[Scene Magazine] Symphonic Unveiling, with a Timely, Extra-Musical Message Attached
Handel, Bartók and a World Premiere
By Josef Woodard, News-Press Correspondent
Old, new-ish, and ink-still-wet new meet on symphonic turf this weekend at The Granada Theatre. In perhaps the most substantial and important program of the Santa Barbara Symphony's current season, the orchestra will take on Béla Bartók's great and challenging Concerto for Orchestra — a towering but also accessible example of 20th century orchestral repertoire — alongside the crowd-pleasing sounds of "Water Music" and Renaissance/Baroque master Giovanni Gabrieli's "Sacrae symphoniae."
All well and good, but the real cause for celebration is music as-yet unheard, in the form of a world premiere of a new piece by respected young Italian composer Cristian Carrara, "Machpelah." This is no pint-sized concert opener, as sometimes happens with modern-day orchestral premieres, but a four-movement opus, featuring violinist Francesca Dego and cellist Robert deMaine as soloists in double concerto mode, and representing love of the romantic, religious, and cultural sort.
The path to this weekend's premiere began about two years ago, when Mr. Carrara, 38, met and struck up a wide-ranging conversation with the Symphony's Maestro Nir Kabaretti, when he was conducting Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" at the Rome Opera House. Mr. Kabaretti lives in Florence, not far from the composer's home in Pordenone.
In a recent phone interview, Mr. Carrara remembers that "I told (Kabaretti) about my idea of a concerto dedicated to Machpelah, about this endless love of people. Machpelah, in the Jewish language, means the 'Cave of the Patriarchs,' in Hebron. It is the place where you have the tomb of Abraham and Sarah, which is very important for the Jewish people. I had the idea to write a concerto where I could reflect about the love between the man and the woman. Nir thought it was a great idea and he said 'maybe we can organize this production together."
A co-production and co-commission with the Toscanini Philharmonic Orchestra, "Machpelah" will have its world premiere at The Granada. We'll here it hear first.
News-Press: You have written many orchestral and large scale works by now, but do still have an excitement or anticipation about that first performance — like the birth of a new child?
Cristian Carrara: Yes, absolutely. Every time you have a premiere, you know what you have on the paper, but you don't know what it will be with the orchestra. Many years ago, the composer had the possibility to hear and to write, while hearing and listening to the orchestra. Today, it's not that way. You are writing it on paper and only when you finish your work, you understand what you have made — whether it's good or not.
And for me, it's the first time with the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra, so it's doubly exciting.
NP: This is a very interesting concert program coming up, with your new piece, the great Bartók Concerto for Orchestra, "Water Music" and Gabrieli. How would you say your music fits within the context of this program?
CC: I like this program very much. You have the history of music. Of course, the first half is the history of Italian music, and the music of my region. Gabrieli lived in Venice. There is a connection between the past and the present of my region. To me, it's important you see that the history of my region and my concerto is connected in this story.
NP: Would you say you are also influenced by composers including Bartók and baroque music of Handel's era?
CC: No. In 'Machpelah,' it takes from Italian music and I hope it is about the finest melody, because it is Italian. But in this concerto, you can find a typical Jewish melody, with that atmosphere. In this concerto, there are different influences, because the idea is that different cultures can come together.
But I think and hope that you can hear the typical Italian melody, something that is cantabile. All my work, not only this concerto, also have some influence from the mystical composers coming from Eastern Europe, such as Sofia Gubaidulina or Alfred Schnittke, Arvo P?rt and Giya Kancheli, but also composers that come from the United States and England — with the typical melody from my country. This is what I want to do with my music.
NP: There is a narrative story or a theme behind the music, although it's instrumental. Was that a strong guideline for you as you were creating it?
CC: Yes, and this piece is in four movements. In every moment, you can understand the story. The title of the first movement is "The Cave." I wanted to give a description about love in the cave, where it is dark, where you have to search for the love. The title of the second movement is "I Dance with My Light." The love is a dance. It's not only darkness, of course. It's a dance, it's a joy, it's light, between man and a woman, a couple.
The third movement's title is "The Secret of Eternity," because when you talk about love, you're talking about eternity — for me. In the love between a man and a woman, there is the secret of eternity. So that movement is the more mystical movement. The title of the last movement is "Man Woman." It means the difference. The love is in the difference, and God is in the difference.
In my double concerto, I hope you can find the elements of life — joy, sadness, the search of quiet. Of course, with the violin and the cello, I believe my concerto is an anthropomorphic concerto. The violin is the woman and the cello is the man.
NP: Speaking of different and contrasting perspectives, you are also making references to religious differences and tolerance. Is that an important aspect of the piece, as well?
CC: Yes, it is. The Double Concerto, of course, is a history about love, but Machpelah — Hebron—is a symbolic city at this moment. It is the perfect storm. It's precious for the Jewish culture, but also for the Catholic/Christian culture and also for Islamic culture. So the idea is to write a concerto that can talk about the possibility of peace between the different cultures.
You can read my concerto as being about the love between men and woman, but you can also read it as the possibility of love between different cultures. It's a historic moment, when art and music can explain these ideas.