Arts Classical attitude 

News and notes from San Antonio's other music scene

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Ah, the arts in San Antonio. There are times when artistic quality seems at an all-time high and stability is just on the horizon, and others when it seems no good deed goes unpunished. Inadequate funding is usually labeled the primary culprit, quickly followed by audience malaise or, on the flip side, poor publicity. No matter how you slice it there's always a handy excuse - each inaccurate to some degree.

In the performing arts, long-term survival is an inherently two-sided proposition. Artistic quality and community support are equal parts of the proverbial "chicken or the egg" relationship. The most inventive, brilliant program can languish in an unsupportive environment, and the most enthusiastic supporter can become jaded by mediocrity. Ensembles walk a thin line maintaining the "innovative programming" demanded by grant applications and the safe, status-quo programs they assume their audiences expect. But are San Antonio audiences necessarily that conservative? At least for classical music, I think the system is evolving. Most ensembles are more than happy to experiment with a range of repertoire, and audiences increasingly seem to appreciate it.

In July, Cactus Pear Music Festival again proved that chamber music can thrive in San Antonio. With exceptionally talented guest artists, the program ranged from the newly commissioned, complex rhythms of Miguel del Aguila's exquisitely crafted sextet, Salón Buenos Aires, to soprano Kristen Watson's light, fresh articulation of Bach and Handel that steered entirely clear of the pompous, formulaic Baroque paradigm. CPMF's full houses seem to be a trend for chamber music in general. But whether it's music, theater, or dance, consistent quality is a key ingredient to building discerning and supportive audiences. But then, so is an environment in which people get themselves to performances and expand their horizons.

For a serious dose of musico-intellectual expansion, Trinity University presents a guest lecture and recital by pianist and scholar Emily White, exploring links between the philosophy of Nietzsche and the post-Romantic piano music of Polish composer Karol Szymanowski. The August 31 program begins at 8 p.m. and includes works by Chopin, Debussy, and Nietzsche. Call 999-8211 for more info.

September 13 seems to be the day for variety. Musical Offerings presents Taste of Tango at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, featuring dancers from Puro Tango de San Antonio. Call 241-5791. Trinity Professor Carolyn True continues the family business with Songs my Mother, Father, and Aunt Taught Me (piano sonatas by Chopin, Prokofiev, and Copland) at 8 p.m. in Trinity's Chapman Auditorium (999-8211 for info). The Olmos Ensemble will premiere a new work by composer William James Ross, along with an interesting range of other works, at the First Unitarian Universalist Church. Call 384-0929.

For more traditional fare, the Lyric Opera of San Antonio season opens with the Barber of Seville September 9-11 (info available at lyricoperasa.com), and the Symphony Classical Series begins September 16 (online at sasymphony.org). Enjoy.

By Diana Lyn Roberts


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