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Gerald Carpenter: Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Czech Orchestra Headline CAMA Concert Monday

The Community Arts Music Association (CAMA) brings the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek​, to Santa Barbara for a concert at 8 p.m. Monday at The Granada Theatre. The internationally celebrated pianist, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, will serve as guest soloist.

The Czechs will be playing Leoš Janáček​’s​ Taras Bulba, A Rhapsody for Orchestra based on the novel by Nicolai Gogol, (1915-1918); Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in A-Major, S.125 (1839, 1849); and Antonín Dvořák​’s Symphony No.9 in e-minor, Opus 95, B.178, “From the New World” (1893).

The concert begins with a rhapsody about the Russian steppes and closes with a symphony about the American Great Plains. It is curious that the Czechs should be so good with open spaces, since there are few level stretches of any size in Bohemia. Yet, Janáček seems to have taught Dmitri Shostakovich and Serge Prokofieff how to write about their country, the way Dvořák taught Virgil Thomson and Aaron Copland to write about ours.

Dvořák and Janáček were Czech nationalists, in any case, and Janáček no doubt saw in Nikolai Gogol’s short novel — atypical of an author known for his irony — a chance to give the Poles a boot by celebrating one of their implacable enemies. He’s too great an artist, though, to stoop to jingoism or propaganda. Taras Bulba’s program, no matter how closely the composer followed the novel, can be jettisoned with impunity, the better to savor its lush, pungent beauties.

It would surely have been possible, even allowing for M. Thibaudet’s instrument, to come up with an all-Czech — as opposed to mostly Czech, with some Hungarian — program. Dvořák wrote a gorgeous piano concerto, and Bohuslav Martinů​ wrote five, all good. Yet, I suppose the former would have been too much Dvořák, the latter altogether too esoteric. If it must be Liszt, at least we will spared the deadening pomposity of the opening of his First Piano Concerto. The Second is a far more refined and likable work.

Single tickets to this concert are $38, $48, $73, $9, and $103, and they can be purchased from The Granada box office, 1214 State St., by phone at 805.899.2222, or click here to purchase tickets online.

— 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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