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Gerald Carpenter: Pianist Christopher O’Riley to Perform at Lobero

Thursday's recital will celebrate the works of Robert Schumann

Pianist Christopher O’Riley will play a recital in the Lobero Theatre at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11, the latest installment of the Community Arts Music Association’s Masterseries.

Pianist Christopher O’Riley
Pianist Christopher O’Riley

The evening will be given over entirely to the works of Robert Schumann, 200 years old this year. O’Riley’s published program lists three Schumann works for solo piano: the Arabeske in C Major, Opus 18; Kreisleriana, Phantasien für das Pianoforte, Opus 16; and the Fantasie in C Major, Opus 17.

Last month I wrote about a concert in Thousand Oaks that opened with a piece by John Biggs. The same concert closed with O’Riley taking the lead role in Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto. After the concert, Biggs wrote to me: “The concert was wonderful … with pianist Christopher O’Riley as the true high point. Wow, what a performance of the [Rachmaninov]. He was a knockout, and got a deserved standing ovation.”

Even allowing for Biggs’ generous spirit, this is quite a good review — more precious for being unsolicited.

Of all the concerts devoted to Schumann during this, his bicentennial year, O’Riley’s seems to make the best point. It is mainly pianists who have kept Schumann’s name in circulation for the 150-plus years since his death. He is immortal because of his solo piano compositions: the Carnaval, the Fantasiestücke, the Kinderszenen/Scenes From Childhood, the three works on O’Riley’s program and many, many others.

Schumann himself would have been a virtuoso pianist but for an injury to his hand, sustained at age 21, while he was studying with Friedrich Wieck. There are several stories current about the nature of this injury, which ended his career as an instrumentalist, but so far the truth of any of them remains unsupported by evidence.

From then on, in any case, he devoted himself to composition, to writing — he was a tireless promoter of his contemporaries, including Felix Mendelssohn, Hector Berlioz, Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner, and was a second father to Johannes Brahms — and to winning the hand of his teacher’s daughter, Clara.

Schumann’s father had been a bookseller, publisher and novelist, and Robert had been steeped since childhood in the literature of the early Romantics. Most of his major compositions have literary origins. On O’Riley’s program, for instance, the symphony-sized Kreisleriana derives from a book of the same name, a collection of stories about the character Johannes Kreisler from works of E.T.A. Hoffmann. Kreisler being a half-mad musician, Schumann’s work may have elements of autobiography. It is dedicated to Frédéric Chopin.

The Fantasie, on the other hand, had its origins in a scheme of Schumann’s to raise money for the completion of a Ludwig van Beethoven monument in Bonn. It is phenomenally difficult to play, and is dedicated to Liszt.

For tickets to see O’Riley, call or drop by the Lobero Theatre box office at 805.963.0761 or 33 E. Canon Perdido, or 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).

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