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Gerald Carpenter: Chamber Orchestra Concludes Season in Sweetness and Light

The Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra will conclude its 2012-13 season with a concert it calls, somewhat inaccurately, “Sweet 1700s” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Lobero Theatre.

Pianist Alessio Bax
Pianist Alessio Bax

Maestro Heiichiro Ohyama will conduct, and dazzling pianist Alessio Bax — a great favorite of Santa Barbara audiences — will be on hand as soloist.

Only one of the three works on the program — Wolfgang Mozart’s Concerto No. 24 in C-Minor for Piano and Orchestra, K. 491(featuring Bax) — actually dates from the 18th century (1700s). Of the other two, the Overture to Gioachino Rossini’s opera L’Italiana in Algeri premiered in 1813, while Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 in Bb-Major, D. 485 was composed three years later, in 1816.

This is an extremely attractive — one might even say delicious — program. It is, like Prospero’s island in The Tempest, full of “[s]ounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.” To be sure, the Mozart concerto is one of his darkest, not to mention one of his most profound, but the darkness and the depth are of a kind that leave us cleansed, even exhilarated.

Scarcely any other work of Mozart’s points so clearly toward Ludwig van Beethoven, and it is a much more convincing demonstration of the composer’s power than the so-called “Jupiter” Symphony, which I have always found somewhat tedious and mechanical.

The Schubert is pure, rapturous delight, too often obscured by the fame of the Unfinished and the “Great C”. Notwithstanding what I said above, this symphony sounds as much a product of the 18th century as the Mozart concerto feels as if it belongs to the early 19th — except that I challenge anyone to cite a first movement of any 18th-century symphony, Haydan and Mozart not excepted, that is so sweet and sentimental as this one (the paintings of Watteau inhabit the same exquisite universe).

Pairing the symphony with a work of Mozart is a natural. Schubert was absolutely intoxicated with Mozart when he wrote it. A few months before, he had written in his diary: “O Mozart! immortal Mozart! what countless impressions of a brighter, better life hast thou stamped upon our souls!” You literally can’t say fairer than that.

Tickets to this concert are $47 to $52, and can be purchased from the Lobero box office at 33 E. Canon Perdido St. or 805.963.0761, or online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are his own.

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