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Gerald Carpenter: CAMA Welcomes Dresden Orchestra to The Granada

The first concert in its International Series will be at 8 p.m. Tuesday

The Community Arts Music Association’s opening concert in its International Series at The Granada, 1214 State St. — at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 26 — will feature a visit from the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden (Saxon State Orchestra Dresden), conducted by Daniel Harding, with the guest artistry of virtuoso pianist Rudolf Buchbinder.

The average age of the musicians in the Dresden orchestra is probably comparable to that of any other top-class symphony orchestra, so when we are told that this is one of the oldest orchestras in the world, we should not expect the stage to be filled with white-haired septuagenarians. What is meant by the claim is that this particular ensemble was brought into being by the decree of Prince Elector Moritz of Saxony in the year 1548.

“Staatskapelle” is generally translated as “court orchestra,” though the fact that “kapelle” originally meant “chapel” should give us some clue as to the band’s original duties. That the list of former music directors includes the incomparable Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672), whose secular compositions occupy a very small portion of his glorious works, is another clue as to preponderantly religious nature of the orchestra’s duties, at least to the end of the 17th century. Other music directors include Carl Maria von Weber and Richard Wagner, by which time the orchestra had clearly deserted the sacred for the profane.

The first two works on the Dresden program celebrate Robert Schumann’s centennial (1810-2010): the Overture to his “Manfred” Dramatic Poem with Music in Three Parts, Opus 115 (1852) and his Concerto in A-Minor for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 54. The last work — Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A-Major, Opus 92 — like so much from the same pen, celebrates life, love and the human spirit.

Lord Byron’s poetic drama “Manfred” (1817) — whose noble hero rejects human company and lives in splendid isolation in the Alps, debating with angels and devils — is one of those literary works that takes their contemporaries by storm, inspiring any number of works of art, which, in turn, often remain famous when the original is a forgotten footnote. Maurice Maeterlinck’s Pellèas et Melissande is another, inspiring great scores by Claude Debussy, Sibelius Fauré and Arnold Schönberg before fading into misty oblivion.

Manfred himself is the quintessential Byronic hero, the model for countless romantic protagonists — the best-remembered now, probably, being Heathcliffe in Wuthering Heights and Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre, though the character of Steerforth, in David Copperfield, has quite a bit of Manfred in him. In addition to Schumann’s setting, Carl Reinecke and Peter Tchaikovsky also wrote memorable music inspired by Byron’s poem. (I consider Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony his greatest nonballet orchestral work — though it would make a great ballet.)

Moved by Manfred’s anti-human arrogance, Friedrich Nietzsche attempted to write music based on the poem. Schumann’s Overture is one of his most impressive and exciting scores.

Tickets to this concert are available from The Granada box office at 1214 State St. or 805.899.2222. Click here to order online.

— 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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