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Gerald Carpenter: LA Phil to Visit Granada for Slavic, Scandinavian Program

The original mission of the Community Arts-Music Association (CAMA), founded in the 1920s, was to establish an institutional vehicle for bringing the Los Angeles Philharmonic up to Santa Barbara for a concert.

Over the years, the mission has broadened and deepened; CAMA has now brought to town virtually every world famous ensemble and virtuoso, but they still bring the Los Angeles Philharmonic to town for a concert at least once a year.

This year’s will be at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 1, at The Granada Theatre, with the band conducted by Jakub Hrůša and the piano bench occupied by Jean-Yves Thibaudet as soloist in the concerted work.

This year’s LA Phil program will include Modest Mussorgsky’s A Night on Bald Mountain (1867), Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.16 (1868) and Leoš Janáček’s Taras Bulba (1915-19), a rhapsody for orchestra.

As Bald Mountain attests, Mussorgsky was a perfectly good orchestrator. We are so used to Rimsky-Korsakov’s smooth and luminous Boris Godunov that it is something of a shock to hear Mussorgsky’s original score — raw, to be sure, but so much more dramatic and compelling.

My own association with Bald Mountain is inextricably linked to Walt Disney’s use of it in the animated feature, Fantasia, which I saw as a child, sitting in the front row, gazing up wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the impersonal, scowling demons looming above me like a Satanic mountain range.

Grieg’s only concerto is the perfect blend of romantic striving, melancholy dreaming and spectacular virtuoso display. No wonder he didn’t risk another.

Outside of places where Czech is spoken, sung and understood, Leoš Janáček is known chiefly for a couple of brilliant orchestral works (Sinfonietta, Taras Bulba), two equally brilliant pieces for chamber orchestra (Idyla, Mládí), two astonishing string quartets, a violin-piano sonata and a handful of pieces for solo piano.

In his native Bohemia and in other pockets of the Czech-speaking world (Spillville, Iowa, perhaps?), Janáček is known chiefly as the composer of the operas Jenůfa, The Makropulos Affair, From the House of the Dead and others.

Fortunately for us Czech-illiterates, his instrumental output, though small, is composed of almost exclusively of gems. His idiom is twentieth century romantic and his melodic gifts surpass those of Bartók or Shostakovich. His presence on contemporary concert programs is becoming increasingly regular, as well it should.

Single tickets to the LA Philharmonic are $38-$108, and they are available from the Granada box office (1214 State Street), by phone at 805.899.222 or online at www.granadasb.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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