Sunday, February 18 , 2018, 10:44 am | A Few Clouds 58º


Margo Kline: Music Club Shines with Pianist Betty Oberacker

Saturday's free concert was another gem, with works by Brahms and Debussy

Among the musical riches with which this community is blessed, the Santa Barbara Music Club shines especially bright, as it did Saturday in a concert with pianist Betty Oberacker.

Oberacker appeared in the Faulkner Gallery of the Santa Barbara Central Library, with two collaborators, in works by Johannes Brahms and Claude Debussy. This was a kind of bonus concert from the club, which generally provides one morning concert a month and one matinee. As is customary with most Music Club events, there was no charge for admission.

Oberacker, professor emeritus of music at UCSB among her many accomplishments, partnered with violinist Philip Ficsor in the Brahms Sonata No. 1 in G major, Opus 78. What we read about the composer is that he lived modestly, was deeply devoted to pianist Clara Wieck Schumann and slouched around Viennawearing an old overcoat fastened with a safety pin. That his music is sublime is, of course, a matter of taste, but for many music lovers it is comparable to the works of Ludwig van Beethoven and Johann Sebastian Bach.

The violin sonata is in three movements, winding up with an allegro molto moderato to which Oberacker and Ficsor brought a pleasing harmony. Ficsor is assistant professor of violin and chamber music at Westmont College and also an advocate of contemporary composers, but fared quite handsomely in the Brahms.

Oberacker then played three works by Debussy: La puerto delvino (“The Portof Wine”), La fille aux cheveux de lin (“The Girl with the Flaxen Hair”) and Jardins sous la pluie (“Gardens in the Rain”). Debussy enjoyed great favor in France in the 19th century, where his music was dubbed “Impressionistic,” i.e. with some dissonance and often lacking in formal tone and key signature. Debussy said he disliked that term, but his compositions were considered quite modern for his time.

The closing set of pieces consisted of works from the Brahms Hungarian Dances, Opus 65a. Here, Oberacker was joined at the piano by Stephen Schneider, who — along with his chamber music avocation — is a practicing attorney. He and Oberacker brought a high level of energy to these infectious works. However curmudgeonly Brahms appeared to the people who knew him, he seemed to tap into a deep vein of joy for these dances.

The Music Club’s next concert will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday, May 11 at First Congregational Church, 2101 State St. in Santa Barbara. Works by Brahms, Clara Schumann, Johannes Donjon and Albert Franz Doppler will be on the program.

— Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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