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Gerald Carpenter: Music Club Offers Chopin and Schumann in Free Concert

Music lovers on a tight budget (and aren't we all?) may rejoice in the fact that the Santa Barbara Music Club has planned a full schedule of free concerts for the 2016-17 season. The first will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, in the Faulkner Gallery of the Downtown Santa Barbara Public Library.

The sole performer will be the internationally celebrated pianist Constantine Finehouse — Russian born; educated at the New England Conservatory, the Juilliard School and Yale University. How's that for a pedigree? His program will consist of two romantic masterpieces: Frédéric Chopin’s Sonata No. 3 in b-minor, Opus 58 (1844),  and Robert Schumann’s Fantasia in C-Major, Opus 17 (1836).

Finehouse has a lot of nerve, scaling two such Himalayan peaks back to back. Music Club concerts usually last an hour, and I daresay you wouldn't be able to squeeze a single additional note into this one.

Chopin's three piano sonatas are of a musical and technical difficulty that many pianists find intimidating, and which the best view as an irresistible challenge. Of the two most frequently performed, the Second has the Funeral March, while the Third ends in a major key.

The Sonata No. 1 in C-minor, Opus 4, written in 1828 but only published after Chopin's death in 1849, is by no means a lesser work, though it is one of the least-recorded of all Chopin's compositions.

Like all Chopin works, the appeal is immediate, and we are carried along by the torrential emotion; the melodic simplicity often obscures the complex and sophisticated harmonies.

Schumann wrote the first movement of his Fantasy as a musical love letter to Clara Wieck, the brilliant young pianist whom he would later marry, but he wrote the second and third as his contribution to a fund-raising effort to build a monument to Beethoven in Bonn, the composer's home town.

After the work reached its present form and title, Schumann wrote to Clara: "The first movement may well be the most passionate I have ever composed — a deep lament for you."

Passion, indeed, colors the whole work, and has been instrumental in making the Fantasy one of the signature works of German romanticism. It, too, has a daunting reputation for difficulty in performance.

— 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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