Gerald Carpenter: Symphony Opens Season at Top — ‘Beethoven’s Ninth’ | Arts & Entertainment


Maestro Nir Kabaretti will lead more than 250 musicians and singers in a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Credit: David Bazemor

In addition to the orchestra itself, under the direction of Maestro Nir Kabaretti, the first concerts of the Santa Barbara Symphony’s 2023-24 season will include the participation of soloists soprano Johanna Will, mezzo-soprano Christina Pezzarossi Ramsey, tenor John Matthew Myers, and bass-baritone Cedric Berry.

Onstage as well will be the Santa Barbara Choral Society, SBCC Quire of Voyces, the Westmont College Choir, and the Adelfos Ensemble — in all, more than 250 performers — to bring to life one of the highest peaks of European civilization, Ludwig Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9 in d-minor, Opus 125” (1824), which is about to celebrate its 200th anniversary.

Also on the program, perhaps for ballast, are Franz Liszt‘s “Symphonic Poem No. 3, ‘Les Preludes’ ” (1850-1855), and the Suite from Aaron Copland’s opera “The Tender Land: III. ‘The Promise of Living’ (1954, 1957).”

The program will be performed twice: at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 15, both times in the Granada Theater, 1214 State St.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, Maestro Kabaretti will discuss the music in one of his lively Conversations with Kabaretti

The Symphony has given the program the title Beethoven 9: An Ode to Joy, Hope & Community.

The Ninth was the first “symphony” — as Haydn developed the form — to employ voices, and ever since, composers have been tempted by Beethoven’s example.

The first of the Ninth’s direct descendents was probably Felix Mendelssohn’s “Symphony No. 2 in Bb-Major, Opus 52 ‘Hymn of Praise’” (1840); the greatest is undoubtedly Gustav Mahler‘s “Symphony No. 2 in c-minor, ‘Resurrection’ (1894)” (when he realized he would probably die before composing the last movement of his own “Symphony #9 in d-minor” (1887-1896), Anton Bruckner suggested tacking on his “Te Deum in C-Major” (1884) — few conductors, thank heaven, have taken the composer’s advice).

By most measurements, saving mass popularity, it is usually Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 3 in Eb-Major, Opus 55 ‘Eroica’ ” (1805) that gets the nod from musical professionals as his “greatest” essay in the form.

In music, however, as in most of the arts, it is the audience who must have the final say, and we of the great unwashed cherish the Ninth above just about any other work.

As our great poet, Wallace Stevens, wrote, “Music is feeling, then, not sound, … ” and what we feel listening to the last movement of the Ninth, with its setting of Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” generally transcends, in emotional power, all of our other musical experiences (this is pretty much true regardless of the context, no matter how surreal: in the Beatles movie “Help!” when Ringo is in a London pub, menaced by a Bengal tiger [sic], the policeman guarding the Fab Four tells them that the tiger is calmed by the strains of the Ninth, and he begans to sing the Ode, which is soon taken up by virtually the whole city, and my heart soared, inspite of itself).

t is entirely plausible that it was the Ninth that Edna St. Vincent Millay had just heard when she wrote:

“Sweet sounds, oh, beautiful music, do not cease!
Reject me not into the world again.
With you alone is excellence and peace,
Mankind made plausible, his purpose plain.
Enchanted in your air benign and shrewd,
With limbs a-sprawl and empty faces pale,
The spiteful and the stingy and the rude
Sleep like the scullions in the fairy-tale.
This moment is the best the world can give …”

Tickets to these concerts are $35-$182, and can be purchased online at For season subscriptions and additional ticket information, visit or call 805-898-9386.

“All Beethoven 9 ticket holders receive exclusive on-line access to the documentary film Following The Ninth: “In The Footsteps of Beethoven’s Final Symphony,” from Central Coast native Kerry Candaele and includes a cameo by Nir Kabaretti,” the Symphony adds.

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