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Santa Barbara Music Club to Perform Free Holiday Concert Dec. 7

At 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7 in the Faulkner Gallery of the Santa Barbara Public Library, the Santa Barbara Music Club will present another program in its popular series of concerts of beautiful music.

A valued cultural resource in the community since 1969, these concerts feature outstanding performances by instrumental and vocal soloists and chamber music ensembles, and are free to the public.

This special Holiday Concert will be followed by a reception for Music Club members, to express appreciation for their support and generosity in sponsoring both the SBMC's Faulkner Concert Series as well as its wonderful Scholarship Program.

As befitting the special nature of the occasion, the program will feature two spectacular creations of that titan of musical composition, Ludwig van Beethoven.

The program will open with cellist Ani Aznavoorian and pianist Christopher Davis performing the magnificently elegant Sonata No. 2 in G Minor, Opus 5, No. 2.  This work, composed in 1796, is dedicated to the King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm II, an ardent music-lover and amateur cellist for whom Haydn and Mozart had written string quartets. It is known that Beethoven was the pianist in its first performance, and that despite the dedication the cello part was played by the renowned French cellist Jean-Pierre Duport.

The two sonatas of Opus 5 are the first sonatas for cello and piano ever written, and give solid evidence of the composer's genius — even at age 26. And though Beethoven was not yet suffering intensely from the deafness that would soon transform his whole existence, these sonatas, and particularly the Sonata in G minor, exhibit the pathos and tremendous emotional contrasts which would be the hallmark of the composer's more mature output.

In like manner, the Trio in B-Flat Major, Opus 11, which will conclude the program, is replete with an astonishing freshness of inspiration and compositional daring. Clarinetist Per Elmfors, cellist Geoffrey Rutkowski and pianist Betty Oberacker will interpret this work, which was composed in 1797 and dedicated to Countess Maria Wilhelmine von Thun, a former patron of Mozart.

Like Mozart before him and Brahms after him, Beethoven was closely associated and inspired by a fine clarinetist, and the Viennese virtuoso Franz Josef Bähr had not only requested that Beethoven compose the trio for him, but specifically suggested the theme for the third movement's Theme and Variations. Interestingly, Opus 11 is known as the "Gassenhauer" Trio, and the nickname, which typically receives the translation of "Popular Song" but in actuality can be more accurately (though less elegantly) translated as "Alley Song," refers to the mocking, devil-may-care nature of that theme.

— Marilyn Gilbert represents the Santa Barbara Music Club.

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