Bach, Busoni, Grieg

By Steven Libowitz   |   January 2, 2020

Violinist Benjamin Beilman was slated to make his debut with the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra in the 2017-18 season, but then the venerable ensemble closed operations after nearly 40 years. Now, barely more than two years later, Beilman has been booked for an even bigger role in the Lobero Theatre Chamber Music Project, a new collaboration with former SBCO Maestro Heiichiro Ohyama that will premiere on January 4 with a concert that serves as a warmup to a two-day festival in February.

The festival is designed to be an annual event that will attract top musicians largely from the emerging generation of classical soloists and chamber music performers, Beilman said. The 30-year-old violinist – who first met Ohyama at a Japanese music festival several years ago – has been tapped to serve as the project’s Musical Advisor and was invited not only for his prowess as a performer but also because of his connections to young artists around the world.

“I have my eye on who the great players are of my generation, and what great music is coming up that may not have been heard in town yet,” Beilman explained over the phone from his home in New York earlier this week.

In the meantime, Saturday’s concert at the Lobero serves as a fitting introduction to the violinist The New York Times once described as “muscular with a glint of violence,” an assessment Beilman loved because “The primal emotional quality of music is what I really enjoy.” Beilman and pianist Alessio Bax, a former SBCO veteran visitor, will be performing Busoni’s fiery but little known Sonata for violin and piano No. 2 in E minor sandwiched between Bach’s E major sonata, BWV 1016, and Grieg’s No. 3 sonata, Op. 45.

“The Busoni is a powerful, long narrative work in a typical high romantic style where he goes from an incredibly fantasy thing to a quick tarantella type dance and then quotes Bach for the final movement, which is a huge grand almost procession,” said Beilman, who now plays the “lively” 1709 “Engleman” Stradivarius. “And the Grieg is similarly robust in its emotional content, but it’s much more tangible. When I play the sonata, you really feel like you can smell the moss in Norway that he must have loved, feel the dirt, and hear the percussive elements from nature.”Buckle up. The ride is just beginning.


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