Sonata Summa

Camerata Pacifica’s September Concert

At Temple Beth Torah, Ventura, Sunday, September 17.

Reviewed by Charles Donelan

Few concerts of any kind achieve this level of interest and depth. The program followed a simple progression — a violin sonata followed by a cello sonata, capped by a trio for violin, cello, and piano. Yet nothing was obvious, or less than amazing, about either the music or its execution by violinist Catherine Leonard, cellist Ani Aznavoorian, and pianists Robert Thies and Warren Jones. Spanning the limits of the 19th century repertory from Beethoven and Schubert to Rachmaninoff, the concert brought listeners directly to a deeper understanding of the roots and sources of musical expression. This concert showed that what the Pirke Aboth says about the Torah — “Turn it over and turn it over, for all things are in it” — could as easily be said, in a musical sense, about the repertoire of the 19th century.

And turn it over is just what these prodigious musicians did. Leonard’s performance of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47, known as the “Kreutzer,” was at once full of feeling and yet focused by an artful detachment. Her phrasing never faltered as she rode the waves of the piece’s increasing complexity toward an unforgettable finale. Leonard tore into some sections with such tenacity and abandon that she seemed to leave the ground — quite a feat for someone in a gown and heels, playing one of the world’s most challenging violin parts.

Aznavoorian was next, and she and Thies, who was the pianist for both of the duos, made a seamless, hypnotic, lustrous tapestry of the Rachmaninoff. Aznavoorian’s gorgeous tone was made for this kind of music and her delight in the voluptuous nature of the composition was apparent. Few musicians who have played with Camerata Pacifica in the past two years have achieved Aznavoorian’s level of musicianship, comfort, and joy.

Leonard and Aznavoorian were joined for the Schubert by Camerata principal pianist Jones. The Piano Trio in E Flat Major, Op. 100 is one of the most sprightly and irrepressible pieces in the entire chamber repertoire. The surging, echoing, and revolving cyclical themes of its two final allegro moderato movements take chamber music somewhere it had never gone before. With this marvelous trio now all tied to the organization as principals, Camerata Pacifica will continue to do likewise, taking discerning listeners with them.

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