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Gerald Carpenter: Cellist Cicely Parnas to Light Up Ojai’s ‘Chamber on the Mountain’ Concert

Ojai’s Happy Valley Cultural Center presents the next installment in the new series of intimate musical events called "Chamber on the Mountain" (Heidi Lehwalder, artistic director) at 3 p.m. Sunday in Logan House (adjacent to the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts in Upper Ojai). This concert will feature the radiant young cellist, Cicely Parnas, with the pianistic support of UC Santa Barbara’s Robert Koenig.

Cellist Cicely Parnas comes to Ojai trailing clouds of accolade. (Michael Polito photo)
Cellist Cicely Parnas comes to Ojai trailing clouds of accolade. (Michael Polito photo)

The Parnas-Koenig team — or Parnas alone — will perform Claude Debussy’s Sonata for cello and piano (1915); an excerpt from Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time (1941); Gaspar Cassadó’s Suite for Solo Cello (mid-1920s); Sergei Rachmaninov’s wordless song, “Vocalise”, Opus 34, No. 14; and Johannes Brahms’ Sonata for Cello and Piano No. 2 in F-Major, Opus 99.

This is, on the whole, a tuneful and pleasing program — above all, a balanced one. Whatever weird and harrowing space the Messiaen puts you into, you will be rescued and brought sweetly home from it by the Rachmaninov — a rare act of thoughtful programming on the part of performing artists.

The relatively unfamiliar Cassadó seems to me the most significant piece on the program. Considered as absolute music, it is one of the few works that could appear, without humiliation, on the same program as one of Bach’s Suites for Solo Cello. Considered as, well, “program music,” it has all the drama of a corrida de toros, all the stark tragedy of Lorca’s death. That is to say, it is full of the spirit of Spain.

“Vocalise” was written for voice and piano, No. 14 of the Fourteen Songs, Opus 34 (1912). The score says soprano or tenor, and when performed by a vocalist, the singer is usually a soprano, but the “Vocalise” has been arranged for every imaginable combination of instruments, and for every voice range. On one occasion, it was arranged for 20 violins by Fritz Kreisler, who then led the ensemble performing the work before the composer, his close friend, on Rachmaninov’s birthday.

The piece has been arranged for cello and piano many times. Notable among the published arrangements are those by by Jascha Heifetz and Mstislav Rostropovich, by Wolfram Huschke, and by Raphael Wallfisch.

General admission to this recital is $25; student admission is $15. Tickets are available at the door, by telephone at 805.646.9951, or click here to purchase tickets online.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at gerald.carpenter@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are his own

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