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Gerald Carpenter: Westmont Orchestra to Close Season with Concerto Winners

The Westmont Orchestra, conducted by Michael Shasberger, will bring down the curtain on their 2013-14 season with a "Concerto Concert" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Hahn Hall at Music Academy of the West, 1070 Fairway Road, and at 8 p.m. Friday at First Presbyterian Church, 21 E. Constance Ave.

As the title of the concert suggests, the program includes several concerted works, showcasing the winning performers from the annual concerto competition. Violist Samantha Wilson will play the first movement of Sir William Walton’s Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (1935); violinist Lalia Mangione the first movement of Édouard Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole, Opus 21; and Isaac Kay and Rebecca Shasberger the first movement of Johannes Brahms’ Concerto in A-Minor for Violin and Cello, Opus 102 (1887).

The orchestra will also perform selections from Howard Shore's score for the motion picture The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and a composition of the hymn “You Are My All in All.”

I don't know a single violist who isn't grateful for the Walton concerto. Only Paul Hindemith understood the instrument as well, and Hindemith didn't have Walton's gift for melody. He was, all in all, one of the most underrated composers of the 20th century.

Some may take exception to the inclusion of a film score on a program of "classical" music, though the Santa Barbara Symphony has done so on a number of occasions. There is, indeed, a widespread prejudice, which I do not share, against film scores among mature American music lovers.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold and George Antheil, both very fine composers, lost a remarkable amount of prestige, in this country at any rate, when they took jobs — the classical world would call them "commissions" — in the film industry. They had the satisfaction of making exponentially more money than their purer-minded colleagues — Benny Goodman said he paid Aaron Copland $2,000 for the Clarinet Concerto; Antheil and Korngold were typically paid tens of thousands per film — and having their music enjoyed by exponentially more people.

Actually, "purer-minded" is catty and unfair. Since the appearance of the sound in motion pictures, most contemporary composers — including the greatest — were quite interested in writing for the movies. Few had the knack. André Previn recounted the following interview between Louis B. Mayer and Igor Stravinsky:

Mayer (sweeping his hand to include his office): "Mr. Stravinsky, you see this desk? I had it built around my body."

Stravinsky, standing, made no comment.

Mayer: "Mr. Stravinsky, how long would it take you to write a movie score?"

Stravinsky (after a moment's calculation): "Six months?"

Mayer (springing up and extending his hand): "Mr. Stravinsky, it has been a very great honor to meet you."

So, you had to be fast. But if we are going to hold that against a composer, what would we do about Wolfgang Mozart?

General admission to either performance is $10; students are free. To purchase tickets or for more information, call 805.565.6040.

— 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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