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'Music Matters' makes classical performance fun


"A Music Matters concert bears about as little similarity to a night at the opera as a Yo-Yo Ma concert would have to an extravaganza featuring Celine Dion," says acclaimed soprano Rebecca Plack (above). And indeed, anyone who thinks classical music is stuffy and pretentious is in for a pleasant surprise as Santa Rosa's Friedman Center presents the final show in its monthly "Absolute Music" series.

The season closer is a little program titled "Music Matters," in which Plack and tenor Stephen Guggenheim are joined by pianist Blaise Bryski for a peppy, informal concert described as offering "a refreshing alternative to the staid, traditional concert-going experience." The show features works by Haydn, Schubert, Mussorgsky and Mozart, but should not be thought of as another showcase of gems from the concert hall and opera stage.

A 90-minute recital, the performance highlights Songs from Letters by daredevil composer Libby Larsen—clever musical settings of letters written by Western legend Calamity Jane to her daughter in the early 1900's—and The Nursery, Modest Mussorgsky's playful song cycle about nannies, toys and cats. Each piece is accompanied by the performers' sprightly and light-hearted remarks about the composers and their music. The artists have designed these shows to make classical music more accessible to young and unfamiliar audiences, with the intention of planting little seeds of musical appreciation that will spout and grow and turn everyone into lifelong music lovers. They do it in the most ingenious and insidious of ways—by making it fun.

"Music Matters" takes it lightly on Sunday, June 8, at the Friedman Center, 4676 Mayette Ave., Santa Rosa. 2pm. $18; students, free. 707.538.1899.

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