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Gerald Carpenter: Academy Faculty to Follow Recital By Pianist Jonathan Biss

The Music Academy of the West will conclude its series of Mosher Guest Artist Recitals with a concert by pianist Jonathan Biss at 8 p.m. Monday in Hahn Hall on the Miraflores campus.

Bernard Herrmann
Composer Bernard Herrmann poses with his beloved dog, Twi, in 1960.

Biss will perform Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 1 in F-Minor, Opus 2, No. 1 (1795); selections from Leoš Janáček's On an Overgrown Path (1901-1908); Frédéric Chopin's Nocturne in B-Major, Opus 62, No. 1 (1846) and Polonaise-Fantaisie in Ab-Major, Opus 61 (1846); Janáček's Piano Sonata in Eb-Minor, "October 1, 1905: From the Streets" (1905); and Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 23 in F-Minor, Opus 57 "Appassionata" (1805).

"In a review of the first version of this book," wrote A. J. P. Taylor, in a footnote to his history of the fall of the Hapsburg Monarchy, "the great Austrian historian A. F. Přibram, then living as a Jewish refugee in England, strongly condemned [my] suggestion that Dvořák and Smetana could stand comparison with Brahms and Wagner. There could not be more curious evidence of the German claim to superiority of culture."

What would Přibram have made, I wonder, of my assertion that Janáček (1854-1928) is as great a composer as any of his German or Austro-Hungarian contemporaries? Probably, his response would be either apoplectic spluttering or contemptuous silence. In fact, I have come to prefer Janáček's music, for listening if not analysis, to that of most of his more famous coevals.

Obviously, Biss feels much the same way, and I hope that you will, too, after this concert.

Janáček wrote the sonata as a protest against the bayoneting of a Czech workman during a street demonstration in the streets of Prague. He later became so dissatisfied with the work that he threw the score into the river (immediately regretting it, of course), and it was believed lost for over two decades, until his mistress produced a copy on the occasion of the composer's 70th birthday.

The final faculty chamber concert in the "Tuesdays at Eight" series will begin at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Hahn Hall.

The program will consist of two very different quintets: the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings "Souvenir du voyage" (1967) by Bernard Herrmann, played by faculty artist Richie Hawley (clarinet) and four String Fellows, and the Quintet for Piano and Strings in F-Minor, Opus 34 (1862) of Johannes Brahms, performed by Glenn Dicterow and Kathleen Winkler (violins), Karen Dreyfus (viola), David Geber (cello) and Jonathan Feldman (piano).

Rather than think of Herrmann (1911-1975) as a great film composer, we might think of him simply as a great composer who, like George Antheil and Erich Wolfgang Korngold, made the lion's share of his money writing motion picture scores.

All his career, Herrmann produced fine works for the concert hall and stage, as well as for the silver screen. Also like Korngold and Antheil, Herrmann's film themes often found their way into his concert works. Several tunes from Vertigo are quoted in this quintet. Does that make the piece less "serious"? I don't think so.

Tickets to Biss are $50; for "Tuesdays at Eight," $40. For tickets and information, call 805.969.8787. Free parking is available on the Music Academy campus at 1070 Fairway Road in Santa Barbara. Information is also available online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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