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Gerald Carpenter: Music Club Offers Schumann, Beethoven and Brahms

The Santa Barbara Music Club will offer a free matinee concert at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Faulkner Gallery of the Santa Barbara Public Library, 40 E. Anapamu St.

The program for this concert could scarcely have been better calculated to please a roomful of traditional music lovers. There are three works scheduled: Robert Schumann's Three Romances for oboe and piano, Opus 94 (1849), performed by Jose Franch-Ballester on clarinet and Christopher Davis on piano; Ludwig van Beethoven's Sonata No. 3 in A-Major for Cello and Piano, Opus 69 (1808) by Larissa Fedoryka on cello and Leslie Cain on piano; and Johannes Brahms' Sonata in Eb-Major for Clarinet and Piano, Opus 120, No. 2 (1894) by Per Elmfors on clarinet and Betty Oberacker on piano.

As I say, a program guaranteed to please. The Beethoven is one of the composer's works that helped me understand his continuing appeal, not to the musicologists or musicians, but to the rest of us. The second movement "Scherzo" — it is mostly a rondo — is one of the purest examples of what I have come to think of as the secret Beethoven, the Beethoven that takes us to places we could never get to on our own.

Other works I would put in this category are "Für Elise," the last movement of the "Tempest" piano sonata, the trio from the 3rd movement "rondo" of the Second Piano Concerto, and the haunting second theme from the first movement of the "Emperor." (There are certainly others, but I can't think of them right now.)

In these works we become as children, and Beethoven becomes a Pied Piper. We smile, we sigh, we follow his mysterious footsteps into a dream kingdom. We dance in a witch's sabbath (with no peril to our immortal souls). We whirl gracefully with our beloved across the checkered tiles of an empty, moonlit ballroom. And all without leaving our seats, though it helps to close our eyes.

All Beethoven is "real" Beethoven, but this is not the Beethoven who thunders anthems of freedom, not the Beethoven who tests the manual dexterity of the performer ("You can't fake Beethoven," said Arthur Rubinstein). This is the Beethoven we tend to keep to ourselves, because — as you can tell by my floundering attempts — there aren't really any satisfactory words for it. But the ear knows, and so does the heart.

— 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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