Articles in Press

[News-Press] Pictures at a symphonic exhibition

April 22, 2013

By Josef Woodard, News-Press Correspondent

In the continuing saga of the Santa Barbara Symphony’s 60th anniversary season, last weekend at The Granada, the April symphonic showers brought on at least a couple of deviations from norms and expectations. For one, music director Nir Kabaretti was taking the month off, passing the baton to the very fine Hungarian-born guest conductor Gregory Vajda. He presided sturdily over a program all about “seasons” — Vivaldi’s evergreen crowd-pleaser “The Four Seasons” and Alexander Glazunov’s palatably pictorial lark, “The Seasons,” also a four-part calendar soundtrack.

On the subject of pictorialism in the concert hall, the larger quirk of this stop on the concert program calendar was the literal “action painting” sideshow. During the Glazunov piece, veteran Hollywood scenic and matte painter Jett Green took on the brave, stunt-like task of rapidly creating four separate loose, broad-stroked landscape paintings, live and onstage, under duress and a strict deadline (or deadlines — four of them within an hour’s time).


Read more »



[Scene Magazine] Seasonal Work

April 12, 2013

This weekend’s Santa Barbara Symphony concert is all about ‘Seasons’

By Josef Woodard, News-Press Correspondent

As the Santa Barbara Symphony continues on the path of its celebratory 60th anniversary season this weekend at The Granada, the “seasonal” theme runs hot. Vivaldi’s ever-popular set of “The Four Seasons” concertos is in the center ring, with young violinist Nigel Armstrong taking the dramatic soloist role.

Off to the side of expected fare, we’ll experience Russian composer Alexander Glazunov’s 1899 piece “The Seasons,” with the extra-musical touch of a live, onstage painting interpretation by Jett Green. Ms. Green’s resume leans heavy on Hollywood connections, and on matte paintings and effects wizardry through her work with Industrial Light and Magic and Dreamworks. This weekend, to the tune of Glazunov, she will create paintings anew onstage, projected behind the orchestra.


Read more »



[Noozhawk] Santa Barbara Symphony Offers the Pick of the ‘Seasons’

April 12, 2013

By Gerald Carpenter, Noozhawk Contributing Writer

The Santa Barbara Symphony’s next concerts — at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, both in the Granada Theatre — promise to be as exciting to the eye as they always are to the ear.

Along with a sure-fire hit of a program, guest conductor Gregory Vajda has enlisted the services of Jett Green, a painter and/or visual artist, to provide projected images that illustrate or visually echo the second work on the program.

There are two works on the program, two works with virtually the same name. First, the set of four violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi that the composer himself gave the title, The Four Seasons (with the dynamic young violin virtuoso Nigel Armstrong as soloist); and, after the intermission, the sumptuous ballet by Alexander Glazunov called The Seasons, Opus 67 (with Green’s colorful ad hoc images).

What art historian Sir Kenneth Clark called “The Worship of Nature” established itself in the hearts of civilized Europeans during the 18th century. The depiction of natural scenes, and natural cycles, became a major theme of European art. Before 1789, nature was presented as a benign mistress, an enlightened despot.


Read more »



[News-Press] American pride, with asides

March 24, 2013

By Josef Woodward, News-Press Correspondent

It comes as no surprise or deviation from the central theme of last weekend’s all-American Santa Barbara Symphony program at The Granada that the conductor, our beloved Nir Kabaretti, is an Israeli who lives much of the time in Italy, or that the piano soloist, the commanding Xiayin Wang, is a New Yorker by way of a rigorous musical upbringing in her native China. America is nothing if not the proverbial melting pot landscape, and multi-cultural energies and input impact its classical musical life as much as any other facet of society, if not moreso.

Cultural symbiosis and historical cross-stitching, in fact, were also embedded in the musical element itself. The work affording Ms. Wang her tour de force spotlight on the concert, George Gershwin’s fabulous and clearly jazz-flavored Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra, was a follow-up to his cherished “Rhapsody in Blue,” and like the earlier model, tilts toward European vocabulary while proudly showcasing American musical airs. Likewise, the energetic bravado and lyrical gusts of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from ‘West Side Story’ ” taps into jazz, Broadway, and Euro-centricities of scoring.


Read more »



[Casa Magazine] American Masterpieces

March 22, 2013

By Daniel Kepl

Nir Kabaretti is in his 7th season as Music and Artistic Director of the Santa Barbara Symphony. this year is the orchestra’s 60th anniversary as well, and in honor of the occasion American composer Jonathan Leshnoff was commissioned to compose a new work, Concerto Grosso in the Baroque Style, featuring several principal members of the ensemble.

The Santa Barbara Symphony is Kabaretti’s first American gig, and the creative collaboration has been more than a one-way artistic conversation. While the orchestra has grown by several leagues as a result of Israeli born, Italy-based (Florence/Rome) maestro’s leadership, our musicians, many of whom work in the fast lane of Hollywood films, have contributed not a little to Kabaretti’s American aesthetic.

The program opened with the wonderfully accessible, leggy world premiere. In four didactic movements, the piece jousts multiple soloists against the larger orchestra windmill. The first movement pitted Guest Concertmaster Tereza Stanislav and Principal Second Violin Elizabeth Hedman against the orchestra. In the second movement, a quartet of soloists including cellist Trevor Handy, horn James Thacher, John Lewis trumpet and Andrew Malloy, trombone exchange light banter, while ignoring the clamorous orchestral fussing.


Read more »



[Independent] Featuring the Gershwin Piano Concerto and a New Commission

March 19, 2013

By Charles Donelan, Independent

In the mid-1920s, just when the emerging popular music of natural born geniuses like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington began to capture America’s imagination, a gifted young pianist named George Gershwin met his promotional match in the powerful conductor Walter Damrosch, then the music director at the National Broadcasting Company and a pioneer in bringing classical music to the radio. Damrosch, who caught the famous 1924 concert at which Gershwin had premiered his revolutionary Rhapsody in Blue, wasted no time. The next day, he commissioned Gershwin to write a full piano concerto. His goal was clear — he wanted to prove classical could be popular, too.

For the Santa Barbara Symphony’s recent performance of Gershwin’s Concerto in F, Xiayin Wang, an excellent young pianist with a particular gift for interpreting Russian music, joined the orchestra as soloist. She was a fine choice for this piece, as in it, Gershwin relied greatly on both his own extraordinary skills as a pianist and his intimate knowledge of the Russian tradition. What really set this music apart was Gershwin’s deeply intuitive blending of Western musical chromaticism with jazz and blues-derived syncopation, and it was in the service of this tendency that Wang and the orchestra were united. As in the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story of Leonard Bernstein that preceded it on the program, the mood was at once festive, invigorating, and darkly exotic.


Read more »