To kick off its 66th season, The Santa Barbara Symphony will pay tribute to Italy with “Fiesta Italiana!,” a pair of concerts showcasing four classical pieces that demonstrate the varied, unique qualities of the country’s music. Featuring songs by Giuseppe Verdi, Niccolo Paganini, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Felix Mendelssohn, the October 19 and 20 concerts at the Granada Theatre follow in the symphony’s tradition of themed concerts, and this year’s opening theme is of particular significance to artistic director Nir Kabaretti.
“I’m also an Italian citizen so my roots and my own DNA are there, so I wanted to dedicate one concert to it,” he told the News-Press.
Mr. Kabaretti expressed excitement at the symphony coming back together after months apart, as newly auditioned members of varying ages have been added to the ensemble. While some of the new members are musicians who have performed in other cities’ symphonies, others are fresh out of college and will be experiencing their first professional music experience with the 2019-20 Santa Barbara Symphony season. In the artistic director’s experience, the introduction of younger members to the older ones is mutually beneficial: The younger members give the veterans a shot in the arm while the experience of the long time members helps the newcomers.
“Whenever people come in they enrich the group with new blood and learn a lot from the group,” he said.
When the ensemble takes the stage of the Granada, it will open the program with the instrumental overture to Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “La Forza del Destino.” According to Mr. Kabaretti, this is an apt way to begin the show because opera is not only a big part of Italian music, but one widely recognized by the public.
“Italian music is mainly known for the operatic part,” he said.
The evening’s second piece, Niccolo Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1, was selected to demonstrate the importance of technical virtuosity in Italian music. To perform the intricate violin parts of Paganini, the artistic director selected Francesca Dego, one of the most sought-after young violinists in international classical music. When Ms. Dego performed with the Santa Barbara Symphony three years ago, it was immediately apparent to Mr. Kabaretti then that he wanted her to work with symphony again.
“I’ve worked with her before a few times and she’s a phenomenal violinist,” he said.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Felix Mendelssohn, the composers of the evening’s last two pieces, “Capriccio Italien, Op 45” and “Symphony No. 4, Op 90,” respectively, are not Italian. However, both pieces are greatly influenced by Italian music and their inclusion in the program is meant to provide a view of Italy as seen by composers who aren’t from the country. Both the German Mr. Mendelssohn and the Russian Mr. Tchaikovsky were influenced by Italy’s popular folklore music when they visited the country and let its flavor seep into their own compositions.
“They were so impressed that they wanted to incorporate it into their professional skills,” Mr. Kabaretti said.
However, the artistic director added that the two composers had different ways of going about this. Whereas Mr. Tchaikovsky liberally used aspects of Italian folklore music to create what Mr. Kabaretti described as “a fun piece of Italian music,” Mr. Mendelssohn inserted these elements into the very rigid, four-movement structure of a symphony.
“He puts his genius and skill to this folklore music and presents it as a symphonic piece,” Mr. Kabaretti said.
As per the standard practice for symphonies, the Santa Barbara Symphony will begin rehearsals for “Fiesta Italiana!” four days before the concert.Single tickets for the show cost $31 and can be purchased online at www.thesymphony.org. The October 19 concert begins at 8:00 p.m., while the October 20 concert begins at 3:00 p.m. The Granada Theatre is located at 1214 State St.