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Camerata Pacifica: “Twelve’s Company”

CASA Magazine
By Daniel Kepl
May 16, 2014

Camerata Pacifica: “Twelve’s Company”

Hand it to the Irish, they know how to party. Camerata Pacifica’s last concert of the 24th season last Friday night at Hahn Hall was chockablock with fun and laughter – as well as superb music making.

Earlier in the evening, Artistic Director Adrian Spence distributed pink-ribboned baby shower baskets to his two fabulously pregnant artists, cellist Ani Aznavoorian and violinist Tereza Stanislav. I wonder if they’re contractually obliged to have babies between seasons? And before the final work on the program, Josef Rheinberger’s Nonet in E-Flat Major, Op. 139, Spence was roasted by bassoonist John Steinmetz, who broadsided the hapless Irish flutist by making him play several utterly inane flute passages from the piece during a slyly witty mini-lecture: a hilarious Spence-fry that had the house in stitches.

The evening’s fun began with an astonishingly brilliant demonstration of solo horn virtuosity by Martin Owen, Olivier Messiaen’s Appel Interstellaire from Des canyons aux étoiles. From the canyons to the stars was indeed the journey, as Owen took the audience on an aural hike through the echoing nooks and crannies of Bryce Canyon in Utah, which had inspired the French composer. Demonstrating a technique on the notoriously cantankerous instrument that defied certain odds of embrasure failure, Owen conjured images of nighttime in the canyon’s darkest depths, ancient spirits warbling and wailing, and the infinity of time and the universe.

Next on the program, one of the most important of several commissions over the years by Camerata patrons Richard and Luci Janssen, Jake Heggie’s Winter Roses (2004). Set to texts by several writers, including mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade and Emily Dickinson, the 25-minute work is in six sections, with Prologue and Epilogue, and is an enchanting and often profoundly moving major chamber ensemble composition. The Cameratans, Kate Allen, mezzo-soprano; Adrian Spence, flute; Jennifer Johnson, oboe; Jose Franch-Ballester, clarinet; John Steinmetz, bassoon; Martin Owen, horn; Amy Schwartz Moretti, violin; Tereza Stanislav, violin; Richard Yongjae O’Neill, viola; Ani Aznavoorian, cello; Tim Eckert, bass, and Adam Neiman, piano – a Who’s Who of the greatest chamber music players in the world today — gave the Jannssen’s, who were in the audience, reason to be proud of their contribution to art.

Another chance to hear Martin Owen blow the beams off Hahn Hall with his wunderhorn was provided by Robert Schumann’s Adagio & Allegro in A-Flat Major, Op. 70. With superb pianist Adam Neiman as Sancho Panza to Owen’s Don Quixote, the two journeyed together through Late Romantic thick and thin: providing lovely opportunity for the audience to enjoy the great beauty of the horn and savor Neiman’s attentive and timbrous interjections.