Mendelssohn’s “Variations Sérieuses, Opus 54;” the “Sonata No. 2 in b-flat minor, Opus 35;” “Funeral March” by Frédéric Chopin (who has his bicentennial in 2010); Alexander Scriabin’s “Sonata No. 4 in F-sharp Major, Opus 30;” Nicolai Medtner’s “Sonata Reminiscenza in a minor, Opus 38 No. 1;” and “Three Movements from Petroushka” by Igor Stravinsky.

Medtner (1880-1951) is not much played anymore, but he had considerable influence in his time, and composed quite a bit of fine, late-romantic music, especially for the piano. He was a friend of Rachmaninov, but didn’t leave Russia until 1924, well after the revolution. He wasn’t a Communist, just a homebody; he didn’t even like to go on tour.

Tickets are $35 to the general public; $19 for UCSB students.

Finally, there is what is getting to be A&L’s annual concert by the venerable Emerson String Quartet (Eugene Drucker and Philip Setzer, violins; Lawrence Dutton, viola; David Finckel, cello), who were founded in the year of our bicentennial, 1976, and who take their name from one of the founding fathers of American letters, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The Emerson will play at 8 p.m. April 16 in Campbell Hall. Its program consists of four works: the “String Quartet in f minor, Opus 95, Serioso,” by Ludwig van Beethoven; the “String Quartet in F Major” by Maurice Ravel; the “Six Bagatelles for String Quartet, Opus 9,” by Anton von Webern; and the “String Quartet in F Major, Opus 96, American,” by Antonin Dvořák.

If, like me, you are not particularly enamored of Webern’s music — though I love that of Schönberg and Berg — you may console yourself with the fact that this example of it lasts, in total, less than four minutes. Schönberg wrote the preface to the score. “Consider,” he wrote, “what moderation is required to express oneself so briefly. You can stretch every glance out into a poem, every sigh into a novel. But to express a novel in a single gesture, a joy in a breath — such concentration can only be present in proposition to the absence of self-pity.”

Tickets are $45 to the general public; $15 for UCSB students.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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