Camerata Pacifica Ends Season with Compelling Concert

Ventura County Star
By Rita Moran
May 19, 2011

With Camerata Pacifica, it’s always a case of expect the unexpected.

For the most part, that means anticipating unusual or even eccentric programming of fine classical music of many eras and styles. Occasionally, there also can be minor performance glitches that the ensemble handles so nonchalantly and with such good humor that the moments tend simply to be part of the verification of “live” concerts and what makes them so fascinating.

Camerata founder and flutist Adrian Spence was involved in one of those endearingly unintended happenings at Sunday’s concert in Ventura’s Temple Beth Torah, the finale of the ensemble’s eight-concert season performed in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles and San Marino. During a zesty rendition of film and classical composer Nino Rota’s Trio for Flute, Violin and Piano featuring Spence, violinist Catherine Leonard and pianist Warren Jones, Spence suddenly called a halt after the players diverged from their tightly knit rendition. Brown suggested a restart position that still didn’t quite get them on the same page, but finally they dialed back further and were a tight team again. Brown later explained that in a 40-some page score often the moment to turn those pages is not the most convenient for the player. But all was accomplished with the usual bonhomie and finesse inspired by Spence, a native of Northern Ireland with a quick and irreverent wit as ensemble spokesman.

Jones and Spence returned for the afternoon’s second work, Philippe Gaubert’s Sonata No. 2 in C Major for Flute and Piano, with Jones first providing a few background notes. Spence, it turned out, had broken a toe earlier Sunday and Brown himself had the same injury a while back, which he said put them on “equal footing.” Then they joined in the lyrical musical conversation between instruments filled with cascading passages and intimate instrumental byplay.

Another French composer, Albert Roussel, provided the final flute work of the day, a Trio for Flute, Viola and Cello, the latter instruments played by Camerata members Richard Yongjae O’Neill and Ani Aznavoorian, respectively. French music, Spence opined before sitting down to play, is more about color than form, adding a throwaway line about playing on painkillers adding to the color. Without the lighthearted commentary the piece would still have been riveting, but it’s hard to begrudge the humor, especially from one in pain.

Bringing the concert to a resounding close, Jones, Aznavoorian, O’Neill and violinists Catherine Leonard, also from Ireland and a Camerata principal, and Agnes Gottschewski poured their superior talents into Brahms’ Quintet for Piano and Strings in F Minor, a work with so many compelling passages that it was a perfect conclusion for the avid ensemble’s 21st season.

The 22nd season begins in September with a concert featuring Reich’s Sextet for Percussion and Keyboards, with former principal Joanne Pearce Martin and Vicki Ray at keyboards. October’s concert will be devoted to pianist Adam Neiman’ discussion and rendition of Liszt’s Transcendental Études, and the April concert will include the world premiere of a new Marimba Quartet by Bright Sheng, continuing Camerata’s commitment to contemporary composers. For tickets and information, visit cameratapacifica.org.