Listeners of KUSC 91.5 FM are quite familiar with Rich Capparela, long a celebrated classical music announcer on that station. His bio relates that in 1972 he declared his desire to be a classical music radio announcer when asked by an employment counsel to name the career he would most like.
Twelve or 13 years ago, as Rich Capparela remembered, Steve Fraider asked him to host concerts here at Idyllwild Arts. His wife, Marcia, had known Bill Lowman since they were age 6, and that gave them all the more incentive to visit Idyllwild. The couple’s love affair with Idyllwild blossomed from there.
“We love the Hill. My wife and I love the Hill. We got married on Wildwood [Drive] … a rental house there back in ’95 … We love hiking, we love the people there, we love hanging out with the musicians and members of the faculty … We just love Idyllwild. The only reason we haven’t bitten the bullet and bought property in Idyllwild is because everyone has been so generous saying, ‘Stay with us!’ … They keep on saying, ‘Why haven’t you bought a house?’ I say, ‘You, that’s why!’” Capparela said in praise of Idyllwild.
Speaking of the music Idyllwild Arts students perform, Capparela said it is “the overall cohesiveness of the ensembles that I find so impressive … It’s surprising. If you closed your eyes and didn’t know you were listening to high school-aged performers, you would not know. They sound so professional. And that’s why I’ve always said that Idyllwild [Arts] is one of the undiscovered gems in Southern California. It’s right up there with the quality of Interlochen … no difference. It’s just absolutely top-notch performance quality throughout. And it doesn’t matter if it’s orchestra or chorus or whatever, it’s just really, really good.”
Capparela related that “way back when” he attended a performance by Idyllwild Arts students of what he remembers was the “Mahler Fifth” at Royce Hall, UCLA. He said, “I went on my radio show raving about the concert I’d been to the night before, saying ‘OMG, you wouldn’t believe these kids.’” This is what might have made Fraider think that it would be good to have him hosting events at Idyllwild Arts, as he has now done for so many years.
Capparela’s attraction to chamber music is the individual lines of the music, which comprise a back and forth dialogue between the individual instruments that can be distinguished.
He particularly enjoys piano quartets (violin, viola, cello and piano) and horn trios (violin, horn and piano), especially the French horn, and “anything by Brahms as a chamber piece.”
The Brahms “Horn Trio in E-Flat Major” originally was written for natural horn (a French horn with no valves), but now is often played on a valved instrument. Capparela especially noted the wonderful viola part in the Fauré “Piano Quartet,” featured in the first evening of the Distinguished Artist Chamber Music Series Capparela hosted at Idyllwild Arts on July 31.
The Brahms “Piano Quartets” performed by Yo-Yo Ma, Isaac Stern, Jaime Laredo and Emanual Ax are his favorite chamber music.
Capparela noted that while most chamber music comes from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods, he enjoys modern chamber works as well, particularly Philip Glass’ small ensemble pieces.
When asked if he had taken a turn at writing music himself, Capparela laughed and related that in high school in 1966 he had written a rock piece entitled “Cheatin’ Girl.” He said that in the 1990s he reunited with his high school band buddies playing a three-day weekend of nearly non-stop rock music. That experience inspired him to form a new rock band in 1998. Otherwise, “Normal” is now a four-member rock cover band playing at various locations throughout the greater Los Angeles area.
Capparela is currently hosting and providing half-hour pre-concert talks for this year’s Distinguished Artist Chamber Music Series at Idyllwild Arts. The last of the three-concert events will be this week. Capparela speaks at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8, and the concert begins at 8 p.m., both at the Stephens Recital Hall on the Idyllwild Arts campus.
That final performance will feature a notable piece by Zemlinsky, among others.