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Gerald Carpenter: UCSB to Perform ‘A Musical Offering’

UCSB's Water Kohn and his wife will team up with guitarist Celino Romero for Thursday's free concert

The UCSB Department of Music, joining forces with UCSB’s Nobel Laureate chemist, Dr. Walter Kohn, and his wife, Mara Vishniac Kohn — as well as renowned classical guitarist Celino Romero — have gathered “A Musical Offering” in the form of a free concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14, in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall.

The evening will begin with pianist Betty Oberacker performing the Ricercar à 6 from the Musical Offering, BWV 1079 by Johann Sebastian Bach, followed by the astonishingly beautiful and mysterious one-movement Piano Sonata, Opus 1 by Alban Berg (1885-1935).

Then comes the raison d’être of the event, the Santa Barbara premiere of the String Quartet No. 3 by Viktor Ullmann (1898-1944), played by Westmont College violinists Philip and Claire Ficsor, UCSB violist Richard Rintoul and the inimitable maestro Geoffrey Rutkowski, of UCSB and the Santa Barbara Symphony, on cello. Romero of the Romero Guitar Quartet will conclude the concert with selections from 400 years of classical guitar repertoire.

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote somewhere: “God help the European mind if the Jewish mind is subtracted from it” — the obvious implication being that the European mind would be thereby diminished, possibly to the point of becoming unviable. We all know what happened next: Adolf Hitler and his gang tried to put it to the test. They failed, but at what a cost — not just to Europe, but to the world.

War is, of course, no respecter of talent. World War I managed to snuff out at random at least three extraordinary composers — Rudi Stephan, George Butterworth and Alberic Magnard — not to mention the haunting poet Wilfred Owen, brilliant philosopher T. E. Hulme and remarkable painter-sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska.

But when we consider the disproportionate contribution of Jews to the arts, scholarship and intellectual activities in the 20th century, the Nazis’ “final solution” seems nothing less than attempted intellectual suicide.

I mention all of this because Ullmann, whose music is the very heart of this Offering, was of Jewish heritage, wrote his Quartet No. 3 while a prisoner at Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1943 and was gassed at Auschwitz-Birkenau on Oct. 18, 1944.

Dr. Kohn, explaining his donation of this concert to the community, says: “My parents, Salomon and Gittel Kohn, were in the Terezin (Theresienstadt) concentration camp with Viktor Ullmann. I would like to think that they heard some of his beautiful music.”

— 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. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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