Articles in Press
[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.
[Noozhawk] Santa Barbara Symphony to Showcase ‘American Masterpieces’
March 16, 2013
By Gerald Carpenter, Noozhawk Contributing Writer
The upcoming brace of concerts by the Santa Barbara Symphony — at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in the Granada Theatre — has been dubbed “American Masterpieces” by conductor Nir Kabaretti, and he has enlisted the artistry of exquisite pianist Xiayin Wang to serve as guest soloist for the occasion.
As you must have guessed, the program is confined to works by American composers — three of them — including the world premiere of Jonathan Leshnoff’s Concerto Grosso (commissioned by the Santa Barbara Symphony and featuring several first-chair solos); Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story”; and George Gershwin’s Concerto in F-Major for Piano and Orchestra (with Wang).
Leshnoff’s music is romantic, that much can be said without controversy. His romanticism is not of the heart-on-sleeve variety, however, but feels tentative and introspective. He is a genius of moods and atmosphere. I’ll stop there, not wanting to place any restrictions on what you may imagine his Concerto Grosso will sound like — I have no more idea than you do, since none of us has heard it yet.
In a few short years, one notes, Leshnoff’s music has compiled an enviable amount of good press — all of it deserved, I must say.
KDB 93.7FM interview with composer Jonathan Leshnoff
March 15, 2013
[Scene Magazine] All-American, with Chinese Roots
March 15, 2013
Rising start pianist Xiayin Wang makes her Santa Barbara debut with the Santa Barbara Symphony this weekend
By Josef Woodard, News-Press Correspondent
For this weekend’s Santa Barbara Symphony concert agenda, the programming focus turns to us Americans. The Symphony has periodically broached the all-American plan in concert, as with last year’s concert featuring music of Dave and Chris Brubeck, Gershwin and the greatest American composer, Charles Ives. It’s a fine and commendable tradition, giving an occasional American accent into the inherently Euro-centric business of western classical music, orchestra division.
This time out, maestro Nir Kabaretti will lead the orchestra in something old, Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, something brand new–a world premiere of Jonathan Leshnoff’s Cocnerto Grosso–and something older, a return to the world of Gershwin. Last year’s Gershwin model was Rhapsody in Blue, and this season turns to another jazz-colored piece, the Piano Concerto in F, with fine Chinese-born, New York-based Xiayin Wang in the solo spotlight.
Ms. Wang is a technically bold, sensitive and ascending pianist, who holds degrees from the Shanghai Conservatory and the Manhattan School of Music. She has been making rounds of orchestral work, and has played Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall as soloist, in which role she has also released two fascinating contemporary music CDs, showcasing music of Richard Danielpour and the late Earl Wild. Among other corners of the music world, American music comes naturally to her.
[Montecito Journal] Leshnoff’s Concerto Grosso for SB Symphony
March 14, 2013
By Steve Libowitz, Montecito Journal
Jonathan Leshnoff had never even heard of Nir Kabaretti when the Santa Barbara Symphony’s music director contacted him back in 2011 to ascertain if the composer would be interested in a commission to create a new work in celebration of the symphony’s 60th anniversary.
As Leshnoff recalls, they had a mutual friend who had recommended him to the conductor.
“Nir just contacted me out of the blue,” Leshnoff, who lives in Baltimore said over the phone earlier this week. “But the minute I first talked to him, I liked him right away. We just hit it off. We’ve had good discussions and lots of laughs over the phone and Skype ever since.”
No word on whether Kabaretti’s ebullience made its way into Leshnoff’s Concerto Grosso in the Baroque Style, a 15-to-20-minute work that will open this weekend’s pair of symphony concerts at the Granada. But the idea of honoring he orchestra’s principal players was the organizing theme for the new work.
[Noozhawk] Santa Barbara Youth Symphony Program Balances Color, Form
February 16, 2013
By Gerald Carpenter, Noozhawk Contributing Writer
The Santa Barbara Youth Symphony, conducted by music director Andy Radford, will offer its 2013 Spring Concert at 4 p.m. Sunday at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Barbara, 21 E. Constance St.
It is a tradition with the Youth Symphony that the Spring Concert features as soloists young musicians who have auditioned for both a position in the Youth Symphony and a position in front of it. This Spring’s winner is violinist Joel Yan.
Scherzo from Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7 in d-minor, Opus 70, Aaron Copland’s Billy at the Rodeo (a composite work combining sections of Billy the Kid and Rodeo), Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Festival Overture, Opus 36, and Franz Josef Haydn’s Concerto No. 4 in G-Major for Violin and Orchestra (Hob. VIIa:4), with Yan as soloist.