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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 12:20 am | Fair 51º


Gerald Carpenter: UCSB Ensemble Boldly Goes Into Alternate Musical Realities

Kudos to Jeremy Haladyna and his talented collaborators in the UCSB Ensemble for Contemporary Music for coming up with yet another beckoning trail of breadcrumbs to follow through the forest of contemporary music.

Cyril Scott
A midlife portrait of British composer, author, poet and occultist Cyril Scott, by George Hall Neale.

This trail is called "Not This Reality," and it describes itself as "a program of instrumental music that dreams itself elsewhere."

The concert will begin at 4 p.m. Wednesday in Lotte Lehmann Hall in the UCSB Music Building.

Our guides into these musical neverlands include British composer Cyril Scott (1879-1970), whose best-known work, Lotus Land for Solo Piano (1909), will be played by pianist Cindy (Hsinyi) Shen; Pulitzer Prize-winning American David Lang (born in 1957), represented by his Short Fall for Flute, Viola, Cello, and Piano (2000) as performed by Adriane Hill on flute, Carson Rick on viola, Kathryn Carlson on cello and Robert Johnson on piano; Englishman Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953) and his Legend for Viola and Piano (1929), performed by Tianna Harjo on viola and Haladyna on piano; Finn Kalevi Aho (born in 1949), whose Solo X for Horn (2010) will be translated by graduate hornist Jarrett Webb; and Frenchman Charles Koechlin (1867-1950) through his Suite en quatuor pour flûte, violon, alto et piano, Opus 55 (1911-15) in a performance by Hill on flute, Johann Velasquez on violin, Jordan Warmath on viola and Haladyna on piano.

This is a program that I can recommend without reservation. The weirdest pieces — those by Lang and Kahlevi — are the shortest, and even they are not weird in an aggressive, off-putting way.

If you have ever heard "The White Peacock" or "The Vale of Dreams" by our own Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884-1920), you should have no problem with the piece by Scott, who was Griffes's near contemporary but who lived nearly three times as long.

Since the program contains a large component of make-believe, Bax's place on it is entirely appropriate. Not only are many of his best orchestral works literally fantasies, but Bax himself spent the first part of his creative life making believe he was an Irishman named Dermot O’Byrne, writing poems and prose under that name and taking part in the Irish Literary Revival and the "Celtic Twilight" movement. He had many friends among the rebels of the Easter Rebellion of 1916, and several were killed, some by execution. That, more than even World War I, darkened his vision ever afterwards.

Koechlin was a near contemporary of Claude Debussy, but sounds nothing like him. Indeed, he seldom even sounds consistently like himself. But all of his work is worthy of a listen, and some of it is quite wonderful.

Students with a valid ID are admitted at no charge. Tickets are available to the general public at the door, or from the Music Department website 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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