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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 8:34 am | Fair 43º


Gerald Carpenter: Music Club to Perform Sounds of Holland, France and Bohemia

The Santa Barbara Music Club will offer a free “Afternoon Concert” at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Faulkner Gallery of the Santa Barbara Central Library, 40 E. Anapamu St.

Hendrik Andriessen made Catholicism audible again in the Netherlands.
Hendrik Andriessen made Catholicism audible again in the Netherlands.

The program will begin with two works for oboe and piano, performed by Ted Rust (oboe) and Viva Knight (piano): the Ballade by Dutch composer Hendrik Andriessen (1892-1981), and the Sonatine of the Frenchman Pierre de Bréville (1861-1949).

These works will be followed by talented young virtuoso pianist Neil Di Maggio, playing Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sonata in Eb-Major, Opus 27, No. 1. The concert will conclude with the impeccable flautist Adrian Spence, backed by pianist Christopher Davis, performing the Sonata for Flute and Piano, H. 306 of Czech master Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959).

Andriessen, composer and organist, was famous for his organ improvisations, and for working a one-man revival of Catholic liturgical music in the Netherlands. Some claim a French influence in his music, perhaps because his wrote a biography of César Franck (who was, after all, not French but Belgian), but I don’t hear it. He is mainly romantic and very serious in his compositions — as opposed to light and ironic — acknowledging the 20th century, but never surrendering to its vulgarity.

From what I have heard of his works, he sounds most like the brilliant young German composer Rudi Stephan (1887-1915), who was killed in the Ukraine in the early stages of World War I.

Andriessen was a charter member of a powerful musical dynasty. His brother, Willem, was a notable pianist and composer; his two sons, Jurriaan and Louis, are eminent composers, while his daughter, Heleen Andriessen, is an admired flautist.

The music of de Bréville, on the other hand, sounds uniquely French to me. Like so many other French composers, he set out to become a lawyer in accordance with his parents’ wishes. The call of music was too strong for him, however, and he chucked law school for the Conservatoire de Paris, and eventually pursued his degree under the direction of Franck. He doesn’t sound like Franck, though — more like somewhere between Emmanuel Chabrier and Jean Françaix.

Martinu’s music is easy to listen to but hard to talk about. It’s rather odd, I think, how many great composers have come from tiny Bohemia. One could even say it’s disproportionate. The great historian A.J.P. Taylor remembered being angrily rebuked for suggesting, in print, that Antonin Dvorak was as great a composer as Johannes Brahms.

For their part, the Czechs got damned sick of being ordered around by Germans and even sicker, I daresay, of taking instruction from the Kremlin. Martinu was on the run for much of his life, an exile among people who hadn’t a clue as to his musical value, but treated him kindly and generously. His works sparkle with irony, and though he loved his homeland, he was not nationalistic in his compositions.

I have found that, with Martinu, listening to recordings of his works is not likely to lead to forming a cult, but a live performance, by the right musicians, can light the way into a different and sometimes magical place — and Spence is the right musician. Not only a great flautist, he is a longtime champion of Martinu.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are his own.

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