Saturday, May 26 , 2018, 7:19 pm | Fair 68º


Gerald Carpenter: Two UCSB Concerts Juxtapose Familiar and Contemporary Music

Two concerts at UCSB the same day keep the interest high in student performances.

Jon Nathan
Professor Jon Nathan will lead the dynamic UCSB Mallet Ensemble in a concert of mixed classical and contemporary works.

The next "Spotlight" concert from the UCSB Music Department will be at 4 p.m. Wednesday in Lotte Lehmann Hall (Music Building). Once again, Jeremy Haladyna will serve as host. The event is free for all those who can make it.

The program for this Spotlight consists of the Violin-Piano Sonata in D-Major, Opus 9, No. 3 (1743) of Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764), performed by Therèse Brown on violin and Pascal Salomon on piano; Three Landscapes (2014) (premiere performance) by David Gordon, played by Jarrett Webb on horn, Carson Rick on viola, Ian Davis on cello and Rosa LaGiudice on piano; the third movement "Andantino" from the Piano Trio No. 1 (1985) by Mauricio Kagel (1931-2008), performed by Johann Velasquez on violin, Davis on cello and Haladyna on piano; and the third movement "Allegro molto" from the Concerto No. 1 in C-Major for Violin and Orchestra, Hoboken VIIb, No. 1 (1765) of Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), played by Larissa Fedoryka on cello and Christine Lee on piano.

It is always chancy to attempt to revive a long-overlooked composer to our attention by publicizing some sensational, nonmusical fact about his or her personal life. It is interesting, for instance, that Leclair, shortly after moving into what they called, in Repo Man, a "bad area" of Paris, was literally stabbed in the back and killed on his way home one night.

Yet, when we turn from the headlines (his murderer was never identified) to the music, we find no foreshadowing of his violent end. Nor do we find any trace of his stormy marriages or bitter quarrels with his two sets of in-laws. It doesn't work the other way either. To judge from this sonata, or from his many other compositions, Leclair spent his life in a state of sweet, elegant bliss.

As for what Haladyna calls "the bizarreries of Kagel's Piano Trio," there is a fair amount of extra musicality built right in to the man's compositions. He was a pioneer in making explicit the implicit theatricality of a live musical performance, often including stage directions in the score — gestures and poses to be executed by the musicians, as well as expressions they are to wear during certain passages.

As Haladyna describes it, "Written for classical audiences, and classical players, [the trio] probes the collective psyche of this world, with a cellist who needs melatonin, as he can't tell end from beginning, to a pianist with obsessive-compulsive disorder, to a violinist given to weak-kneed nostalgia that always ends up sounding like an old TV picture tube fading in and out."

Having listened to a recording of it, I'd say it sounds like an epic of heroic indecision, though Kagel, for all his desultory rambling, never quite fumbles our attention — indeed, the question of whether or not he can keep it together all the way to the end keeps us almost on the edge of our chairs.

At 8 p.m. Wednesday, also in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall, the UCSB Mallet Ensemble, under the direction of Professor Jon Nathan, will wrap up their quarter with a fascinating concert of old and new music written for and/or played on percussion instruments.

The featured "old" music will include Nathan's arrangements of works by Johann Sebastian BachCantata No. 29 "Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir," BWV 29, the Fugue in G-Minor for Organ, BWV 578, "Little," the “Prelude" from the Suite No. 1 in G-Major for Unaccompanied Cello, BWV 1007 and the "Fugue" from the Sonata in G-Minor for Solo Violin, BWV 1001 — and Dmitri ShostakovichPrelude and Fugue for Piano in Db-Major, Opus 87, No. 15.

Among the "new" — indeed, contemporary — works to be performed are Dave Hall's Escape Velocity, Rüdiger Pawassar's Sculpture in Wood, Christopher Deane's Vespertine Formations and Ney Rosauro's Samba Marimba Blues.

Chances are you will prefer the Bach to everything else — that's just human nature when it comes to listening to music — but the Shostakovich is very cool, and reminds us quite forcibly that, unlike the Bach, Nathan is transcibing from one percussion instrument (piano) to others, the way one would transcribe a string quartet for a string orchestra. I imagine it will succeed brilliantly. The four contemporary works, all written for mallet ensembles, are quite different from each other, and most easy to hear. The Rosauro manages to be good music and rather funny at the same time. They are all engagingly rhythmic, but that is a long way from being all they are.

Tickets to the Mallet Ensemble are $10 for general admission and $5 for students, and they will be available at the door. For additional information, click 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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