It’s a testament to the depth and professionalism of the Camerata Pacifica organization that it could change course at the last moment due to the unavailability of violist Richard Yongjae O’Neill and come up with an entirely new program in a matter of weeks. What’s more, Friday’s program was an outstanding one; a night of music that was thought-provoking, enjoyable, passionately played, and presented with skill and enthusiasm. Pianist Adam Neiman makes a great complement to the Cam Pac principals, and he was in very good form this night, speaking expansively about his appreciation for the piano sonatas of Scriabin and playing superbly on every number, including two pieces by Prokofiev and a beautiful, fully realized reading of Beethoven’s “Archduke” trio featuring Catherine Leonard on violin and Ani Aznavoorian on cello.
The first half of the concert juxtaposed two pieces by Prokofiev that highlighted his excellence in writing for violin and flute. The opening number, the Five Melodies for Violin and Piano, Op. 35 bis, was 14 minutes of uninterrupted bliss. Leonard continues to evolve and astonish on the violin, and the fluency and precision of her phrasing are in perfect balance with her intonation. We are fortunate to hear this world-class player so frequently, and in such ideal circumstances.
Neiman’s performance of Scriabin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 in G-sharp Minor, Op. 19 “Sonata-Fantasy” was next, and in it, Neiman succeeded in taming Scriabin’s woolly approach and revealing the deeper affinities to the French school of modern composition. This was followed by another piece from Prokofiev, the Sonata in D Major for Flute and Piano, Op. 94. Adrian Spence joined Neiman for this, and set the stage by citing a particularly important recording of the work, made in 1975 by James Galway with pianist Martha Argerich. It’s a great composition, and it catches fire in the slinky fourth movement Andante.
After the intermission, Camerata Pacifica delivered once again with what it does best, unleashing the full force of the standard repertoire through subtle, inventive programming and fantastic musicianship. The Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano in B-flat Major, Op. 97 “Archduke” of Beethoven occupies a special place in the chamber-music repertoire, and this performance brought every aspect of its incandescent vitality to the fore. Rarely have 42 minutes sped by with the rapidity and unmixed delight that this account engendered. Aznavoorian played extremely well, as did Leonard, but the laurels for ultimate achievement on this night belonged to Adam Neiman, whose assured technique and relentless tempo created a sonic world in which the strings could exult. Beethoven’s writing at this stage of his career encompasses every strand of his manifold excellence, and the result, in the hands of such a distinguished ensemble, is music that has no equal.