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Sunday, December 9 , 2018, 2:36 pm | Fair 67º

 
 
 
 

Symphony’s ‘Salute to the Arlington’ May Be Its Last

An expected move to the Granada Theatre gives special meaning to this weekend's concerts.

Although the Santa Barbara Symphony has not said it in so many words, it seems probable that its "Salute to the Arlington" concerts on Saturday and Sunday will be the orchestra’s finale in that venerable venue.

The 2008-09 season most likely will be in the renovated Granada Theatre. There are many reasons why this is a positive move – acoustics, for one thing – yet there is something ineffably sad about the way the Arlington is being discretely written out of the narrative.

It is reminiscent of an ancient aristocratic family that can no longer maintain its vast, labor-intensive country house and either sells it to a social-climbing billionaire or "donates" it to the National Trust. The Arlington, built in the 1920s, remains a monument to the shameless and whimsical extravagance of that era, to our wild and crazy younger selves.

The program devised by Music Director Nir Kabaretti for these farewell concerts is appropriately spectacular. With the participation of brilliant young violinist Augustin Hadelich, the symphony will perform the Concerto in D Major for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 61 by Ludwig van Beethoven, the tone poem Death and Transfiguration, Opus 24 by Richard Strauss, and the inescapable pot-boiler Bolero by Maurice Ravel.

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Saturday’s concert begins at 8 p.m.; Sunday’s at 3 p.m. Tickets are available at the Arlington box office. Call 805.963.4408 or order online at www.thesymphony.org.

Classical music today gets, if anything, too much respect – a hushed and deadly reverence – so it is good to remember that, in the days when Beethoven was making his living as a composer, premieres of even his greatest works could contain elements that would, to say the least, raise eyebrows today.

At the first performance of his violin concerto, soloist Franz Clement took the opportunity to introduce, between the first and second movements of the concerto, a composition of his own, a fantasia for one string, which he played holding the violin upside down. Clement had been quite helpful to Beethoven during the composition and production of Fidelio, and they were apparently still on speaking terms after the concerto’s premiere.

Before he became famous, infamous and rich from his operas, Strauss composed a number of symphonic poems that established him as a fluent, not to say unrivaled, master of orchestral writing. Death and Transfiguration, composed in 1889, allegedly depicts the terminal illness, death and spiritual rebirth of an artist – most of the poems are, in an emotional sense, autobiographical. The theme of death, so central in Mahler, is more occasional in Strauss’ work. Yet he was a great admirer of his older contemporary and once told a friend: "One score is always on my piano, The Resurrection (Mahler’s 2nd Symphony). I never cease to learn from it."

Ravel, who wrote so much wonderful music – two piano concertos, a remarkable string quartet, lots of exquisite solo piano pieces – would probably not be inordinately pleased to find that he owed his high profile in the public consciousness to his having composed Bolero in 1928. But he would almost certainly prefer it to not being remembered at all.

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