Ventura County Star: Camerata Pacifica January Concert

Ventura County Star

Tuesday January 14th, 2015

Camerata Pacifica takes the cake, and lights up the candles, when it comes to program diversity. January’s feast began Sunday at Ventura’s Temple Beth Torah and continues Thursday night at Los Angeles’ Zipper Hall and Friday at Santa Barbara’s Music Academy of the West with an abbreviated lunchtime concert at 1 p.m. and the program’s finale at 7:30.



The instrumental ensemble’s January concerts — featuring music by Elliott Carter, Huang Ruo, Camille Saint-Saens, Bright Sheng and Kevin Puts — continue at 8 p.m. Jan. 15 at Zipper Hall (200 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles; $45) and 1 and 7:30 p.m. Jan. 16 in Hahn Hall at Music Academy of the West (1070 Fairway Road, Santa Barbara; $24 for the abbreviated afternoon show, $47 for the evening performance). Call 884-8410 or visit cameratapacifica.org.


Featured are works by American composer Elliott Carter (1908-2012); Chinese-born and America-based Huang Ruo (1976); France’s Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921); Chinese-born and American-based Bright Sheng (1955); and St. Louis native Kevin Puts (1972). It makes for a fascinating interplay of East and West, with musicians well-equipped to embrace either’s nuances.

Carter’s music is known for its bracing quality and an openness to mixing new approaches with his solid core of basic construction. Carter wrote “Trilogy’s” three short pieces for friends Heinz Holliger, a distinguished oboist, and his harpist wife, Ursula. Final stanzas of Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Sonette an Orpheus” provided inspiration with its conviction that “words still peter out into what cannot be expressed,” but music, ever new, finds ways to communicate. Joining in that task were oboist Nicholas Daniel and, new to Camerata this season, harpist Bridget Kibbey. Listening to the two instruments play with and around each other proved fascinating, with such delights as overlapping trills along with the interplay of the resonant stringed instrument and the clear-voiced oboe.

The afternoon’s major work was Huang’s “In Other Words for Vocalized Violist and Chamber Ensemble,” commissioned for Camerata and violist Richard Yongjae O’Neill, and premiered in 2012 in Los Angeles. O’Neill did indeed vocalize, strongly and hauntingly, before and as he played the many-faceted work. Joining in the wide-ranging piece were an alert and masterful mix of solo-quality players: Camerata founder and flutist Adrian Spence, oboist Daniel, clarinetist Jose Franch-Ballester, violinists Paul Huang and Agnes Gottschewski, cellist Ani Aznavoorian, double bassist Tim Eckert and percussionist Ji Hye Jung.

O’Neill has just the right voice for the tribal-sounding expressions suggested by Huang, and of course a mastery of the viola as well. The others grouped, and regrouped, around him and beyond, immersing the room in intriguing sounds and combinations of sounds, even coordinating a flock of Asian fans in fluttering and still moments.

The second half of the program concentrated on lighter and briefer works, beginning with Saint-Saens’ gentle Fantaisie for Violin and Harp in A Major, and bringing the delicate partnership of violinist Huang and harpist Kibbey into bright focus. Spicing things up was Sheng’s “Hot Pepper” for violin and percussion, a lively work with an upbeat personality, also commissioned for Camerata, and premiered in 2010. It showcased Huang’s string skills and gave the percussionist a dazzling challenge she deftly handled.

Finally, Puts’ “And Legions Will Rise” brought together clarinetist Franch-Ballester, violinist Huang and the extraordinary Jung, whose technical and expressive capabilities make her as fascinating to watch as to listen to. Puts, who won a Pulitzer in 2012 for his opera, “Silent Night,” notes that his inspiration for the piece was the “power in all of us to transcend during times of tragedy and personal crisis,” certainly apt for today’s world.

Email Rita Moran at rita.j.moran@gmail.com.

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