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Gerald Carpenter: Music Academy Presents Its Festival Orchestra

Works by Strauss, Barber and Bartok will be part of Saturday's show at The Granada

If the past 60 years or so are any indication, we will witness an annual miracle on Saturday, June 26, when the Music Academy of the West’s Festival Orchestra, under the direction of Maestro Larry Rachleff, takes The Granada stage and plays a large-scale, complex program with all the polish and aplomb of an ensemble that has been established for decades.

In fact, by 8 p.m. Saturday, this incarnation of the Festival Orchestra will have been working together a mere six days. Most of the young musicians had never even met one another before arriving at Miraflores last Sunday. Nevertheless, I confidently predict you will feel that it’s one of the greatest and most exciting concerts you ever heard.

The program for this opening concert is as ambitious and tuneful as any music lover could wish: Richard Strauss’ early tone poem, Don Juan (with its exquisite and haunting oboe solo), inspired by the poem of Nikolaus Lenau (Nikolaus Franz Niembsch Edler von Strehlenau); Samuel Barber’s sublime Adagio for Strings, arranged for string orchestra by the composer — at the request of Arturo Toscanini — from the slow movement of his String Quartet, Opus 11; and Béla Bartók’s orchestral masterpiece, the Concerto for Orchestra, 1943-1945, composed for and premiered by the Boston Symphony under Serge Koussevitzky.

According to an unsigned Wikipedia article, “The extreme difficulty and virtuosity of nearly every part [of Don Juan] has made the piece a staple of orchestral audition lists for most instruments.” Fortunately for us, the extreme skill and virtuosity of Strauss’ orchestral writing — at age 24 — keeps us blissfully ignorant of the difficulty and aware only of the beauty and passion of the music.

2010 marks the 100th anniversary of Barber’s birth (not to mention William Schuman), and the Adagio for Strings is — with apologies to Darwin — a natural selection. We can always hope that some youngster chooses Knoxville: Summer of 1915 or the Violin Concerto for the concerto competition. As for the Bartók Concerto, it is justly celebrated as one of his most “accessible” works. It is also, with the exception of his ballet The Wooden Prince, composed nearly three decades before, his most intensely romantic. It will certainly give the orchestra a workout.

For tickets and more information about the Music Academy, click here or call 805.969.8787.

Tickets to this concert are also available from the Granada box office at 1214 State St., or click here or call 805.899.2222.

— 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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