Monday, October 24 , 2016, 1:55 pm | Fair 69º


Gerald Carpenter: Santa Barbara Symphony to Swing with an African ‘Genesis’

The Santa Barbara Symphony will play its April program twice, at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, in the Granada Theatre at 1214 State St.

Darius Milhaud
Darius Milhaud in the 1920s, when he tweaked the nose of the French musical establishment as a one of "The Six."

The concerts will be conducted by Music Director Nir Kabaretti, with the participation of guest soloist Donald Foster on clarinet and the animation of Carolyn Chrisman.

We will hear three works: Darius Milhaud's 1923 ballet, La création du monde, Opus 81a (with Chrisman's animation), Aaron Copland's Concerto for Clarinet, Strings and Harp (1949) (with Foster) and Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A-Major, Opus 92 (1813).

It's always a good idea to have an organizing principle for a concert program, and the symphony has made much of the relationship between these works and jazz — too much, possibly.

Each of the works is a stand-alone masterpiece, and can be enjoyed by itself without any talking points. Those who listen to jazz on a regular basis will not mistake either the Clarinet Concerto or The Creation of the World for examples of the genre. Still, after a breathtakingly lyrical opening, the Copland does swing, while the Milhaud, whose ambience is decidedly more African than American, works a sea change on our only native idiom and hands it back to us in a steamy exotic disguise.

Beethoven conducted the premiere of the Seventh Symphony himself, at a charity concert in Vienna to raise money for soldiers wounded in the battle against Napoleon. The orchestra that night was an all-star ensemble, with the likes of Louis Spohr, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Antonio Salieri, Domenico Dragonetti and Mauro Giuliani all playing together under Beethoven's baton. Wir sind die Welt/wir sind die Kinder.

The fledgling music lover goes from passionate attachment to passionate attachment with a violence and finality that is scarcely credible from the distance of age. My discovery of the Seventh Symphony was a great event in the evolution of my emotional life. The gorgeous, unforgettable second movement is a triumph of polyphony, and if you don't believe me, try whistling it — it sounds like slow-motion Morse code. Yet when a full orchestra is playing it, the melodies are obvious, like a glowing mist over a dark river.

Tickets to this concert are $29 to $133, with special rates for seniors, students and groups. Discounted student tickets are available for $10 with valid student ID. Single tickets can be purchased from the Granada box office at 805.899.2222 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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