To finish up its 2011-12 season, the Community Arts Music Association will bring the oldest continuously operating symphony orchestra in the United States, the New York Philharmonic, to town for a concert at 8 p.m. Thursday in the Granada Theatre, 1214 State St. in Santa Barbara.
The orchestra’s new (2009) music director, Alan Gilbert, will conduct, with accomplished piano virtuoso Yefim Bronfman on hand as guest artist. The last time the orchestra played in Santa Barbara was 1969.
The program will consist of three works: Antonín Dvořák’s Carnival Overture, Opus 92, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Concerto No. 3 in C-Minor for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 37 (with Bronfman as soloist) and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F-Minor, Opus 36.
This seems a relatively cautious slate for an orchestra that includes such bold innovators as Gustav Mahler, Leopold Stokowski, Dmitri Mitropoulos, Leonard Bernstein and Pierre Boulez among its roster of past music directors. Still, considering the precarious state of classical music — and all the fine arts — in today’s America, perhaps caution is the course of wisdom. And there will be plenty of excitement, plenty of sparks struck, yet few will dash from the hall with their hands over their ears.
For its 120 years of existence, the Dvořák overture has remained one of his most popular works, and nothing could be less mysterious than its popularity. He composed it in Prague, in 1892, just before he and his family sailed for the New World to take up his post as president of a new conservatory in New York, and it was on the program of the first concert he conducted there upon his arrival. The “Carnival” tag, though entirely appropriate, was an afterthought; it had no real role in the composition. It is the most recent work on the program.
When we consider Beethoven’s six piano concertos — I include his own transcription of his violin concerto — it’s quite remarkable how different they are from one another. When we compare, say, the six violin concertos of his near contemporary, Paganini, we are hard-pressed to tell them apart. Generally, Beethoven’s music doesn’t reflect much of the influence of Wolfgang Mozart — Joseph Haydn and George Handel are his forebears, for the most part — but the Piano Concerto No. 3 shows more than influence; it shows what amounts to an obsessive reworking of a specific Mozart concerto, No. 24 in C-Minor, K. 491.
I would hate to have to chose between the two works. Beethoven’s is a majestic, brooding work, rather darker and more pessimistic, at least in the first movement, than we are used to. But the sun comes out, eventually.
We have been hearing a lot of the Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony these last couple seasons; everybody seems determined to take a crack at it. This is a good thing. Neither as immediately lovable as the Fifth nor as emotionally overwhelming as the Sixth, the Fourth becomes more impressive with each hearing.
Tickets to the New York Philharmonic performance are available from the Granada box office at 1214 State St. or 805.899.2222, or click here to order online.