Camerata Pacifica’s March concert.
At Victoria Hall Theater, Friday, March 17.
Bassoonist John Steinmetz got Camerata Pacifica’s March concert off to an even more than usually jocose start on Friday by introducing the evening’s opening number with a string of deadpan puns and one-liners that had everyone laughing. Composer Joseph Rheinberger was helpfully located within the context of the tradition of composers with “burger” in their names, and his composition, the Nonet in E-flat Major, Opus 139, was deemed a dangerous piece, “to be played without safety precautions.” (As in “no net.”) Steinmetz finished with an entirely sincere and on-target characterization of the piece as designed to entertain, and capable of communicating a sense of deep delight.
The performance that followed was breathtaking, one of the most moving musical highlights in a year of many for the organization. The interplay among the various instruments was distinguished by its sensitivity and originality. An oddball early pizzicato passage full of unpredictable starts and stops gave way to darker sonorities as the music deepened and developed. Rheinberger may hail from tiny Liechtenstein, but he is a very sophisticated composer for this size ensemble, and fully capable of generating the expressiveness and intensity one associates with a full orchestra. The players were more than amply prepared for its rigors, and breathed the kind of life into the piece that only hours of thoughtful rehearsal can produce.
After intermission Sarah Thornblade, violin; Emil Miland, cello; and Vicki Ray, piano, took on Toru Takemitsu’s gorgeous, shimmering Between Tides, a contemplative trio that shows Takemitsu’s genius for evoking the delicate nature of the aquatic at its creative height. The evening’s final piece was one familiar to Camerata Pacifica audiences, Jake Heggie’s impressive song cycle Winter Roses. The piece, which was co-written with Frederica von Stade and commissioned by Montecito residents Richard and Luci Janssen for the Camerata in 2004, was sung on Friday by mezzo-soprano Angela Niederloh, and the performance was dedicated by Ms. Janssen to the recently departed Eli Luria. Niederloh’s approach differed significantly from that of Frederica von Stade, who premiered the piece here in the fall of 2004, and the audience was well satisfied with it. It is wonderful to see the establishment of a new work in the modern repertoire, and we are fortunate to have such accomplished renderings of this intricate and heartfelt composition to compare with one another. The Camerata’s adventurous audience can look forward to more new commissions in the 2006-2007 season.