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Gerald Carpenter: Festival Artists Series to Continue With Eclectic Chamber Program

The next chamber music concert in the Music Academy of the West’s Festival Artists Series takes place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 26, at the Lobero Theater.

The program consists of Ingram Marshall’s Fog Tropes (1981), for brass sextet, fog horns and tape, played by Paul Merkelo (trumpet), Ralph Sauer (trombone) and select academy brass fellows; Caroline Shaw’s Limestone and Felt (2012), by Richard O’Neill (viola) and Robert deMaine (cello); George Enescu’s Dixtuor for Winds in D Major, Op. 14 (1906), by Timothy Day (flute), Eugene Izotov (oboe), Richie Hawley (clarinet), Benjamin Kamins (bassoon), Julie Landsman (horn) and academy wind fellows; and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet in G Minor, Op. 57 (1940), by Glenn Dicterow and Jorja Fleezanis (violins), Karen Dreyfus (viola), David Geber (cello) and Natasha Kislenko (piano).

Ingram Marshall (b. 1942) was a student of the avant garde composer Morton Subotnick; however, his music does not remind one of his teacher’s. Anyway, “avant garde” doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot, these days.

Fog Tropes is best heard, I think, with the eyes closed, being something of an audio funhouse cruise around a busy harbor during a pea-soup fog.

Foghorns sound, near and far; dark ominous shapes loom and retreat. It’s all very effective.

In 2013, Caroline Shaw (b. 1982) became the youngest-ever recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for Music, for her a cappella piece Partita for 8 Voices — a precocious achievement being very much in keeping with her having started to play the violin when she was two, an age when most of us are still mastering upright posture.

Here is what she has to say about the piece we will hear Tuesday evening:

“limestone & felt [sic] presents two kinds of surfaces – essentially hard and soft. These are materials that can suggest place (a cathedral apse, or the inside of a wool hat), stature, function, and — for me — sound (reverberant or muted). In limestone & felt, the hocketing pizzicato and pealing motivic canons are part of a whimsical, mystical, generous world of sounds echoing and colliding in the imagined eaves of a gothic chapel. These are contrasted with the delicate, meticulous, and almost reverent placing of chords that, to our ears today, sound ancient and precious, like an antique jewel box. Ultimately, felt and limestone may represent two opposing ways we experience history and design our own present.”

George Enescu (1881-1955) is the greatest composer Romania has yet produced. The village where he was born, then called “Liveni,” was later renamed “George Enescu.”

Like Shaw, he was a prodigy of both violin and composition, and he still holds the record as the youngest student (aged 7 years) ever admitted to the Vienna Conservatory.

While he lived, he was more famous as a violinist and later as a teacher than he was as a composer.

Among his students were Yehudi Menuhin, Christian Ferras, Ivry Gitlis, Arthur Grumiaux, Serge Blanc, Ida Haendel, Uto Ughi and Joan Field.

Enescu spent his last years in Paris, an exile from Communist-ruled Romania, and he is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery — the all-star bone yard that houses the remains of everybody from Peter Abelard to Oscar Wilde, Alice B. Toklas to Simone Signoret.

Dixtuor, composed 110 years ago, is still as fresh and engaging a work as when the ink was still wet on the score.

The Music Academy has given this concert the moniker, “Shostakovich Piano Quintet,” and while it is hard to see this work as any kind of apotheosis of the program, it is undoubtedly the most substantial and significant piece on it.

Shostakovich can be serious, of course — not to say somber, even grim — but he is seldom lacking in a spirit of ironic playfulness.

His satirical bent often got him in hot water with Stalin, that arch-boogeyman, but he never went so far as to invite a bullet in the back of the head, or a permanent residence in the basement of Lubyanka.

Under the circumstances — the Soviet Union not at war, but bound to be soon — the quintet is surprisingly light-hearted for extended passages, and when it slows down, it never achieves the funereal trudge of the Eighth Symphony or the Tenth.

The predominant moods are sweet melancholy alternating with compulsive recklessness. It is a masterpiece, from the first note to the last, even if not a flawlessly constructed one.

Tickets for this concert are $42 and can be purchased at the Lobero box office, 33 East Canon Perdido Street, by phone at 805.963.0761 or 805.899.2222 or online at www.musicacademy.org

— 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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