Santa Barbara Symphony News

[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 »

[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.

Read more »

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.

Read more »