Jacaranda joins the citywide Britten 100/LA celebration with a three-concert survey of Britten’s music beginning Sun., April 7 with “February House: Brooklyn’s Original Party Place.” This c
oncert takes its theme from the storied Brooklyn residence where Britten and his partner, tenor Peter Pears, lived in the early 1940s with legendary writers and oth
er cultural luminaries. The concert (program below) will feature solo and two-piano music by duo pianists Anna Grinberg and Liam Viney, Keve Wilson on oboe and Eric Jacobs on clarinet.
In 1939, Britten and Pears left England by ship to avoid the war and start a new life in New York, where they became lovers. For a busy and intoxicating year, they lived at February House with W.H. Auden, Gypsy Rose Lee, Jane and Paul Bowles, magazine maven George Davis, the children of Thomas Mann and Carson McCullers. Aaron Copland partied at the house, as did critic and composer Virgil Thomson, Balinese gamelan expert Colin McPhee, 24-year old composer Leonard Bernstein, singer-actress Lotte Lenya, and ballet’s George Balanchine, among many others. April’s concert evokes this creative and social nexus with music by Thomson, Copland, Paul Bowles and McPhee, as well as by Britten.
The Australian-based Viney/Grinberg piano duo has appeared on the distinguished Piano Spheres concert series. ”I cannot imagine a finer performance, as this one had everything, illuminating every bar of the music,” wrote Ivan Katz, director of Yale University’s Horowitz Series. “The audience went wild…” The pianists each will play solo portraits of Copland and Bowles by Thompson, Copland’s popular “Danzon Cubano,” which gains in sexy excitement with the original two pianos, and McPhee’s Balinese Ceremonial Music. McPhee was able to ingeniously render the clangorous gamelan for two pianos after spending years in Bali.
Jacaranda will give the U.S. debut of the belatedly published McPhee arrangement for two pianos of Britten’s “Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge” for string orchestra. Also by Britten, the fiercely energetic “Overture: Paul Bunyan,” not used in the ill-fated Broadway-bound operetta. It remained in a duo-piano version until orchestrated for the 1977 revival of the show. “Introduction and Rondo alla Burlesca” was written for Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robertson, British expats and friends living in Escondido, where Britten and Pears would go after leaving February House.
Before Paul Bowles became famous for his novels (“The Sheltering Sky”), he was a composer and student of Copland. The oddly combined Sonata for Clarinet and Oboe is one of his most remarkably fresh works. Clarinetist Eric Jacobs will make his Carnegie Hall debut in April playing John Adams’ clarinet concerto “Gnarly Buttons.” Jacobs will be joined by Keve Wilson, oboe, a member of the internationally acclaimed and Grammy-nominated Absolute Ensemble. The New York Times has praised her ”magnificently sweet tone.” Wilson will also perform one of the pinnacles for the solo oboe, Britten’s “Six Metamorphoses after Ovid.”
Two Remaining Britten Concerts:
Jacaranda’s Britten celebration continues April 27th with a concert staging of “Curlew River,” a chamber opera (1963) intended for performance in a church. This all-male opera is based on Sumidagawa the most famous drama of the classical Japanese Noh theater. Considered by many to be among Britten’s finest and most emotionally cathartic operas, “Curlew River” will receive its first known Los Angeles performance, featuring tenor Steven Tharp in the lead role and members of the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus.
Jacaranda’s Britten celebration and current season come to a close with “Young Apollo: God of Music, Poetry and Healing.” This June 1 concert surveys the composer’s music from four piano pieces, written between 1925 and 1963, to his last major work, the Third String Quartet from 1976. To open, Britten’s “Suite for Violin and Piano,” Op. 6, throws all caution to the wind as only a 22-year old show off can do. The evening will close with two pieces for string ensemble and soloists: the beloved Serenade for Tenor Horn and Strings and the posthumously published “Young Apollo,” a virtually unknown work of uncommon brilliance for piano solo, string quartet and strings.
APRIL 7 PROGRAM: “February House: Brooklyn’s Original Party Place”
Benjamin Britten Introduction and Rondo alla burlesca (1940)
Virgil Thomson “Persistently Pastoral: A Portrait of Aaron Copland” (1942)
Aaron Copland “Danzon Cubano” (1944)
Thomson “Souvenir: A Portrait of Paul Bowles” (1935)
Paul Bowles Sonata for Oboe and Clarinet (1931)
Colin McPhee Balinese Ceremonial Music (1940)
“Six Metamorphoses after Ovid” (1951)
Britten/McPhee “Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge” (1939)
Sun., April 7, 7:30 p.m. First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica, 1220 Second St., Santa Monica, CA 90401. Concert tickets, $40 general; $20 students. Discount of 20 percent when purchasing tickets to three concerts: jacarandamusic.org. Information: (213) 483-0216.
About Jacaranda: Jacaranda, with a motto of “music at the edge,” is a series of intimate concert adventures into the realm of new and rarely heard classical music designed to awaken curiosity, passion and discovery. Founded in 2003 by arts impresario Patrick Scott and conductor/organist Mark Alan Hilt, Jacaranda produces a series (eight concerts this season) in Santa Monica that features current and rising stars in the world of classical music performance. Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2013-14, Jacaranda’s full 2012-13 season information available at jacarandamusic.org. Concerts are at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica, 1220 Second Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401. For information or to purchase tickets go to jacarandamusic.org, or call (213) 483-0216.