Classical music review: Camerata Pacifica in Ventura : The chamber ensemble’s all-wind instrument program continues with shows in Pasadena, L.A. and Santa Barbara

Ventura County Star
By Rita Moran
April 7, 2014

Classical music review: Camerata Pacifica in Ventura : The chamber ensemble’s all-wind instrument program continues with shows in Pasadena, L.A. and Santa Barbara

With its usual adroit diversity, Camerata Pacifica kicked off its April concerts Sunday at Ventura’s Temple Beth Torah and will finish with a flourish at 1 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday (April 11) at the Music Academy of the West’s Hahn Hall in Santa Barbara. In between are musical larks in Pasadena (April 8) and L.A. (April 10).

Whatever Camerata’s elite forces plan, it’s never boring. This month the all-wind instrument concert includes three 20th-century works: two by women, Thea Musgrave and Madeleine Dring, and the third by Herbert Howells. Contemporary composer Jake Heggie is represented by “Soliloquy,” a flute work debuted in 2012 by Camerata’s artistic director, Adrian Spence. The final flourish is left to Mozart, with his Quintet in E-flat Major for Piano and Winds, a widely admired work of which Mozart was particularly proud.

Spence opened Sunday’s concert with the hauntingly gentle “Soliloquy,” eloquently joined by pianist Warren Jones, then moved to the challenging Narcissus for Flute and Digital Delay System by the Scottish Musgrave, who wrote it in the fledgling era of digitalizing music when such equipment was relatively basic. Musgrave recalls the Narcissus myth of the young man who was transfixed with his own image in a pool from which he could not draw himself away. The flute and its electronic shadow depict the ripples in the water and the interaction between the water image and Narcissus, so much alike yet destined not to totally unite. Spence convincingly played the poignant flute passages while periodically manipulating the electronics with his foot, dual tasks that require fierce concentration along with instrumental skills, all gracefully navigated by Spence.

Oboe master Nicholas Daniel, a distinguished Brit who recently won the Queen’s Medal for Music, brought his impressive artistry and finesse to English composer Howells’ Sonata for Oboe and Piano. The rapt audience in the intimate Ventura setting intently followed each fresh breath of music from Daniel’s oboe, masterfully partnered by Jones at the keyboard. Daniel, who concertizes and conducts widely, is a founding member of the Haffner Wind Ensemble and the Britten Oboe Quartet. His work with Camerata seems particularly compatible with its palpable joie de vivre.

Daniel, Jones and Spence joined for the Dring Trio for Flute, Oboe and Piano. Also an English composer, Dring has a somewhat lighter touch, weaving whimsy into the dynamically played work.

Finally it was Mozart’s time to shine, which he naturally did with the eloquent efforts of Daniel, clarinetist Jose Franch-Ballester, bassoonist John Steinmetz, pianist Jones and British horn player Martin Owen, principal horn at the BBC Symphony Orchestra and recently of the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Camerata’s remarkable blend of strong skills and good humor serve the ensemble well in presenting challenging and appealing works.

The season finale May concerts, May 4 in Ventura through May 9 in Santa Barbara, will feature works by Olivier Messiaen, Heggie, Schumann and Joseph Rheinberger.

Highlights from its upcoming 25th anniversary season include the world premiere of a John Harbison String Trio in early September. Season subscriptions are available now.