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Gerald Carpenter: CAMA to Host China Philharmonic at Granada

The ensemble, with conductor Long Yu and guest violinist Renaud Capuçon, will perform Thursday

Lithograph of Hector Berlioz by August Prinzhofer in Vienna circa 1845.
Lithograph of Hector Berlioz by August Prinzhofer in Vienna circa 1845.

The next event sponsored by the Community Arts Music Association will be a visit from the China Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Long Yu, with guest artist violinist Renaud Capuçon. They will play at 8 p.m. Thursday in The Granada, 1214 State St. in Santa Barbara.

The program for the concert consists of Hector Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture, Opus 9; Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C-Major, Opus 48; Max Bruch’s Concerto No. 1 in G-Minor for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 26 (with M. Capuçon); and Maurice Ravel’s Boléro (1928).

The China Philharmonic isn’t taking any chances with this program. The riskiest piece on it, not to mention the most interesting, is the one by Berlioz. It was made up of bits and passages of the music from his opera Benvenuto Cellini, especially from the opera’s carnival scene, whence the title. Berlioz was able to conduct the premiere himself, and it was a triumph.

“I was never more blessedly aware,” he wrote, “of being able to to conduct my music myself. … Unhappy composers! Learn to conduct yourselves (in both senses of the word); for conductors, never forget, are the most dangerous of all your interpreters.” There is a wonderful, and justly famous, aria for English horn.

The rest of the concert is easily heard, though remembered with difficulty. The exception is the entrance of the solo violin in the Bruch piece, in which the fiddle strikes a grand Byronic pose and sustains it, heroically, while the orchestra scrambles to get out of its way: “‘Tis done — but yesterday a King!/ And arm’d with Kings to strive — And now thou art a nameless thing:/ So abject — yet alive!/ Is this the man of thousand thrones,/ Who strew’d our earth with hostile bones,/ And can he thus survive?” The concerto cannot quite live up to the grandeur of those opening bars, but it is a noble piece.

There is a story — too pat to be completely true — that at the premiere of Boléro a woman stood up in the audience and shouted, “Ravel! You are mad!” The story goes on to say that when the woman’s testimony was reported to him, Ravel nodded and said, “Ah! She understands, then.”

Tickets to the China Philharmonic Orchestra concert are available from the Granada box office at 1214 State St. or 805.899.2222. Click here to order 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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