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Gerald Carpenter: University Symphony to Tempt ‘Fate’

UCSB ensemble will perform its winter concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday

UCSB’s University Symphony, conducted by Richard Rintoul, will perform its winter quarter concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1 in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall.

Paul Dukas wasn't easily satisfied with his compositions.
Paul Dukas wasn’t easily satisfied with his compositions.

The University Symphony’s program is called “Fate” and includes Johannes Brahms’ Tragic Overture, Opus 81, Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Opus 11a, Paul Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1897) and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C-Minor, Opus 67.

Brahms wrote his Tragic Overture in 1880, the same year as the ebullient Academic Festival Overture. The composer summed up the two succinctly: “One laughs; the other cries.” That is not to say that the Tragic has any kind of literary “program,” for Brahms was not interested in telling stories, only in the emotions that might be distilled from them. It is a powerful work, though at times much more “academic” than its so-named companion piece.

Barber — whose centennial is celebrated this year — wrote his String Quartet, Opus 11 in 1936, while he and Gian Menotti were staying in Italy. In 1938, when he heard Arturo Toscanini was looking for a new orchestral work by an American, he transcribed the quartet’s slow movement for string orchestra and sent it to the legendary conductor.

Toscanini returned the score in a few days, without saying anything about it, which caused Barber some dismay.

Later, Toscanini assured the composer, through Menotti, that he sent it back so quickly because he had already memorized it. The maestro and the NBC Symphony Orchestra premiered the work on Nov. 5 that same year. Inspired by a poem by the Latin poet Virgil, the Adagio, according to one source, was how “Barber envisioned a small stream that grows into a river.”

Dukas (1865-1935) conducted the premiere of L’apprenti sorcier himself. It was an immediate and lasting sensation, quite overshadowing the rest of this great composer’s work — rather like Maurice Ravel’s Bolero. In the last 23 years of his life, after the Fanfare pour précéder La Péri, Dukas published only three, very small-scaled pieces, for solo piano or piano and voice. Of the works he wrote from 1892 to 1912, only a little more than a third were published. The rest were either unpublished or destroyed. Dukas was a rare and scrupulous perfectionist.

If there is any more to be said about Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C-Minor, I’m afraid I can’t imagine what it might be.

Tickets to the University Symphony concert are $15 for the general public and $7 for students, and can be purchased at the door.

— 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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