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Gerald Carpenter: CAMA Introduces Seoul-ful Ensemble

Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, with guest soloist Wu Wei, will make its Santa Barbara debut Wednesday at the Granada

The 2011-12 International Series of the Community Arts Music Association will continue with a concert by the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 18 in the Granada Theatre, 1214 State St.

The orchestra, making its Santa Barbara debut, will be conducted by Myung-whun Chung (last seen in town in 2010, conducting the Philharmonic Orchestra of Radio France), with Chinese sheng virtuoso Wu Wei as guest soloist. A highlight of the program will be the performance of a work by Seoul Philharmonic Composer-in-Residence Unsuk Chin, in which Wei’s extraordinary talents will come into play.

The program consists of “Five Children’s Pieces” from Maurice Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, Chin’s Šu (Concerto in One Movement for Chinese Sheng and Orchestra), Claude Debussy’s impressionistic war-horse

and Ravel’s “choreographic poem for orchestra,” La valse.

This program intrigues me. It, of course, reflects Chung’s recent seasons at the head of a French orchestra. But he has also deliberately chosen impressionistic French works, and scheduled them in such a way as to provide a musical frame for the Chin concerto. What I wonder is, does the concerto blend seamlessly with the Debussy and Ravel — or stand dramatically apart from them? We shall hear the answer Wednesday evening.

Then, too, La valse is a curious note to end on — brilliant in many ways, disturbing in a few. With this poem, written first, like Mother Goose, for solo piano, Ravel joins the “lost generation” of post-World War I Europe. He conceived the work before the war, as a tribute to Vienna, home of the waltz. By 1919, when the work was premiered, something had gone wrong — at first subtly, later catastrophically — with the city and its signature dance. Ravel protested that commentators were wrong to hear La valse as an allegory of German militarism or the end of civilization.

“I conceived this work as a kind of apotheosis of the Viennese waltz,” he said, “which is mingled in my own mind with the impression of a fantastic and fatal wild circling movement.” Nevertheless, Ravel had served on the Western Front, and La valse sounds more like Gustav Mahler than like La Mer.

Tickets to the Seoul 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). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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