Saturday, October 20 , 2018, 6:50 am | Fair 54º


Gerald Carpenter: Academy Week to Highlight Guest Baritone, Faculty Artists

In addition to a full week of masterclasses, there are two concerts early this week at the Music Academy of the West that show what the faculty and guest artists can do, not that anyone had any doubts.

Russian baritone Vladimir Chernov

The Music Academy’s Mosher Guest Artist program has yielded spectacular results over the last few years. The first recital by one of this year’s participants will be at 8 p.m. Monday in Hahn Hall. Russian baritone Vladimir Chernov will sing songs and arias by Peter Tchaikovsky, Gaetano Donizetti, Modest Mussorgsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Mikhail Glinka and others — all with the priceless collaboration of Warren Jones on piano.

Admission to this event is $50.

The next night will feature the first in the spectacular series of faculty chamber music concerts known as “Tuesdays at Eight.” This concert will open with a bravura stunt: four pianists — Jones, John Churchwell, Jonathan Kelly and Carrie-Ann Matheson — on two pianos performing “The Ride of the Valkyries” from Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre. ‘Nuff said.

The Wagner piece will be followed by the Incantation, Threne et Danse pour Trompette et Orchestre of French composer Alfred Desenclos (1912-71), with Paul Merkelo on trumpet and pianist Margaret McDonald sitting in for the orchestra; the Sonata in B-Minor for Violin and Piano (1917) of Ottorino Respighi by Kathleen Winkler on violin and Jones on piano; and César Franck’s Quintet in F-Minor for Piano and Strings (1878-1879), played by Jorja Fleezanus and Peter Salaff on violins, a to-be-announced fellow on viola, Alan Stepansky on cello and Jerome Lowenthal.

I’ve only heard the Desenclos once or twice, and look forward to hearing it again. He styled himself a “romantic of a certain kind,” and most people listening to him will agree. His music has just enough edge to stay relevant, but not so much as to suggest arrogance. He wrote a good deal, chamber and concerted, for brass instruments, and his Requiem has been compared favorably to Gabriel Fauré‘s, and that is no small accomplishment.

The most considerable work of the evening, at least in terms of duration, is the Franck Quintet, but I find it — always excepting the slow movement — enigmatic to a degree. The thoughts of the Francophilic Maestro Lowenthal will be most welcome and, no doubt, most illuminating.

The Respighi is a masterpiece, too often overlooked. The Italians invented the violin, after all — indeed, it could very easily be maintained that they invented what we think of as “classical music” — and they have internalized the technical parameters of string instruments to such an extent that even their mediocre ideas are stated with unimprovable elegance. That is not to say that Respighi’s ideas are mediocre; to the contrary, they are, in this sonata, remarkably original, considering his penchant for collecting and reprocessing music from the early 19th century (La Boutique fantasque) and the “Renaissance” period (Ancient Airs and Dances).

The Sonata was composed in 1917, while Respighi was in the middle of transforming obscure Rossini tunes into La Boutique. It was also the year he published the First Suite of the Ancient Dances. But the sonata is nothing like either of those works. Nor is it like his three very popular Roman orchestral poems. The small scale, the intimacy, allow a certain amount of irony, though never of the obvious, heavy-handed type of Charles Ives or Dmitri Shostakovich. Though the idiom is conservative, with Johannes Brahms as the reference, the music of the sonata does not date.

Tickets to Tuesdays at Eight are $40. Reserved seats to Music Academy events charging admission can be purchased by phone at 805.969.8787 or online by clicking here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are his own.

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