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Gerald Carpenter: Festival Orchestra Born to Tunes of Berlioz, Beethoven

In terms of Festival protocol, Maestro Larry Rachleff has become the orchestral equivalent of Maestro Jerome Lowenthal.

That is to say that, while every Musical Academy summer has begun its schedule of performance events, for as long as anyone can recall, with a piano masterclass by Jerome Lowenthal, so now, for many years, it has fallen to Larry Rachleff to create, as it were ex nihilo, a world class symphony orchestra out of the young instrumental fellows arriving at the Miraflores from all points of the compass, and to lead them through their first public performance anywhere.
 
This year, Maestro Rachleff's quietly decisive leadership will bear its first fruits in a Festival Orchestra concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 30, in the Granada Theater.
 
The program of this concert consists of three works: Hector Berlioz's "Overture: Le corsaire, Opus 21" (1844); the Suite No. 2 from Manuel de Falla's ballet, The Three-Cornered Hat (1919); and Ludwig Beethoven's "Symphony No. 6 In F-Major, Opus 68, 'Pastoral' " (1808).
 
Berlioz makes no mention of "Le corsaire" in his wonderful Memoirs. He wrote this concert overture in 1844, in Nice, where he had gone to escape the wreck of his marriage to Harriet Smithson.

If there is a program to the work, it has not come down to us, but some of the influences on the composition may be deduced from the succession of the titles he gave it.

At first, he called it "La Tour de Nice" (The Tower of Nice). Then, as he was in thrall to the American novelist, American novelist, James Fenimore Cooper, he renamed it "Le corsaire Rouge," which was the French title of Cooper's novel, The Red Rover.

Finally he shortened it to "Le Corsaire," which some take as a reference to Lord Byron's poem, The Corsair, but he probably did it to remove suggestions of programmatic intent. It is brief (eight minutes), lively, and irresistible.
 
Falla's ballet El Sombrero de Tres Picos (The Three-Cornered Hat) was written on a commission from Sergei Diaghilev, choreographed by Léonide Massine, and premiered by the Ballet Russes, with sets by Pablo Picasso, in 1919.

It was a departure for the company, not because of the Spanish setting or Falla's use of Spanish themes, but because Massine employed the techniques, somewhat simplified, of Spanish dance instead of classical ballet.

In its orchestral suite form, it reamins one of Falla's most popular scores.

It is doubtful whether any Beethoven work gains by being written about, but if the first bars of the "Pastoral" Symphony don't convince you that you're hearing music of unsurpassed beauty and warmth, you are probably in the wrong hall.
 
Tickets to this Festival Orchestra concert are $10 (community access) to $100, and can be purchased at the Granada Theatre Ticket Office, 1214 State St., by phone at 805-969-8787 or 805-899-2222, or online at www.musicacademy.org.

The Orchestra Series is supported by Mary Lynn and Warren Staley.

— 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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