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For SBCO Chamber Players, the Show Will Go On

The second and final concert of the season will lead with Bach and finish with Schubert

In a move that many will find admirable, the SBCO Chamber Players have decided to go ahead with their second and final concert of the 2008-09 season. It will happen, as scheduled, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Fleischmann Auditorium of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

It would be a shame, in any case, to deny audiences the all too rare opportunity to hear Maestro Heiichiro Ohyama play the instrument that was his first love: the viola.

The program will contain two works: Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suite No. 3 in C Major for Unaccompanied Cello, BWV 1009, performed by the chamber orchestra’s Trevor Handy; and the Octet in F Major for Strings and Winds, Opus 166, D. 803, of Franz Schubert, played by Amy Hershberger and Elizabeth Hedman on violins, Ohyama on viola, Jacqueline Greenshields on cello, David Young on bass, Michael Grego on clarinet, Judith Farmer on bassoon and Jenny Kim on horn.

Those familiar with some of my prejudices might expect me to protest against yet another performance of a Bach work in a severely restricted season when there is so much music we need to hear played by these great artists. To the contrary: One of Bach’s works for solo stringed instrument makes exactly the right amount of his instrumental music to hear at any one time. It is when we are called on to pay strict attention to a whole set of similar — and, to all but the most highly trained ear, indistinguishable — Bach compositions that I protest on behalf of the beleaguered music lovers. The six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello are masterpieces of the very highest order, and any one of them is a fit object for our deepest attention.

Incredible as it seems to us now, Beethoven’s early Septet in E-flat Major for Piano and Winds, Opus 20, was far and away his greatest hit for years and years. The composer got so tired of hearing the hysterical praise heaped on the work that he complained to Joseph Haydn that he wished he’d never written it. “Well,” Haydn replied, “you can always tell people that I wrote it.” That kept him quiet for a while.

Though composed when Schubert was 2 years old, Beethoven’s Septet remained the gold standard for decades and, in 1824, when Count Ferdinand Troyer commissioned Schubert to write an octet, it was the Septet that he used as a model.

Schubert’s Octet surpasses its model in just about every way except ubiquitousness. It is lyrical rather than dramatic, and full of dreamy melodies and cheerful dance tunes. I think that, probably, the reason we don’t get to hear it played live very often is that very few name-brand ensembles travel with exactly the right combination of players.

Tickets to Tuesday’s concert are $32 and are available through the chamber orchestra office at 805.966.2441 or at the door.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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