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Gerald Carpenter: Music Academy of West Faculty Artists Open Series on High Plateau

The chamber music concert series featuring the Faculty Artists of the Music Academy of the West (formerly known as Tuesdays at Eight), begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 26, in the Lobero Theater.

The motto of the concert is derived from the last work on the program, one of the supreme masterpieces of the piano trio literature.

The program will consist of Brian Balmages' "Music for Five Brass," with Barbara Butler trumpet, Charles Geyer trumpet, Julie Landsman horn, Mark H. Lawrence trombone, and a tuba fellow; Frank Bridge's "Lament in c-minor for Two Violas" (1911-12), with Richard O’Neill and Cynthia Phelps, violas; and Ludwig Beethoven's "Piano Trio No. 7 in Bb-Major, Opus 97 'Archduke' " (1811), with Glenn Dicterow violin, Alan Stepansky cello, and Jerome Lowenthal piano.

Balmages (born 1975) is an amazingly prolific American composer, whose vast catalogue of attractive works includes works for concert band and orchestra of all degrees of difficulty (difficulty of performance, that is, not listening).

His music is very much with the American grain — think Aaron Copland or Roy Harris — and the "Music for Five Brass" reminds me of, if it doesn't resemble, Michael Tilson Thomas's haunting "Street Song."

Bridge (1879-1941) was a great English composer who is is not nearly as well-known as he should be. His relative obscurity may be due, in part, to the fact that his extensive catalog of compositions consists mostly of works for small chamber ensembles, solo piano or voice and piano.

The small number of orchestral pieces often turn out to be transcribed from one of the categories described in the last sentence.

Bridge was a mentor of Benjamin Britten, and while his own works abound in lovely — albeit rather austere — tunes (the "Lament" is a case in point), he doesn't seem to have been able to convince his acolyte of the importance of writing attractive, recognizable melodies.

Bridge was, perhaps, not destined for wide popularity, but his neglect by the connoisseurs, his natural audience, is baffling.

If Chopin had written a piano trio, we might have a work that was 90 percent piano, with the other two instruments struggling to make themselves known, but the violin-cello-piano trio as we know it, is the least conducive to virtuoso display or single instrument domination of any major form.

Paradoxically, each of the three players must be a virtuoso in his or her own right; that is the secret.

On the first recording of the "Archduke" Trio I bought, the players were Jascha Heifetz, Emanuel Feuermann and Artur Rubinstein. Yet, aside from unmistakable purity of tone and perfect phrasing, these three substantial egos were held in check by the form and the genius of Beethoven.

So it shall prove with the stellar trio (Dicterow-Stepansky-Lowenthal) that will come together on the Lobero stage on Tuesday. Form is destiny.

Tickets to the concert, if there are any left, cost $46, and may be obtained at the Lobero box office, 33 E. Canon Perdido St., by calling 805-963-0761, or by going on line to

The Festival Artists Series is generously supported by Linda and Michael Keston.

— 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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