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Gerald Carpenter: Chamber on the Mountain Series Featuring Violinist Paul Huang

At 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts, the Happy Valley Cultural Center will present the next installment of the exciting new chamber music series, Chamber on the Mountain (with director Heidi Lehwalder), featuring a recital by talented young violinist Paul Huang (with Jessica Osborne on piano).

Huang
Violinist Paul Huang

Huang, 22, already has acquired an enviable international reputation as a virtuoso. The Washington Post has praised his "sparkling clean, airy tone and pinpoint intonation," and has singled him out as "an artist with the goods for a significant career." Just a week ago, Huang performed at Hahn Hall with Camerata Pacifica.

The Huang-Osborne program includes Ludwig van Beethoven's Violin-Piano Sonata No.8 G-Major, Opus 30, No. 3 (1802); Eugène Ysaÿe's Sonata in D-Minor for Unaccompanied Violin (Ballade), Opus 27, No. 3; Olivier Messiaen's Thème et variations for Violin and Piano (1932); Maurice Ravel's Habanera; Claude Debussy's La Plus que Lente, valse (1910); and Camille Saint-Saëns' Violin-Piano Sonata No.1 in d-minor, Opus 75 (1885).

Except for the Beethoven, this is an intensely Gallic program (though Ysaÿe, of course, was Belgian, like Hercule Poirot).

Ysaÿe's Opus 27 is a set of six sonatas for solo violin, each dedicated to a different violinist among the composer's contemporaries. Whether or not they were all Ysaÿe's friends is another question — he didn't write one with his own name on it and there may be the suggestion of a practical joke in the fact that, impressive and demanding as are all six as technical achievements, there is no one of them that is an unalloyed crowd-pleaser.

The Sonata No. 3 in D-Minor was dedicated to the Rumanian composer and violinist George Enescu. At eight-plus minutes, it is the second shortest of the set. Ysaÿe's characterization of it as a "ballade" is somewhat misleading; more to the point is its marking "in the manner of a recitative."

The Messiaen is a pleasant, ultra-low key surprise. Tranquil and meditative, one or two of the variations might disturb the dust on a bowl of rose leaves, but not much else.

The Ravel is most likely a transcription of his Habanera for two pianos (1895). The Debussy is also a transcription, of a lovely work from 1910 that Heifetz and Oistrah have also performed with great distinction. The one recording I have is a Welte piano roll recording by Debussy himself. The composer rejected the first attempt by his publishers to provide an orchestration, with these remarks:

"Examining the brassy score of La plus que lente, it appears to me to be uselessly ornamented with trombones, kettle drums, triangles, etc., and thus it addresses itself to a sort of de luxe saloon that I am accustomed to ignore! — there are certain clumsinesses that one can easily avoid! So I permitted myself to try another kind of arrangement which seems more practical. And it is impossible to begin the same way in a saloon as in a salon. There absolutely must be a few preparatory measures. But let's not limit ourselves to beer parlors. Let's think of the numberless five-o'-clock teas where assemble the beautiful audiences I've dreamed of."

Proustian associations aside, the Saint-Saëns work is a showpiece that manages to move and energize at the same time.

The Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts is located at 8560 Nordhoff Road (aka Ojai-Santa Paula Road) in upper Ojai. Tickets to this concert are $25 for general admission and $15 for students. The venue has limited space, so the Chamber on the Mountain people are recommending that you make advance reservations guaranteed by credit card or personal check.

To make reservations, and obtain detailed instructions on getting to it, call 805.646.3381 or click here.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected].

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