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Gerald Carpenter: Symphony to Highlight Harpist Letizia Belmondo

Weekend programs will also feature works by Mozart, Wagner and Renié

For reasons that will become crystal clear in a moment, the April concerts by the Santa Barbara Symphony bear the name “Mozart’s Jupiter.” They will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in The Granada, 1214 State St.

Henriette Renié brought the harp to new prominence in classical music.
Henriette Renié brought the harp to new prominence in classical music.

The program, conducted by Nir Kabaretti, with remarkable harpist Letizia Belmondo as guest artist, will consist of the orchestral version of Richard Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, Henriette Renié’s Concerto in C-Minor for Harp and Orchestra (1901) and Wolfgang Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 in C-Major, K. 551, known as the “Jupiter.”

Renié (1875-1956) graduated from the Paris Conservatory when she was 12. This should tell us, if not everything we need to know about her, something pretty important about her precocity and determination. She was 70, after all, before she would have been able to vote, although I doubt that she ever took advantage of the extension of the franchise.

She was a pious Catholic and, except where music was concerned, accepted without question the prevailing wisdom that a woman’s place was in the home. It was, in fact, her piety and not her gender that prevented her from being offered a teaching position at the conservatory and delayed by decades her induction into the Legion of Honor. Official France was as adamantly secular as she was adamantly Catholic.

She began to compose her Harp Concerto while still a student at the conservatory, but did not finish it until 1901. It has since become a classic. Her compositions and her playing had a decisive effect in bringing the harp to prominence. She was also sought after as a teacher, and had many famous students, including a popular vaudevillian named Arthur Adolph Marx, known as “Harpo.”

Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony was the last one he finished. It is also his longest, especially if you take all the repeats. It is in every respect a large-scaled work, with an impressive fugue in the last movement. Still, however ambitious for glory he might have been when he wrote it, he did not call it the “Jupiter.” It is not known whether he ever heard it performed.

Tickets to these concerts 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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