Monday, June 18 , 2018, 2:59 pm | Fair 69º


Gerald Carpenter: Chamber Orchestra Plays Half from British Isles, Half from Germany

The next concert by the superb ensemble known as the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra takes place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 17 in the Lobero Theatre.

Pianist Alessio Bax will play a Brahms concerto with the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra on Tuesday.

Beloved Maestro Heiichiro Ohyama will conduct, with popular guest artist and pianist Alessio Bax on hand as soloist.

The program will consist of works by Frank BridgeAn Irish Melody (1908); Frederick Delius — the "Intermezzo" from the opera Fennimore & Gerda (1910) and the "Prelude" from the opera Irmelin (1892); Felix MendelssohnThe Hebrides Overture (Fingals Cave), Opus 26 (1833); and Johannes BrahmsPiano Concerto No. 1 in D-Minor, Opus 15 (1859).

Bridge (1879-71) is famous chiefly as the mentor of Benjamin Britten, but we should not hold that against him. He is a much more attractive composer than his disciple, and composed a great many works that deserve a lot more attention than they have ever gotten. An Irish Melody is the first movement of a Suite on "Londonderry Air" for String Quartet with the other movements composed by Hamilton Harty, John David Davis, Eric Coates and York Bowen. The "Londonderry Air" is more familiar to American audiences as the tune of the song "O Danny Boy."

The operas of Delius (1862-1934) are seldom performed today, except in the form of the sort of instrumental episodes we will hear in this concert. What one musicologist said of Fennimore — that it was "limited in its dramatic appeal but voluptuous and engaging in its instrumental texture" — probably represents the consensus among scholars. One gets very little opportunity to see any of them performed, of course, and damned little chance even to hear recordings. I have a recording of only one, A Village Romeo and Juliet, which is a kind of Thomas Hardy treatment of the Shakespeare legend, and I find it quite ravishing. One can actually understand the words as they are sung, and follow the dramatic action, while the music is, indeed, "voluptuous and engaging."

In the Hebrides Overture, Mendelssohn (1809-1847) anticipates much of the orchestral scene-setting of Wagner's Rheingold (1854) composed more than two decades later, and does so with far more grace and economy than Wagner ever managed.

It will be a treat to hear the First Piano Concerto of Brahms (1833-1898) played by an ensemble the size of the Chamber Orchestra. One will be able to listen to the majestic work without being pummeled into submission by it.

Tickets to this concert are $64 and $54, and they are available at the door, by phone from the Lobero box office at 805.963.0761 or online by clicking here.

— 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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