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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 7:32 pm | Fair 50º


Gerald Carpenter: Music Academy Faculty Performs Three Bs — Bach, Bruch and Brahms

Tuesdays @ 8 performance offers arrangements for brass quintet, reeds, strings and piano

The Music Academy of the West faculty artists and guests perform their next chamber music concert at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Hahn Hall on the gorgeous Miraflores estate, 1070 Fairway Road, which serves as the academy’s campus. This will be, in short, another “Tuesdays @ 8” performance.

The program will consist of selections arranged for brass quintet from Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Art of the Fugue (played by Eli Epstein, horn; Joseph Burgstaller and a fellow TBA, trumpet; Ralph Sauer, trombone; fellow Joe Alvarez, tuba), four of Max Bruch’s Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Viola and Piano, Opus 83 (Richie Hawley, clarinet; guest artist Karen Dreyfus, viola; Margaret McDonald, piano), and Johannes Brahms’ Quartet No. 1 in g-minor for Piano and Strings, Opus 25 (visiting artist Glenn Dicterow, violin; Dreyfus, viola; David Geber, cello; Jonathan Feldman, piano).

I don’t believe I have ever heard a piece by Bruch (1838-1920) that didn’t leave me pleased and content — not drained or exalted, mind you, but happy. His melodies, if they are not always memorable, are neither forced nor contemptible — and sometimes they are very memorable indeed. Although he lived in England for three years, and had some successes there, the English insisted on judging him as a choral composer, in which genre he was merely good, whereas the rest of the world reveres him for his concerted works and chamber music. Also, because he handled Hebrew themes with great, passionate conviction in a couple of works, the English took Bruch for a Jew, which he was not (since he handled Scottish themes with equal glory in his Scottish Fantasy, you might expect the English to claim Bruch was a Scot, but ...), and compounded their error by publishing it, in an article full of ethnic stereotyping, in their book of books on music, the Grove’s Dictionary. The article, written by the 3rd Edition editor, H.C. Colles, contains sound judgments and outrageous conclusions — based on false premises — in equal measure. Perhaps the key to his antipathy is found in his observation that Bruch’s music “gives little to discuss and nothing to quarrel about” (like, what good is that?).

Bruch was 72 when he wrote 8 Pieces. The watchword is “mellowness.” Some think they are character pieces, if not portraits then anecdotes. If so, he left no clues, giving each piece merely a name and its tempo marking, in Italian. I think that these pieces composed in 1910, are as close as Bruch came to the experimental — not with harmony or structure, but with timber: he wanted to see how mellow he could make his three instruments sound, each according to its own nature. The result is very mellow, I think you will agree.

Reserved seats to this concert are $40 (including Miraflores facility fee), and they are not available online, only by phone from the Music Academy Ticket Office at 805.969.8787.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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