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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 1:20 pm | Fair 62º


Gerald Carpenter: Music Club Offers Music Two by Two

Marin Marais by André Bouys, 1704.
Marin Marais by André Bouys, 1704.

The next free concert by members of the Santa Barbara Music Club takes place at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, in the First United Methodist Church, 305 E. Anapamu St.

The concert's program, called Duos, features compositions that represent musical dialogues. When a third instrument is involved, as in the first work, it is there only as continuo.

The concert is half again as long as the club standard (if not a unique duration, dictated by circumstances, let's hope it augurs well for the coming season).

The works and the artists who will perform them are:

Carl Friedrich Abel's “Sonata in F-Major (1771)” (Andrew Saunders, viola da gamba; Jeannot Maha'a, cello; Ellie Cornfeld Melton, harpsichord).

Luigi Boccherini's “Sonata in c-minor, G. 18” (Ray Tischer, viola; Jeannot Maha'a, cello).

Maurice Ravel's song cycle, “Don Quichotte à Dulcinée (1932-33)” (Ken Ryals, baritone; Christopher Davis, piano).

Marin Marais's “Suite in e-minor (1692)” (Andrew Saunders, viola da gamba; Joaquin Gray, guitar).

Jean Françaix's “L'horloge de flore/The Flower Clock (1959” (Adelle Rodkey, oboe; Eric Valinsky, piano).

Carl Friedrich Abel (1723-87) was a German contemporary of Franz Josef Haydn. He was a hard-drinking, high-living kind of guy, which may have shortened his life (though 65 years is a pretty long run for an eighteenth century composer).

Abel was especially noted for his works featuring the viola da gamba, on which he was a virtuoso performer.

His popularity as a concertizer, and of the works he composed for the instrument, kept the viola da gamba alive in the musical public long after it had begun to fall out of fashion in general.

Indeed, his fondness for the viol often gives Abel's music an archaic sound, though his career was spent solidly within the "classical" or Rococo period.

After Abel’s death, the viol almost completely disappeared from concert halls, and ceased to be a sonic resource for composers.

Abel, who spent most of his career in London, is also famous for the Bach-Abel Concerts he co-founded in that city with Bach's son, Johann Christian.

As Abel, born in Germany, spent most of his working life in England, so Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805), an Italian, spent the major part of his creative life in Spain.

Boccherini was sometimes rather disrespectfully known as "the bride of Haydn" for the totality of his acceptance of the Austrian as his master. As closely as he adheres to Haydn's principles of form and harmony, however, Boccherini's music possesses its own unique charms of grace and subtlty.

Marin Marais (1656-1728) was "a master of the viol, and the leading French composer of music for the instrument." (Wikipedia). The formative influence of his early years was the bass violist Jean de Sainte-Colombe (ca. 1640-1700).

Sainte-Colombe was a Jansenist, a Calvinist heresy within the Catholic church, but Marais does not seem to have followed his master in this. Being a known Jansenist would have precluded his obtaining a position at the court of Louis XIV.

There is, nevertheless, a kind of stark, Calvinist grandeur to Marais's music, which is stately and hypnotic and sounds like nobody else.

Brief as it is, Ravel's“Don Quichotte à Dulcinée” is one of the great song sets of the 20th cetury. Ravel solved the problem of being modern and listenable at the same time.

Françaix's “L'horloge de flore," often heard in the version for oboe and orchestra, is a thorough delight and, like all of this composer's works, absolutely weightless.

For more about this or other Santa Barbara Music Club programs and performing artists, visit www.sbmusicclub.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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