The January 4 chamber music concert at the Lobero Theatre was only part one of the Lobero Theatre Chamber Music Project. On February 8 and 9, the festival will continue with two concerts, bringing music director and former Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra maestro Heichiro Ohyama back together with festival musical advisor and violinist Benjamin Beilman. Beyond satisfied with the audience response the January concert received, Mr. Ohyama and Mr. Beilman expressed anticipation for the festival’s final two performances, which will mark a significant reunion for Mr. Beilman as he performs alongside his former violin teacher Ida Kavafian on a few pieces, including a furious sonata featuring just the two of them.
Both concerts will open with pieces by Ludwig van Beethoven and close with numbers by romantic composer Johannes Brahms. In an interview with the News-Press, Mr. Ohyama said he wanted his new festival to not only include the most famous chamber music masterworks by the likes of the bookending composers, but lesser known ones as well. The rarer pieces are represented in the two concerts’ middle numbers, which will consist of Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev’s “Sonata for Two Violins in C major, Op. 56” on February 8, and Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly’s “Duo for Violin and Cello, Op. 7” on February 9. The former will be when Mr. Beilman and Ms. Kavafian combine their violin prowess in a way that will leave the audience guessing which violinist is playing which part.
According to Mr. Beilman, the dual violins of Mr. Prokofiev’s sonata causes one to lose track of which violin is producing a certain part because of the composer’s writing. Both instruments play the same notes just beats apart. The violinist described it as “a furiously intense piece,” particularly because of its brutal and violent second movement.
Ms. Kavafian concurred with her former student by crediting Mr. Prokofiev’s unique composition style for this effect. Although the piece’s four movements follow the slow, fast, slow, fast pattern of Baroque music tradition, Ms. Kavafian stated that the composer’s inventiveness within that framework results a sound far greater than that of a violin duo.
“It’s amazing writing for the instrument. It gives the illusion that there’s more than two people,” she said.
The February 8 performance of “Sonata for Two Violins in C major” will be the latest of several performances Mr. Beilman has played professionally with his former teacher. The two first met about fifteen years ago when Mr. Beilman was a teenager performing at the Stulberg International String Competition in Kalamazoo, MI, where Ms. Kavafian was serving as a judge. As Mr. Beilman recalled, she enjoyed his playing and had some kind words for him after hearing his performance.
“I think that was the first time she heard me and she came up to me and was very encouraging,” he said.
The two met again when Mr. Beilman attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, PA for his undergraduate studies. Referring to Mr. Beilman as “a really amazing player and talent,” Ms. Kavafian said he was one of her favorite students to teach and had all the necessary skills to be a successful musician.
“It was sort of like driving a racecar. He had all the goods and I was just steering here and there,” she said.
While Ms. Kavafian suspects that their former student-teacher relationship has created a closeness between them that easily manifests itself in a compelling performance, the violinist said her relationship with Mr. Beilman is now one of equals. Mr. Beilman feels the same way and believes everyone needs to bring an equal amount of artistry in order to perform chamber music at the highest level.
“It can only be equals. That’s the only way that chamber music works,” he said.
In addition to Mr. Beilman and Ms. Kavafian, the chamber music festival’s lineup will also consist of Mr. Ohyama on viola, cellist Clive Greensmith, and pianist Louis Schwizgebel. The five will play in permutations of varying size throughout most of the two concerts’ pieces, but will all come together for the second concert’s finale, Johannes Brahms’ “Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34.”
Mr. Beilman said of this piece, “I think Brahms is the ultimate romantic composer, and this piece is the apex.”
By finishing with a work by Mr. Brahams, Mr. Beilman expects it will bring the curtain down on the first Lobero Theatre Chamber Music Project with a clear statement of the festival’s mission, bringing Santa Barbara the greatest chamber music masterworks performed at the highest level. Once the first festival ends, he hopes the Santa Barbara community sees it as a “jewel in the crown that is Santa Barbara.”