Thursday, August 16 , 2018, 3:53 pm | Fair 77º


Gerald Carpenter: Santa Barbara Music Club Still Giving It Away

The ensemble will perform a free matinée concert Saturday in the Faulkner Gallery

Pianist-composer Frederic Rzewski: I'm not the right person to pass judgment on how good a composer I am.
Pianist-composer Frederic Rzewski: “I’m not the right person to pass judgment on how good a composer I am.” (Michael Wilson photo)

The generous souls of the Santa Barbara Music Club will offer a free matinée concert at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Faulkner Gallery of the Santa Barbara Central Library.

The music will be the usual high-quality mix, including pianist Neil Di Maggio playing Claude Debussy’s Pour le piano (1894-1901) and Frederic Rzewski’s rousing (and fascinating) arrangement of the ballad “Down by the Riverside.”

Then soprano Takako Wakita will sing, with the inestimable support of pianist Betty Oberacker, a set of mystical and romantic songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Antonin Dvorak. Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet in C-Minor, Opus 18, No. 4 (1799), will close the afternoon, played by the Channel Islands String Quartet.

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to assume that everyone reading this has a working knowledge of Debussy, Williams, Dvorak and Beethoven. That leaves Rzewski (born in 1938), who is an American composer and virtuoso pianist.

Rzewski attended Phillips Academy and Harvard and Princeton universities, where he studied with such luminaries as Randall Thompson, Roger Sessions, Walter Piston and Milton Babbitt.

A 1960 trip to Italy put him under the influence of Luigi Dallapiccola, and got him started as a pianist specializing in new piano music. In 1977, he became a professor of composition at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique in Liège, Belgium, which remains his base, with the occasional guest stint teaching at Yale, the University of Cincinnati, CalArts, UC San Diego, the Royal Conservatory of The Hague and Trinity College of Music in London.

According to one source, “Many of (his) works are inspired by secular and socio-historical themes, show a deep political conscience, and feature improvisational elements.” If this gives you a clue as to what his music sounds like, you are doing better than I am. I do, however, know the tune of “Down by the Riverside.”

— 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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