The Music Academy of the West‘s expanding partnership with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) continues to pay us huge dividends, with no downside in sight.

This month, the Music Academy joins forces with the Community Arts Music Association (CAMA), to bring the London Symphony, together with its music director,  Sir Simon Rattle, to Santa Barbara for a five-day residency — including an LSO concert, conducted by Rattle, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 24, in the Granada Theater — as part of the academy’s celebration of its 75th anniversary.

Hannah Kendall

Hannah Kendall

The program for this concert includes Hector Berlioz‘s “Le corsaire, concert overture, Opus 21” (1844); Hannah Kendall‘s “The Spark Catchers” (2017); Jean Sibelius‘ “Symphony No. 7 in C-Major, Opus 105” (1924); Béla Bartók‘s “Miraculous Mandarin, ballet-pantomime (suite), Opus 19” (1918-26); and Maurice Ravel‘s “La Valse, a Choreographic Poem for Orchestra” (1920).

This is a remarkably diverse and exciting program (or “programme,” as the English would say).

The Berlioz, with its giddy, headlong outer edges, and its creamy nougat of an almost motionless center, will make a delightful curtain raiser.

The British composer, Hannah Kendall was born in 1984. “The Spark Catchers” was inspired by the work of Guyanese poet, Lemn Sissay, and it lasts only 10 minutes, so, even if you hate it — and I promise you won’t, since it is a pleasant and lively work — you will hardly have time to realize you are suffering.

The Sibelius symphony is one long sigh, during which the inhale and the exhale glide past each other and nod solemnly, before reaching the beginning and the end at the same time. Or not. You may think what you like of what you heard, once you listen to it.

After the Second Symphony, Sibelius pretty much dispensed with the standard forms of the post-romantic symphony, and invented forms according to the needs of the work at hand. Nevertheless, he kept his old audience and continued to attract new fans, because his innovations never messed with harmony.

I put Bartok’s compositions into two categories: super-duper or unbearable. “Miraculous Mandarin,” for all its dissonance and occasional spikey weirdness, I put in the former category, since none of the abrasive stuff goes on too long, the melodies are the composer’s own rather than being familiar tunes in which he inserts a wrong note or two, and it’s a great orchestral showcase, as they know very well at the Music Academy.

“La Valse” is crusted over with legends and guesses as to what it’s “really” about, but since Ravel has denied them all, I’m not going to bother with them. After the composer’s death (1937), the French musicologist and critic, Paul Landormy called “La Valse” “the most unexpected of the compositions of Ravel, revealing to us heretofore unexpected depths of Romanticism, power, vigor, and rapture in this musician whose expression is usually limited to the manifestations of an essentially classical genius.”

Single tickets to this concert are $75 and $10, and can be purchased in person at the Granada Box Office, 1214 State St., by calling 805-899-2222, or online at

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at The opinions expressed are his own.