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Gerald Carpenter: Music Club Concert to Leapfrog From 18th to 20th Century

The Santa Barbara Music Club will present another of its marvelous free concerts at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 30, 2016, in its familiar venue of the Faulkner Gallery at the Central Library, located at 40 E Anapamu Street.

Pianist Marian Drandell Gilbert will open the program with performances of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partita No. 2 in C Minor, BWV 826 and Béla Bartók’s “From the Diary of a Fly” from Mikrokosmos, Book VI, No. 142, followed by a varied selection of “Songs From Around the World,” sung by soprano Takako Wakita with pianist Betty Oberacker.

The afternoon’s entertainment concludes with György Ligeti’s Six Bagatelles for Woodwind Quintet, played by the ensemble Sonos Montecito (Andrea Di Maggio, flute; Trey Farrel, oboe; Joanne Kim, clarinet; Paul Mori, bassoon; and Steven Gross, horn).

It almost takes longer to read the entire title of Bartók’s “From the Diary of a Fly” than it does to listen to it, though the six books of the Mikrokosmos would take several hours to perform and would no doubt seem even longer.

Perhaps owing to the subject matter, however, this piece is light and airy — even witty, if one can ever say that about a Bartók composition.

The twentieth century kept European artists on the move, and the life of György Sándor Ligeti (1923-2006) is a paradigmatic example.

The son of Jewish Hungarians, the composer’s displacement started with his birth, since he was born in Transylvania, which had been part of Hungary until the Central Powers lost World War I, whereupon the region was ceded to Romania.

In 1929, his parents took him to the town of Cluj, where his musical education began. In 1940, the Horthy regime in Hungary, having cosied up to the Third Reich, was able to annex most of Northern Transylvania, including Cluj, and so the Ligetis became Hungarians again.

In 1944, the Hungarian government sent György to a forced labor brigade, while his 16-year-old brother was deported to the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, and both of his parents were sent to Auschwitz. Only he and his mother survived.

After the War, Ligeti began his career as a composer, musician and professor under the communist regime in Hungary. He stood it until just after the abortive Hungarian Revolution of 1956, when he fled with his ex-wife to Austria (and promptly remarried her).

He became an Austrian citizen in 1968, when he was already a world-famous composer. Since fleeing to Austria, his travels have all been voluntary and extensive. He died in Vienna.

Ligeti’s music is chiefly known to the general public for its appearance in the movies of Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut), Martin Scorcese (Shutter Island) and Michael Mann (Heat).

Many of his compositions sound distinctly strange to the average music lover, but the Bagatelles, one of which is dedicated to the memory of fellow-Hungarian, Béla Bartók, are distinctly light, nimble and rather charming.

— 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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