In Concert: Further Adventures in the Chamber

Santa Barbara News-Press, Scene Magazine
By Josef Woodard, News-Press Correspondent
September 20, 2013


Humbly born in Santa Barbara 23 years ago, Camerata Pacifica has become a notable chamber music institution in Southern California, and launches its new season locally


Once upon a time (1990) in Santa Barbara, a humble, but enterprising new chamber music group started up, fueled by the high hopes, work ethic and charismatic determination of its founder, Irish émigré flutist and musical situation-maker, Adrian Spence. What originally went by the name, Bach Camerata, morphed into the broader, less style or period-identified moniker, Camerata Pacifica, and all these years later, the organization has spread its wings and proven its musical might, becoming one of the notable chamber music institutions in Southern California.

These days, deep into the striking history of the group, musicians hail from various locales and venues that dot the Southern California landscape. Even so, Santa Barbara continues to figure strongly into the organizational machinery. This is still Mr. Spence’s home base and the chamber has become the centerpiece of the Music Academy of the West’s Hahn Hall with Friday’s child component in the monthly concert-programming map. Camerata Pacifica also performs concerts at Zipper Hall in Los Angeles, in Pasadena, and in Ventura. Hahn Hall hosts the 23rd season kickoff concert tonight, but also boasts an extra, slightly abridged “lunch concert” today.

This season is slightly bittersweet in that it will be the first in a decade without the Irish violin virtuoso Catherine Leonard in the first violinist hot seat. She has gone on to other musical pursuits, mostly across the Atlantic. This year, guest musicians including Amy Schwartz Moretti and Tereza Stanislav, will occupy the first violin chair.

As an ongoing rule, Camerata Pacifica’s musical agenda is a healthily varied thing, mixing in romantic crowd-pleasers and enough modernist-meets-contemporary sounds to keep things fresh, and other surprises in the mix. In keeping with the general pattern of Camerata’s season, the opening program leans towards more adventurous fare. Today’s/tonight’s menus include music of American composer, John Harbison and a welcome rerun of Huang Ruo’s piece “To the Four Corners,” featuring percussionist Ji Hye Jung.

Looking over the season’s doings, there are plenty of intriguing items in the mix. Contemporary composer Lera Auerbach, who has had a musical liaison with the Camerata in the past, returns this season with a piece in next month’s program (October 25), alongside Mozart, as well as a world premiere next spring (March 7), for solo cello and chamber ensemble in a program also including noted Brit, Benjamin Britten and the alive and very creatively well, Thomas Adès.

Speaking of premieres revisited (as they should be), we’ll also hear previous Camerata-based premieres by Jake Heggie — 2012’s “Soliloquy” and 2004’s “Winter Roses” — in April and May of next year, respectively. Pianist Adam Neiman takes the stage in November for an all-Beethoven program, the Diabelli Variations and Piano Sonata No. 29. A varied piano duo, Joanne Pearce Martin and Gavin Martin, comes to roost in December.

Not to be overshadowed, there will even be a Bach moment for old time’s sake on a January program with Mr. Spence himself, showcasing his impressive flutist wares. What goes around thankfully keeps coming around, and making the regional chamber music landscape all the richer and more vibrant.