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Academy’s ‘Tuesdays @ 8’ Series Reaches Finale

The last in the summer program is sure to please the general music lover

This summer’s final Music Academy of the West faculty chamber music concert (“Tuesdays @ 8”) will start at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Lobero Theatre.

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Jacques Ibert wasn’t the first composer snookered by a film producer.

The program, though by no means confined to the 18th century, contains little or nothing to offend conservatives and a great deal to please the general music lover.

On this valedictory evening, we will hear Jacques Ibert’s Quatre Chansons de Don Quichotte, arranged for bassoon and double bass by Chicago Symphony bassist Brad Opland (with Dennis Michel on bassoon and Nico Abondolo on double bass); Ludwig Beethoven’s Quintet in E-Flat Major for Piano and Winds, Opus 16 (with Jonathan Feldman on piano, Cynthia Koledo DeAlmeida on oboe, Richie Hawley on clarinet, Eli Epstein on horn and Dennis Michel on bassoon); Franz Josef Haydn’s Piano-Violin-Cello Trio in G Major, Hob. XV: 25 (with Jerome Lowenthal on piano, Jeff Thayer on violin and David Geber on cello); and Bedřich Smetana’s Piano-Violin-Cello Trio in G-Minor, Opus 15 (with Warren Jones on piano, Kathleen Winkler on violin and David Geber on cello). You see? Not a bomb-throwing musical anarchist in the bunch.

The circumstances leading up to the composition of Ibert’s Quatre Chansons are more scandalous than the songs themselves, although the circumstances would scarcely raise an eyebrow among those at all familiar with the financial realities of the film industry.

In 1932, a French film company, Vandor Film, began shooting a version of Miguel de Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote, directed by Georg W. Pabst and starring famous Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin. They shot, simultaneously, three versions — German, English and French — all starring Chaliapin, but with different supporting casts. For the film score, the producers set up a competition with five notable composers (Ibert, Marcel Delannoy, Manuel de Falla, Darius Milhaud and Maurice Ravel) as to who could produce the best score.

The only thing was, each composer was led to believe that he, and he alone, had been hired to write the music for the film. When Ibert’s songs were chosen over Ravel’s, and the story came out, Ibert was embarrassed, because of his friendship with Ravel, whom he admired enormously. Nevertheless, Ravel’s Trois Chansons de Don Quichotte à Dulcinée is also a masterpiece, and had its first performance on Dec. 1, 1934 — sung by baritone Martial Singher (a name still well-known, I hope, by devotees of the academy). I haven’t been able to track the efforts of the other three composers.

There is little to say about Beethoven’s Quintet, except that it is a delicious reminder of how blithe and infectiously carefree the young Beethoven could be. The last movement is one of those irresistible rondos with which his early works abound.

As late as April 1983, the Schwann catalogue listed no recordings of the marvelous Smetana Trio — a tribute, I suppose, to the Germanocentric myopia of the music industry of the not-so-distant past. The year in which it was composed, 1855, was a rotten one for the godfather of the Czech nationalist school. That was the year his only surviving daughter died (the other three having died in infancy), and the year that the music school, which he had run with his wife, failed and went bankrupt. The next year, he and his wife chucked it in and moved to Sweden. All things considered, it is a wonder that the Trio isn’t darker than it is. The mood is generally tragic, but not morbidly so, and the music is rivetingly dramatic (which Jones should do wonders with.)

Tickets to this concert are $33 and can be purchased from the Lobero box office — 33 E. Canon Perdido or 805.963.0761 — from the Music Academy hot line at 805.969.8787 or online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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