Camerata and Jones create magic

By Margo Kline
January 15, 2008

Camerata Pacifica presented a concert of chamber music at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History on Friday evening that benefitted from an impeccable foundation laid by pianist Warren Jones.

The musicians played a program of music by two contemporary composers and two works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It’s tempting to say that Mozart won, but that would be unfair to John Harbison and Ian Wilson, composers of the modern works.

Jones and violinist Catherine Leonard were joined by Songa Lee on violin, Richard O’Neill on viola and Ani Aznavoorian on cella, in Harbison’s Piano Quintet. This work in five movements has been around for quite a few years, but is not played all that often. While complex, it also adheres to what might be called “modernist” stylistic conventions.

The world premiere of the Wilson piece, “Heft for Flute and Piano,” featured Adrian Spence playing both concert and alto flutes, accompanied by Jones at the piano. Spence asked Wilson to compose a work for flute that would be “weighty” and Wilson produced this single-movement piece, which he said in the program notes was influenced by his concurrent reading of Lawrence Durrell’s “Alexandria Quartet.” Wilson was present for the premiere and Spence brought him to the stage to share in the applause at the end of the piece.

After the Harbison, Warren Jones concluded the first half of the program with Mozart’s Adagio in B Minor, K. 540. When Jones plays a solo of this magnitude, one remembers that this artist is not only one of the finest collaborative pianists around, but that he is a soloist of great gifts. There is something unearthly about Jones’ rapport with his instrument, and it was evident in his playing here. He not only was one with the piano, but he seemed one with Mozart himself.

The evening closed with Mozart’s Trio for Piano and Strings in G Major, K. 564, played by Jones, violinist Leonard and cellist Aznavoorian. Written toward the end of the composer’s life, it hardly reflects his problems at the time, of growing debt, the death of his father and the strain of writing “Don Giovanni.” Somehow, the sunny spirit of his genius shines through.