[Casa Magazine] How Slow the Wind
By Daniel Kepl, Casa Magazine
Link to article
The Santa Barbara Symphony opened it’s 2013 season last weekend at the Granada Theatre with an imaginative program that featured a pair of internationally recognized guest soloists, both good friends of our community, and included two disparate but equally descriptive works for orchestra.
Conductor Nir Kabaretti was in excellent form at Sunday afternoon’s performance, and after a tasteful mini-explication to the audience, began the concert with eleven minutes of neo-Debussy, post-Lou Harrison, and quasi-minimalist, texture-laden earth vibe: Toru Takemitsu’s vaporously impressionistic How Slow the Wind, composed in 1991. The piece was spell binding, replicating the aural experiences we’ve all had while standing quietly in a wind-rustling forest, or pondering the depths of the deep blue sea.
Takemitsu plumbs sound memory, uses high harmonics, and vague tonality to invoke sonic inhalations and exhalations: homage through art, to all living things, including the planet itself. The composer’s use of low instruments, including contra-bassoon and alto flute, pays color tribute to Debussy, but also gives earthy texture to the whole. How Slow the Wind is mantric: it’s slow pulse, magical tonalities, and delicate orchestration, like the long roll of the deep ocean, left this listener contemplating infinite contentment and peace.
Mozart’s delightfully earthbound Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra quickly restored rhythm, meter and tonal order, whisking away the amorphous Takemitsu in a rush of jolly tunes and bright spirits. Violinist Glenn Dicterow is concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, a faculty member at the Music Academy of the West, and this year became thefirst holder of the Robert Mann Chair in Strings and Chamber Music at USC’s Thorton School of Music: southern California is going to be seeing a lot more of Mr. Dicterow in the years ahead.
Los Angeles-born Cynthia Phelps is Principal Viola of the New York Philharmonic and also a member of the Music Academy of the West’s faculty. Known for the unusually dark timbre of her sound, she didn’t disappoint on Sunday. Together, Dicterow and Phelps were a dynamic duo in the first movement, particularly its dazzling cadenza. Maestro Kabaretti elegantly shaped the slow movement’s landscape., urging sighs and lamentations from the orchestra as the two soloists poignantly discoursed. The final Presto was full energy.
The second half of the program was devoted to Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3, “Scottish.” Every bit as descriptive and captivating as Takemitsu’s How Slow the Wind, Mendelssohn regales the sonic imagination with images of bogs and heather, endless waterfalls, and the heroic spirit of the Scottish people.
Conducting from memory, Kabaretti engaged in a kind of spirit dance with the piece, carefully shaping the first movement’s unusually fragile exposition, then taking the main subject at face value, letting the orchestra play itself. The remaining three movements, from the Scherzo’s Midsummer Night’s Dream trysts, and the tragic fatality of the Adagio, to be heartening valor (fabulous horn playing) of the last Allegro, were a credit to the conductor’s skillful interpretation of Mendelssohn’s intent. The orchestra played for Kabaretti with certainty and finesse.