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Gerald Carpenter: UCSB ‘Spotlight Concert’ to Illuminate Young Performers

Krzysztof Penderecki
Krzysztof Penderecki's skill as a conductor complements his brilliance as a composer.

The UCSB Music Department's series of free "Spotlight Concerts" continues with a recital at 4 p.m. Wednesday in Lotte Lehmann Hall. Once again, Jeremy Haladyna will host.

We will hear the Havanaise in E-Major for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 83 (1887) by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), played by Camden Boyle on violin and Dr. Natasha Kislenko on piano; the "Prelude," "Bourrée" and "Gigue" from the Suite No. 3 in C-Major for Cello Solo, BWV 1009 of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) by Gregory Rathje on viola; the Cadenza for solo viola (1984) by Krzysztof Penderecki (born in 1933) by Carson Rick on viola; and the "Adagio mesto" and "Allegro con brio" from the Trio in Eb-Major for Horn, Violin, and Piano, Opus 40 (1865) by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) by Eric Morin on horn, Tom Yaron on violin and Mark Gutierrez on piano.

There seems to be a revived interest in the music of Saint-Saëns, I am delighted to note. I hesitate to mention it, lest it prove a chimera born of coincidence and wishful thinking, but if there's anything I can do to keep it going ... . The acknowledgment, anyway, by the musical establishment, that Saint-Saëns belongs in the first rank of composers of his time has been slow in coming and mostly grudging.

He lived a long time and was not, it seems, an easy person to like. He was a brilliant writer as well as composer, and his piercing intellect did not deal gently with his contemporaries — in his case, virtually every European musician of the 19th century and early 20th. But his music lives on because, unlike its composer, it is uncomplicated and beautiful.

Three movements is an ideal dose of Bach. We can appreciate the greatness of it without being overwhelmed and exhausted.

The Penderecki is remarkably accessible, for him. I guess there is a limit to the hot water he can get a single instrument into. Also, it is one of his secular works, and so there are no theological questions that need grappling.

The Brahms is, quite simply, the greatest work extent for this combination of instruments. It is a relatively early work, written — I won't say at the height of his powers, since he spent his entire career on that pinnacle — when his sense of form was not yet in the driver's seat of his lyrical impulses. That is to say it is an expansive, melodic work of haunting beauty.

— 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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