Camerata Pacifica/Santa Barbara Symphony: The French Connection

Casa Magazine
By Daniel Kepl
November 16, 2012

Artistic convergence occurred last weekend, and it had a French accent. Camerata Pacifica, Adrian Spence’s world-class Santa Barbara-based professional chamber music ensemble, and the Santa Barbara Symphony, arguably one of the best regional orchestra’s in southern California, somehow developed French fever simultaneously, both setting their Franco-centric programs for the same weekend. The concerts were a few days shy of Beaujolais Nouveau Day, but no matter, there was plenty of liberté, égalité, and fraternité.

Claude Debussy won the lion’s share of the programmatic toss: Camerata Pacifica playing his Danse sacrée et danse profane and the Sonata for Flute, Viola, and harp Friday night in Hahn Hall at the Music Academy. The Symphony performed Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune on their Saturday and Sunday concert pair. Camerata’s featured artist was harpist Bridget Kibbey, a powerhouse of a player, who joined her colleagues on every piece, including music by André Caplet, André Jolivet, and Maurice Ravel.

The Santa Barbara Symphony’s guest artist, flautist Demarre McGill, opened each concert from one of the Granada Theatre’s high boxes, playing Debussy’s unaccompanied and sublimely melancholic Syrinx. The opening flute solo of the composer’s Prelude immediately segued from Syrinx (nice touch, same key), and was played beautifully by Symphony Principal Francine Jacobs, whil Mr. McGill scurried from his high perch to the stage for Jacques Ibert’s Concert for Flute and Orhestra, which was performed before the intermission.

Mr. McGill’s huge tone quality and spirited technique was equal to Ibert’s virtuoso writing, and the orchestra accompanied him with vigor. The program concluded with Camille Saint-Saëns’ masterpiece, the Symphony No. 3. Maestro Nir Kabaretti gave the work a muscular reading, and brought the house down.