[Noozhawk] Symphony Season to Close With Two German Powerhouses and a Local Hero
By Gerald Carpenter, Noozhawk Contributing Writer
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The Santa Barbara Symphony will bring their 2015-16 season to a tuneful and ultimately majestic conclusion with concerts at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 14, and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 15, at The Granada Theater. Maestro Nir Kabaretti will conduct, with celebrated guitar virtuoso, Pablo Sáinz-Villegas, as guest soloist.
The program will consist of Carl Maria von Weber’s “Overture” to his opera Der Freischütz, Op. 77 (1821); the late, great Elmer Bernstein’s Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra, “For Two Christophers” (1999); and Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 in E-flat Major, “Romantic” (1878-1880).
Most musicologists credit Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) with inventing the sound of German romanticism, announced by the sublime horns at the opening of the Der Freischütz “Overture.”
In addition to his ground-breaking operas, Weber wrote a good deal of beautiful, exciting music in every format: symphonies, concertos, chamber. Clarinetists have special reasons for honoring him.
Santa Barbara resident Elmer Bernstein had a long and friendly association with the Santa Barbara Symphony, which gave the premiere performance of his Songs of Love and Loathing with mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Mannion, in 1989.
The beautiful and dashing Guitar Concerto, part Rodrigo and part Magnificent Seven, is dedicated both to guitarist Christopher Parkening — for whom it was written, and who played the premiere performance, with the composer conducting, in 1999 — and the English composer and writer, Christopher Francis Palmer (1946-95), who was a tireless champion of film composers as full-fledged members of the classical music community.
It is likely that Palmer’s tragic death in 1995 planted the seed in Bernstein to compose some kind of memorial tribute — whence the concerto’s motto: “For Two Christophers.”
Anton Bruckner (1824-96) called his fourth symphony “The Romantic” and even published a fanciful program for each of the movements (all about medieval knights and jousts and the like) to increase its chances of public acceptance.
It worked, and the symphony is by far his most popular — and, though it lasts nearly an hour, one of his shortest. Although the piece begins with a horn solo that harkens straight back to Der Freischütz, it is not really a romantic work, and Bruckner was not really a romantic composer.
He was a pious and naive Catholic, and it is the spirit of Christianity, not Romance, that informs his glorious music.
He adored Wagner’s work, but when friends took him to Die Walküre he was completely baffled by the action on stage (“Why did that old man chain his daughter to the rock?” he asked his companion).
Still, the slow movement of his Symphony No. 7 in E Major (1881-83) contains the most moving memorial that Wagner is likely to get, and far better than he deserved.
(When Hitler died, German radio broadcast Furtwängler’s recording of the movement, but we can no more pin that on Bruckner — who would have been outraged by the Nazi persecution of the Catholics — than we can pin Auschwitz on Wagner. At five years old, Mozart was composing music that goes straight to the center of our souls, but that is not to say that the child Mozart knew what his music would find there.)
When I listen to Bruckner, I am reminded that the word “Catholic” means “universal."