Pixel Tracker

Monday, February 18 , 2019, 11:16 am | Fair 55º


Symphony Goes All Russian on Us

Mussorgsky, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky provide inspiration for Santa Barbara Symphony program.


This weekend’s Santa Barbara Symphony concerts bear the name "Russian Romantics," and the program will include three works: Modest Mussorgsky’s tone poem — dear to generations of young viewers of Walt Disney’s Fantasia – A Night on Bald Mountain; Sergei Rachmaninoff’s definitive Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini; and Peter Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in f minor, Opus 36.


The concerts begin at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Arlington Theatre. Both performances will be conducted by the popular new music director, Nir Kabaretti, with the brilliant pianist Lilya Zilberstein as soloist in the Rachmaninoff.

There are almost as many types of "Romanticism" as there are Romantics, of course, but the Russian variety of the malady in question here partakes very heavily of Romanticism as described by Geoffrey Scott in his book, The Architecture of Humanism.

"Romanticism may be said to consist in a high development of poetic sensibility toward the remote, as such," he said. "It idealizes the distant, both of time and place; it identifies beauty with strangeness. In the curious and the extreme, which are disdained by classical taste, and in the obscure detail which that taste is too abstract to include, it finds fresh sources of inspiration.

"It is most often retrospective, turning away from the present, however valuable, as being familiar. It is always idealistic, casting on the screen of an imaginary past the projection of its unfulfilled desires."

This being the case, you may well wonder at the apparent absence of Rimsky-Korsakov from the program. Wonder no more, he is there — in A Night on Bald Mountain. Korsakov took themes from Mussorgsky’s early and rarely heard "musical picture," St. John’s Night on the Bare Mountain, and re-worked them into the ever-popular tone poem that the symphony will perform this weekend.

The musical and literary derivations of the well-known work are rather complicated, and appreciation of the music does not at all require that they be sorted out. Mussorgsky never enjoyed the wild popular successes of his friend, Rimsky-Kosakov, and so it is fitting that he be given full credit for a work of which he is the original creator.


Implicit in Scott’s remarks about Romanticism is the emotion known as nostalgia, which Scott refers to indirectly when he says that Romanticism’s "most typical form is the cult of the extinct." Except for the Mussorgsky, the program could be justly called "Russian Nostalgia," for where would Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov be without their soulful longing for lost — and perhaps imaginary – worlds.

You can try blaming the 1917 revolution for Rachmaninoff’s despairing tone, since it made him an exile; the 18th Variation in the Rhapsody is such a perfect evocation of nostalgia that it has been used in the score of countless motion pictures. Yet what Robert Craft called Rachmaninoff’s "utopia of hopeless melancholy" was present, fully formed, in the Second Piano Concerto of 1901. And the roots of Tchaikovsky’s nostalgic fantasies lie elsewhere, but that is spadework for another day.

Single tickets are available at the Arlington Box office at 805.963.4408.

Talk to Us!

Please take Noozhawk's audience survey to help us understand what you expect — and want — from us. It'll take you just a few minutes. Thank you!

Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >