Thursday, October 18 , 2018, 9:52 am | Fair 62º

 
 
 
 

Symphony’s ‘New World’ Dawns at Granada

The program was a fitting choice to lift the spirits of a community still reeling from the Tea Fire.

When the Santa Barbara Symphony programmed Antonin Dvorak‘s “New World Symphony” for its pre-Thanksgiving concert, no one could have foreseen the devastating wildfires in the community.

So it was a fortunate convergence that brought the orchestra and its devotees to The Granada Theatre last weekend. Dvorak’s powerful and uplifting Symphony No. 9, “From the New World,” could not have been a more fitting choice to lift the spirits.

By all accounts, Dvorak was a happy man. When he landed in New York in 1892, he immediately embraced the new world’s musical influences.

Nir Kabaretti led the symphony in a vigorous reading of the work, summoning solo passages from a number of the orchestra members. Concertmaster Caroline Campbell played like a whirlwind. Principal cello Geoffrey Rutkowski was in splendid form. Francine Jacobs on flute, Lara Wickes on oboe and Andy Radford on bassoon all had moments illustrating why they are orchestra principals.

Maestro Kabaretti has broadened and deepened his command of this orchestra. The conductor and symphony have never sounded better than they did on Sunday.

The first half of the program was given over to compositions by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Miklos Rozsa, two serious European masters who became best known as composers of music for Hollywood movies.

Rozsa’s Viola Concerto, Op. 37, was played brilliantly by Gilad Karni, who is scheduled to record the work with the Budapest Concert Orchestra in the near future.

Karni’s resume covers an immense amount of ground — Israel, Germany, Austria, Denmark, France, Switzerland and others. His playing here was a reflection of his concertizing experience, buyoant and assured. He and Kabaretti showed a rapport that produced a splendid performance. The audience rang with bravos at the conclusion, as soloist and conductor embraced spontaneously.

That Rozsa produced such serious works for the concert stage is especially noteworthy, given his great success in Hollywood. He created sound tracks for Alfred Hitchcock‘s Spellbound, the dramatic The Lost Weekend and epics the like of Ben Hur.

Before the viola concerto was played, Kabaretti had the sound system play an excerpt of a long-ago interview with Rozsa. Asked the difference between composing for the concert stage and the cinema, Rozsa said, “People go to concerts for the music. They go to the cinema for Burt Lancaster and Elizabeth Taylor.” Rozsa could be heard chuckling, and the Granada audience laughed heartily. It should be noted that Rozsa’s film scores earned him three Academy Awards over the years.

The concert began with Korngold’s Theme and Variations, Opus 42, written in 1953. Korngold was one of the many Europeans who landed in Los Angeles after Hitler began his conquest of Europe. A Viennese Jew, Korngold immediately began writing for movies after he arrived in California, but continued his classical composing. He, also, was an Academy Award winner.

His Theme and Variations was written as a piece for American orchestral students, and demonstrated the lyricism and gift for melody that made Korngold so in demand for movie scores. Among his more lavish works were those for The Sea Hawk, Elizabeth and Essex and The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Margo Kline covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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