Sunday, March 18 , 2018, 9:20 pm | Fair 53º


Gerald Carpenter: Music Club Adds Second Matinée

Saturday's free program will feature pianist Betty Oberacker

Johannes Brahms without a beard — did you recognize him?
Johannes Brahms without a beard — did you recognize him?

Usually, each month brings us one morning concert and one matinée concert from the Santa Barbara Music Club, but this month we have the gift of a second matinée concert, at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Santa Barbara Central Library’s Faulkner Gallery. Like all but a very few of this sterling organization’s events, this concert is free.

The program is something of a star turn for majestic pianist Betty Oberacker — unusual for a Music Club concert, she plays, mostly as a collaborator, on every piece. And, I hasten to add, what a treat for us!

The afternoon will begin and end with Johannes Brahms (1833-97), with a creamy nougat center of Claude Debussy (1862-1918), while Oberacker will begin and end as a collaborator, with an all-too-brief but centrally located solo performance in between.

She will start by teaming up with violinist Philip Ficsor to perform Brahms’ Sonata No. 1 in G-Major for Violin and Piano, Opus 78. Oberacker then will solo in three pieces by Debussy: two of his Préludes (“The Port of Wine” and “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair”) and one Estampes (“Gardens In the Rain”). Then Oberacker and pianist Steven Schneider will conclude with a generous selection (Nos. 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 11, 17, 20, 5) from Brahms’ Hungarian Dances for Piano Four Hands, Opus 65a.

By 1935, Grove’s calls Brahms the “last in the great line of German symphonists,” and says that he “lived a quiet uneventful life unlike that of many of his predecessors.” So his life must have appeared from the outside, but still water runs deep, and no one who has heard any of his music could doubt that he was subject to strong passions.

His lifelong devotion to Clara Wieck Schumann is a case in point. Brahms’ sex life was a well-kept secret, and I hope it remains so, but apart from his mother (44 years old when she bore him) and Clara, he seems to have known almost no women. That he was in love with Clara is, I think, a virtual certainty; that they were ever lovers is extremely unlikely. She was his best friend, and their correspondence is a treasure trove of details about musical life in the 19th century.

As to the G-Major Violin Sonata, Oberacker tells me that Brahms composed it after the untimely death of Clara’s (and Robert’s) son Felix, and it may well be a kind of elegy. Clara obviously thought so, for she wrote to Brahms (again, thanks to Oberacker): “(I) could not help bursting into tears of joy over it. ... I wish the last movement could accompany me to the next world.”

— 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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